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Said & Done: A local siren song

  • This oil painting captures a view of the Connecticut River from the top of Mount Sugarloaf in South Deerfield. Similarly to sailors whose ships foundered upon hearing a siren song, as the German folktale goes, the Connecticut River has its share of sandbars, submerged boulders and hidden sunken stumps that pose a hazard for boaters. Staff File Photo/Andy Castillo

  • SEAMANS



Sunday, December 09, 2018

A German folktale tells of sailors enchanted by the magic music of maidens, music that lures them to their destruction on rocks and shoals on the Rhine River.

In this poetic composition, the sailor laments that he cannot shuck the melancholy burden loaded onto him by the ancient myth that warns of shipwreck and destruction in the tricky river. He knows that when his craft passes where the siren Lorelei sings, he’d better plug his ears and look the other way — or he’d soon be swimming and swallowing a very long drink of water.

Our Connecticut River is a long way from Europe’s Rhine, but for all its silt and turbidity, it does have the potential for grabbing an incautious boater and doing him harm. It has its share of sandbars, submerged boulders and hidden sunken stumps.

Nowhere can you turn a corner and find a spot where fast water fills the air with the sort of music that would warn you off. Instead, you unexpectedly lose a shear pin when your propeller bangs into a drowned elm hung up in the muck 75 feet from shore.

When we made our home on Munns Ferry Road in Gill, we met the maimed and wounded several times each summer. There was excitement in their stories, but sometimes there was also expense in their repairs.

One of Northfield Mount Hermon School’s rowers impaled his “shell” on the jagged end of a tree branch that had broken off and lay half submerged beneath the river’s surface. He had rowed the river countless times, yet a lurking limb got the best of him despite his familiarity.

We took him to his landing up-river where he got the help he needed to tow back his crippled craft. There, we were recompensed for our favor. No need!

On another occasion, Northfield Mount Hermon School’s female rowers were bringing in their shell after an afternoon of practice. These young athletes sat at ease in their narrow craft and raised their voices in that oldest of rhythmic rounds: “Row, row, row your boat!”

All of good health, all of happiness, all of rampant waxing vitality was enunciated in that harmonious expression. Crimson October riverbanks, the air all around — everything was improved by it.

Had the sailors in the German folklore heard the girls’ charming singing, their boats would have foundered immediately.

Paul Seamans is a permanent resident of the Charlene Manor nursing home. Some of his columns have been previously published.