The Rockport Miracles - Part 4: Episode 23: "The Ballad Of Derecho Dan" Continues
The thunder strikes of Storm 5.6 sounded as though they'd emanated from the lower regions of hell. Those citizens that were still living in Rockport said it sounded like a distant bus being chewed apart along with booming sounds like cannonade. Rockporters remember this storm as “The Serpent Storm” or simply, “the Serp." It was the storm that made Little Dan Newman a household name throughout the country. Somebody even wrote a chart-topping song about it called, “The Ballad of Derecho Dan.”
He was just a boy,
Who pumped the gas,
Until the day,
He turned badass.
(Oh! Derecho Dan!...Oh! Derecho Dan!)
Upon hearing the thunder, Police Chief Tom Graber lost the last few crumbs of his patience. For a full week he’d been hunting down Little Dan Newman without success. He'd come to Rockport Hospital that day to see Little Dan's mother, Wilmena and tell her the happy news about Little BD. He'd been thought dead in the Gas & Lube explosion, and was found alive and unharmed. Rowena Gridley, Wilmena's younger sister was in the room when he arrived. The heraldic thunderclaps of Storm 5.6 incited Chief Graber to forget the niceties and whip out his handcuffs.
“Rowena," threatened Chief Graber, "you'd better tell me where Little Dan is RIGHT NOW, or I’ll throw your ass in the hoosegow for harboring a fugitive!” Wilmena begged her to cooperate. “Rowena! Take the Chief to Little Dan,” she pleaded in her raspy voice, “before he ends up dead like Maynard!” Rowena bristled at Wilmena’s tactless comment. “Wilmena, I don’t need you to remind me that my son is dead!!” she barked tearfully.
Turning back to Chief Graber, Rowena replied, “OK, Tom. I can’t describe to you where my nephew is, but I can take you there. He’s at a hidden location down in the Cleveland Flats!” She went on to explain that he was staying on Maynard’s cabin cruiser moored in a hidden location on the river. She failed to mention that the boat was a floating bomb or the diabolical goals set forth in Maynard Gridley’s “Manifesto With Cheese.” There was no need to delve into that...Or, so she thought!
Rowena was unaware that time had already expired. Little Dan, having memorized the hallucinagenic strategies outlined in Maynard's manifesto, was busy making his final preparations to carry out “the plan.” It had been common knowledge that Maynard, and many like him, returned from Vietnam angry and confused. He’d felt duped and discarded by his own country. His hurt cycle ran non-stop, like an early 60s song he couldn't get out of his head.
At some point, however, Maynard Gridley had made a dark decision. He'd packed a 1959 Chris-Craft 33’ Sports Cruiser to its gullets with plastique explosive. The boat, known appropriately as “The Friggin’ A,” was to be the instrument of his revenge on something or somebody. Whoever or whatever it was, remained Maynard's secret to the end.
Once the fates had spoken, the boat became Little Dan's personal ship of doom. The naive boy was now an angry man with his own reasons for blowing things up. The storms caused his Dad to die of a broken heart. Another storm had nearly taken his Mom. Then, Storm 5.5 destroyed the Gas & Lube, set fire to the neighborhood, and killed his dog...Or, so he thought!
Little Dan had been obsessing over a story Maynard told him on that last day at the Gas & Lube. The story was about a massive storm in Vietnam known as, “Monsoon Charlie.” Maynard described how his platoon was saved after the storm had been cleaved in two by the force of a massive explosion. “I’m can see clearly, now, Maynard,” muttered Little Dan to himself, "We'll make 'Monsoon Charlie' look like a string of lady-fingers!"
As he performed his final checks of the boat, Little Dan began to feel peculiar. The mysterious “sunshine pill” was having an effect. To his eyes, all of the Cleveland Flats bridges had turned into dinosaurs and the reddish brown waters of the Cuyahoga River had become a highway of blood. He remained calm. In his altered state, everything was finally making sense. The frightening sounds coming out of the north was the "roar of the giant lizard" that Maynard had warned of in the manifesto. Rising from the shallow depths of Lake Erie, a monster was on its way to lunch and wreak havoc on the good people of Rockport.
Someone had to stop it.
Oh! Derecho Dan!
He can break the wind,
like nobody can!
He can scrape the clouds,
and scour the sky,
He's Derecho Dan,
One heck of a guy!
(Excerpts from, “The Ballad of Derecho Dan” ©1975 Music and Lyrics by: Googie Arthur and Dickie Don Rio for Agita Records-All Rights Reserved)