Boyhood Memory

A river paddle steamer from the 1850s. Photo: Wikipedia

22 January 2023

By Philip Kuepper

She would sit, fit to be tied
to the dock of my Iowa hometown,
the great White Queen,
the great white wedding cake of a queen,
creamy in the Midwest sun,
mid-voyage, north,
from New Orleans, from St. Louis,
bound for St. Paul;
royalty of the Mississippi,
paddle-wheeled, calliopied.
Her calliope caused my ears ache.
However beautiful she was said to be,
I did not find her so.
I found her ugly because of the screeching
voice of her calliope,
the high screech of her splitting
my tender eardrums.
I never set foot on her,
however lavish she was said to be.
She sounded a Fury out of mythology.
I did not wait to see her leave.
I left her,
before she began to belch her black smoke,
and calliope her departure.

(10 January 2023)

One comment

  1. CALLIOPE (HMS) – a ship name of significance to me. Nothing to do with the greek godess or the musical (? Yes, Philip – comment noted) instrument.
    The 1884 CALLIOPE was listed as a CALYPSO class (of 2 ships) sailing corvette; the last for the RN. Each had a substantial steam engine, 4023 IHP. They are well documented by websites.
    This CALLIOPE earned her fame in history as the one ship to avoid shipwreck, by steaming out to sea, in the 1889 Apia Samoa hurricane. A long story here.
    This CALLIOPE ended her wdays hulked, as the training ship for the Tyne division of the Naval Reserve.
    Postwar the 1884 CALLIOPE was scrapped, and replaced by the steel ex wartime frigate HMS FALMOUTH. The CALLIOPE name remains with the Tyne Division to this day.
    I joined the Tyne Division in 1957 as a junior seaman, rising to Sub Lieutenant, training towards becoming a watchkeeping officer for coastal minesweepers. A great experience, and a very useful part of my professional development as a Naval Architect.
    Little of direct oarsmanship here, although I did have interesting experiences with the 27 ft Naval whalers.

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