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The Square Boat Which Wouldn't Float

   By: John T Jones, Ph.D.

It seems that the kids in our neighborhood were always building something. If it wasn't stilts, it was rubber guns (probably a lost art). If it wasn't airplanes, it was scooters. If it wasn't go-carts, it was pigeon coops. It never ended.

A supply of suitable materials was the main problem faced by us early builders. Junk is what things were built from. That often showed in the final product. But we always looked on our great creation with pride until a disaster destroyed our masterpiece.

In pioneer days, the Jordan River that runs through the Salt Lake Valley was a clear stream full of trout. We had never seen it that way. It was totally polluted in our day. We were told it was a clean, clear fishing stream by Mr. Foster (who grew truck crops on a two or three acre plot to feed his family). He had caught many trout from the river when he was a boy.

We sometimes caught trout from the river too, but we had to fish where fresh water streams entered the filthy waters of the river. Sometimes the state dumped trout into the river at the fairgrounds after their exhibition at the State Fair, but that was rare, and the trout were either quickly fished out or died in the muck.

Still, the river was our playground. We were told never to get into the water or we would die of the bubonic plague or be drowned in a whirlpool. None of us died of the plague but some of us did drown. One of my friends tried to rescue his brother while by grandfather played his accordion in the park only a few hundred yards away. Both boys were lost while we enjoyed the music, not knowing what was going on.

Things were tough on kids in those days. Two of our friends were killed when their bike was hit by a cement truck racing down the street to get concrete to the arms plant.

A brother and sister we knew where killed by a truck taking ammunition from the arms plant to the railroad dock. The WAC driver fell asleep.

One of our friends died when he fell from a fence while he and his siblings were stealing a few lumps of coal from the coal yard.

A baby was lost when a sibling closed the drawer where the mother kept the child.

Our widower shoemaker lost two children when a son tried to save his sister from highway traffic. (Later the shoemaker, who did not trust banks, lost his life's savings when his last surviving son stole the money.)

There were the diseases too. Polio scared us all, but kids died of a number of other ailments because there was no penicillin or sulfa drugs to help them.

Death was all around us, but the scariest thing was when young mothers died from giving childbirth.

We needed not to think to much on these things. So maybe that is partly why we built a wide range of contraptions.

Following is a poem about a boat that was built in my backyard.

The Square Boat Which Wouldn't Float by Taylor Jones

Saturday, April 19, 1999 (Modified November 3, 2005)

Aaron had the idea:
A boat on the Jordan to float.
So Dick and Aaron and all the big guys
Built a boat before our eyes.

It was shaped appropriately
Like a coffin.
It had square sides
And a flat bottom.

They nailed and tarred;
It weighed a ton.
It took forever to get it to the river
Where we could have some fun.

Well, every kid in town
Watched the show.
We pushed the boat in the water
To see if it would go.

Aaron was in the middle
And Dick was in the stern.
Would the thing float or not?
That we would soon learn.

They paddled it out into the middle
Of that muddy Jordan River.
At first things looked pretty good.
It was quite a clipper.

Then slowly, slowly, did we see,
Right before our eyes,
That Aaron and the boys would be swimming;
It was the boat's demise.

Yes, it sank like that concrete ship
That lay's on Cape May's shore.
That bungling concrete vessel
Made just for the war.

And just before “Abandon Ship!”
There was our little war
Because there was a good supply of mud
On good Old Jordan's shore.

So began the mud fight
Until the ship did sink.
They were covered with mud from head to foot
Until they gulped the drink

So all the work on that great boat
Was lost in just a wink.
It sank so fast from bow to mast,
I could hardly blink.

I miss those days of carefree youth,
Of boats, and planes, and cars.
But then the boys all left home
To fight in a real war.

Orville and Virgil never came home.
They were not alone.
But the boat builders survived,
Thank God they did come home.

Copyright©John T. Jones, Ph.D.1999-2005

John T. Jones, Ph.D. ( a retired R&D engineer and VP of a Fortune 500 company. He is author of detective & western novels, nonfiction (business, scientific, engineering), poetry, etc. Former editor of international trade magazine.

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