The One Oar music of the sea festival
By Jon H. Pfaff
Back in the year of nineteen thirty
Life in Blaine was okay, the fishing and crabbing were great.
But entertainment was slim. Since there was as yet no telly,
the favorite past-times were bar stool sitting and filling one’s belly.
A group of young crabbermen in the tavern one night
decided a contest was needed instead of the usual fight.
They talked of things each could do well
and in the end chose that at which each might excel.
A rowboat race – two men to a boat.
One set of oars – any craft which might float.
The purpose of adding the second man
was for ballast, and, of course, a bailing can.
Each, from the starting line, with oars in hand,
would run to his boat, push off from the land.
Thirteen men, all able and fit
signed up to row to Semiahmoo spit
West across Drayton inlet and back again.
Go to it lads. May the best man win.
Thus, at ten o’clock the next Saturday morn
the first one-oar-rowboat race was born.
O, it was not called that early in the day,
only later the name came home to stay.
At six thirty that morning, the weather was iffy.
Everyone knew it could change in a jiffy.
Halldor, the big Icelander, was up for the run,
competing against his eldest, Bill Halldorsson.
There was Gustav and Stellan, Swedes through and through,
and Lars-Eric, another Swede, he was there, too.
Luigi, Giovanni, Enrico all entered the game.
Three fine fishermen of Italian fame.
The Norwegians - Ingvar, Jens, Henrik and then
the one lone Canadian, by golly, was Sven.
To round out the group was tall, strapping Knut.
His Dad was Norwegian, his Mom Aleut.
When the Mayor’s wife clanged the bell
the rowers began running, from the crowd a loud yell.
Each to his boat, pushed into the water,
oars to the oarlocks with banging and clatter,
a nod to the ballast man with the bailing can,
a pull on the oars. The race began.
But as if by a signal from that starting bell
the wind kicked up a two foot swell.
By the time the rowers reached halfway or so,
the wind had become an offshore blow.
The rain beat down, the swells increased,
the water had become a raging beast.
At the turn buoy at Semiahmoo spit
seven of the boats decided to quit.
That left but six in the wind and the rain.
Already the rowers were feeling pain.
Rowing now into that offshore blow,
the going was tough, the headway slow.
Soon both Icelanders dropped out.
Then Giovanni and Henrik turned about.
Which left only two, Sven and Knut.
Both were white knuckled in their earnest pursuit.
Knut was out front, rowing up a tall swell,
the wind pushed him back, downward his boat fell.
He tried once again with singular determination
as the wind tried to force him into terminal damnation.
Sven was having problems of his own.
On one really hard pull he heard his left oar moan.
With each stroke of his oars the moan became louder
but Sven focused his thoughts on a bowl of clam chowder.
When all of a sudden he heard a loud crack.
And then, there he was, flat on his back.
For his trusty left oar had broken in two.
Now what in the world could he possibly do?
He was not about to give the prize to Knut,
especially since the ladies thought Knut a handsome brute.
His mind raced furiously whilst his boat tossed and turned
His hands were so chafed they actually burned.
Suddenly he thought of a possible solution
he had observed one time at a scientific institution.
He grabbed his right oar, the only one left!
And with both hands he started to heft.
Faster and faster and faster his strokes
til his boat was spinning like bicycle spokes.
Faster and faster than his rhythm during sex,
Sven’s one oared rowing started a small vortex.
A vortex of wind, as you all may know,
is the power at the center of a midwest tornado.
Sven made his circles smaller and smaller.
He thought of himself growing taller and taller.
As his circles grew smaller, he moved faster and faster
he was, at last, avoiding disaster.
The water vortex he created moved slowly eastward
at the same time it was pushing Knut backward.
Faster and smaller and faster he spun
til he at last reached the shore where the race had begun.
The ballast man, dropping the bailing can now filled with vomit
leapt out of the boat and took off like a comet.
The folks on the shore, not believing their eyes
stood silent in awe at this horrific surprise.
There suddenly erupted an incredible shout
and Sven was lifted and tossed all about.
Well!! As a result of his paranormal, one oar notoriety,
Sven met Presidents, Prime Ministers, the Queen, was well known in society.
That is about the end of my story
of how this Canadian Norwegian won all the glory.
It is also a most thorough, long winded, made up prevarication
of the One Oar Music Of The Sea Festival title justification.
One last point is here to be made
unto Sven, as his final accolade:
It is a beatitude for all to whom this story appeals
Blessed be those who row with one oar, for they shall travel in small circles and become known as big wheels.