Epiphany of Bubbles

One memorable afternoon many years ago, a 40-hp Evinrude gave direction and purpose to everything else.

I must have been about nine years old at the time. It was summer in the rolling, green foothills of the Adirondack Mountains and my brother Mike and I were in almost all respects free. Our only chores during those fine years entailed helping Mom with the grocery shopping once a week—there was a town about 20 miles away—and maybe helping out with the dishes after dinner once in a while. There was no TV—we didn’t have one and neither did anybody else who summered on the big, broad, deep, spring-fed lake. Radio was it, and in the evenings, up in the attic where we slept on Army surplus cots under the eaves, Mike and I would listen to programs like “The Shadow,” “Boston Blackie” and “Amos ‘n’ Andy.” Otherwise, time was on our side, regularly offering subtle whiffs of its illusory nature. All we had to do, truth to tell, was swim, play, sleep and—our favorite—mess about in boats.

Evinrude-outboard

Dad had a Lone Star riveted-aluminum skiff, spray-painted white, but with lime-green accent stripes. We kept ‘er tied up at our dock, right across from the old plywood rowboat that unofficially belonged to me. And, of course, there was a motor on the Lone Star, a 40-hp Evinrude. It was the biggest outboard on the lake. And exactly how fast it would make the Lone Star go was up for debate. But what I knew for sure—and remember to this day—was how the wind felt on my face when my dad throttled ‘er up and the green ripples in the lake whizzed past.

One of the foibles of being a child, I guess, is taking things for granted. And for several years in a row, while spending summers on the lake, I failed to realize, at least very deeply, how special it was for a kid to have two boats and a giant body of clear, green water at his disposal. Oh sure, I was never allowed to take “the big boat” out by myself, but it was seldom difficult to talk Dad into a boat ride. And one afternoon, in the midst of one of those rides, I experienced an awakening, an epiphany of sorts.

It took place, as I recall, while the two of us idled across Wintergreen Bay under a bright, cloudless sky. Dad was at the rear of the skiff with his hand on the tiller, I was sitting next to him and the Evinrude was purring away when, for no particular reason, I turned for a moment to glance over the transom, down into the froth and bubbles boiling off into the wake from the outboard’s exhaust port. The bubbles sparkled green, blue and brilliant in the sunlight. They were like jewelry, or maybe something even more valuable than jewelry.

“There’s nothing better in the whole world than being on a boat,” I told myself, “with an engine just sorta layin’ back, obviously ready to take you somewhere. I’m gonna do this stuff for the rest of my life.”

And hey, as luck would have it, that’s the way things have worked out, more or less.

So, although the sentiment is a tad belated at this stage of the game, I think it’s only fitting that I should say here, “Thanks for everything, Lone Star.” And even more importantly perhaps, given the shocking news this past May that the iconic old outboard motor manufacturer was going out of business, I should also say here, with at least as much gratitude:

“Thanks for everything, Evinrude.”

This article originally appeared in Outboard magazine.

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