Monk Remembers an Old Rope

Monk Watson Remembers an Old Rope

October 1948: “Two knots on an old rope doesn’t sound like much to write about, but they mean a lot to me. I saw this rope on the floor of the millrace today, after the water had been drained out. I guess a lot of people have seen it there and never gave it a thought. The rope is a rather large rope, about two inches in diameter. I’d say such a rope could moor a ship to some dock in New York, then it would mean a great deal. This rope, I believe, did moor a ship, and the greatest ship I have ever seen. It didn’t travel to foreign countries or carry dignitaries on a vacation-fishing trip, but it did carry some of the best people on earth to a picnic ground where games were played, phonograph records were listened to, and dinner was served on along table. How I used to look forward to Sunday when, after Sunday school, I would hurry down to the landing to be the first to board the “Lyoness.” I had carried wood or coal for the fire, and I would take tickets while Mel fired up the boilers. The price was a dime for the round trip. The boat carried about forty or fifty, I believe, but it was the largest I had ever seen up to that time. I remember when it was being built up in the back of Mel’s home (Michigan Avenue), and everyone would say, “How’s the ark coming.” Then one day it was finished and taken downtown across the bridge, and it just missed the iron bar across the top of the bridge, where I used to hang by my knees and drop down on someone’s hay rack as it passed under me. The band turned out for the launching and I believe a bottle of something was broken on it for good luck. It floated out on the “mill pond” as proudly as any ocean liner that floats today. The fast trip was rather hazardous as the lake was full of stumps, and these had to be marked before many would take the chance of a shipwreck. I remember that lanterns were hung up on these markers and how they used to look on our return trip home after a hard day of swimming and playing on the Point. There were some daredevils who used to swim out and get up on the canopy and dive off before Mel could chase them off. He had hardly time to leave the giant wheel, cause he was captain of the ship. Then one day, like a one horse shay, it floundered and sunk, where it had been launched. My heart was broken, but soon we found there was still fun to be had on the Lyoness … it made a good diving platform. The old rope was soon used as a swing down by the dock. Then one day some of us kids thought it would be pretty nice to have a real dare devil trick, for all people to see; that is for all the people who had to come across the bridge. We built a platform high in the big tree, and above that we tied one end of the strong rope; then the knots were tied. One knot was for the taller and one was for the shorter ones. We would climb up on the platform and jump up and catch the knot between our legs and up we would go twenty or thirty feet above the water and then dive off … Gee, there never was such a place anywhere else on earth. I remember one day one of the boys didn’t dive until he was back over the land and he landed on his head (twasn’t me). Funny how a fellow gets to thinking back like this, but that old rope brought back a parade of friends who have gone on, and good things that have never been equaled. I’ve traveled on many boats since … some very large, and to foreign countries, some with many decks, but never has one looked so large as the Lyoness. I’ve seen ropes, perhaps some larger, holding big boats, but I’ll bet that there never was a rope as swell and as full of fun and memories as the one with two knots that lies on the bottom of a little mill race in my hometown.”  Donald (Monk) Watson, (1894-1981) was a humorist, magician, and bandleader.  He is buried at Lakeside Cemetery, near his beloved hometown of Colon. Thanks, Monk, for the memories.




Donald “Monk” Watson