Ponderings with Doug – April 12, 2019

Jesus told stories called parables. Parables were nice stories for those not paying much attention. They were spiritually transformative for those who could hear and see the deeper truth.

I wanted to try a parable. To see if we could get at some deep truth.

My dad and his friend Bob dreamed of being captains plying the mighty Tennessee River. Dad worked for Gulf Oil. Bob was opening a fledgling CPA firm. They both had wives and children. A new boat was not in the cards or the wallets.

One day after a couple of six packs of Schlitz Beer and a pack of Marlboro cigarettes, Bob and Dad decided they would build their own boat. How hard could it be? In north Alabama, there is still a floating vehicle known as a “red-neck houseboat.” A real house boat looks something like a travel trailer on long pontoons. A “red-neck houseboat” looks like it was built by someone named Bubba.

In principle, a red-neck houseboat ought to float.

Dad acquired a dozen 55-gallon drums from the Gulf Oil Company. These were pristine, never used metal oil drums. They were sealed tightly. Their plan was to use the drums, six on either side as the pontoons. That would give them a rough idea of the length of the boat. Dad was a Bama fan and Bob was an Auburn fan. Over another couple of six packs of Schlitz the “pontoons” were painted to reflect team loyalty. Six were Crimson and White. Six were Blue and Orange.

The width of the house boat was scientifically determined. Dad and Bob rented a boat slip at the Decatur marina and the boat’s width was the width of the slip minus one foot. They decided that with their nautical ability and a level of sobriety they could navigate the house boat into the slip with six inches of clearance on either side.

The slip was rented. The painted 55-gallon drum fake pontoons were floated. Construction began after beer and cigarettes. I remember the day our fathers attempted to wrestle whose drums unto alignment. It is a good thing we kids liked playing in the water. 55-gallon drums floating in the water, roll uncontrollably when children try to ride them! You’ll need that uncontrollable roll later in the story.

The houseboat began to take shape. It was a bunch of 2 x 4’s and plywood. It was one big open room with a tarp in back hiding a red neck version of nautical plumbing. The ship was powered with a very used 40 horsepower Evinrude outboard. Other adults would show up with their children and beer and work on the houseboat. Somehow, they managed enough electrical power for running lights, a 100-watt mosquito light, and a 19” black and white RCA Victor tv.

The final product was painted light sky blue. The boat clashed with the pontoon colors, but who cares. They likely stole the lawn furniture to put inside the houseboat and on the porch like bow structure. Holy Scripture calls this “the abomination of desolation.” My memory opines, it was two drinking dudes taking the cheap way to a boat.

The finished product sat very low in the water. It seems that no one figured out how much weight a dozen 55-gallon drums would displace. It was all wired up. The motor ran. The red-neck pontoons were holding. After the dads consumed some more beer and smoked another pack or two, it was time to launch the beast. The dinner cruise would take place. The ice chest was filled with beer, both real and root, and all the makings of bologna sandwiches.

Bob Sr. and Doug Sr. were at the controls, Bob Jr. and Doug Jr. donned light jackets and off we went. Our first trip on OUR home built house boat.

The Evinrude strained against the weight. We inched forward out of the slip. To leave the marina we needed to turn to port.

In the midst of their beer fueled planning, painting and construction the dads had not considered the forces of torque. They also didn’t think about the dynamics of moving a boat forward with nothing but the flat edge of the top of a 55-gallon drum leading the way. When the mighty tiny Titanic turned left a couple of the drums rolled out of the right side. The loss of buoyancy immediately caused a list to starboard. Since the old girl was sitting so low in the water anyway, the list and loss of buoyancy caused the first water tight compartment to fill completely.

The order was given, “Abandon ship.” It didn’t take long to sink the three feet down to the bottom of the marina. Fortunately, the ice chest floated.

We spent the rest of the summer in marine demolition.

He or she who has ears, let them hear.

One thought on “Ponderings with Doug – April 12, 2019

  1. I’m pondering if the lesson to this parable is plan ahead.
    Uncle Bob, wherever you are, I commend your dedication to a school that could never decide if its mascot was a tiger or an eagle. Those days before Pat Dye were tough.

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