The Rockport Miracles: Episode 36 - The Finale Of “The Ballad Of Derecho Dan”

We are now in the Year of Our Lord 1980 and the Storm Era isn't letting up. As I write, the sentinel clouds and thunderclaps of Storm 10.3 are setting up on the northwest horizon, poised for yet another attack on Rockport.

Five years have passed since ‘Derecho’ Dan Newman took his Electric Kool-Aid boat ride into history. His actions on Lake Erie caused great wars of class indignation between Rockport and River City. The first skirmish, known as “Shale Wars,” was followed by “Shale Wars II” and “Shale Wars III.” The conflicts resulted in the senseless torchings of 103 backyard gazebos in River City and all seven gazebos known to exist in Rockport.

When 5 year-old Kitty Morrison’s pet rabbit was unintentionally squashed during one of the skirmishes, the child’s endearing and tearful pleas for peace were broadcast simultaneously across all 5 TV channels. Once people saw the misty-eyed lass hold up poor “Becky-June” to the cameras by its dead ears, the inane hooliganism and violence came to a clumsy and pigeon-toed conclusion.

Today, the two towns are friends again and mutually hold an annual celebration on the anniversary of the explosion. The BIG moment occurs when a re-enactment of the famous “Shale Wars” battle is performed during which ordinary Rockport citizens save a life-sized Derecho Dan piñata from mobs of River City Hessians. After the faux battle, the piñata is unceremoniously torn from limb to limb by children in pursuit of its hidden treats while ex-adversaries drink, hug and much later, start punching each other.

The most amazing thing that happened was Mickey Mars’ miraculous confrontation with the Late Cretaceous. A young male Elasmosaurus platyurus was what the paleontologists agreed upon. The heroic live creature had saved Derecho Dan’s life but was severely stunned by the blast and not shy about asking for help. 

A contest to name the creature was held for Rockport school children. 1-year-old Cubby Brockley’s suggestion of “’Rocky’ the Rockport Sea Serpent” was the winning choice. Sea World built and manages a large “Humane Aquatic Enclosure” on Rockport’s eastern lakeshore to house (some say imprison) the creature. To date, there have been three unsuccessful attempts by animal activists to forcibly free Rocky. The ultimate fate of the creature, (who otherwise appears well-fed, dumb and happy in his new home), is being weighed solely according to his value to the local economy. In other words, he IS imprisoned and movements to free him are ongoing.

The storms that bedevil Rockport are well known to a world gone bored with it. When the Cleveland Museum of Natural History notified the international science community about a live plesiosaur species in Greater Cleveland waters, Rockport was again a destination for every natural science geek worth his/her pocket protector. The money that they and the multitudes of tourists and religious pilgrims are infusing into Rockport’s economy has rejuvenated the city's coffers beyond everyones' wildest dreams.

Much of the City’s windfall has been spent on bolstering Rockport’s defenses against the storms. All houses and businesses that remained in “Storm Alley” were razed and an enormous concrete ‘wind tunnel’ that runs from the lakeshore up to the town heights was constructed to capture and channel derecho winds toward giant turbines that generate electricity for the city.

All of this because an 18 year-old American manchild got really mad, popped a dose of pure Owsley acid, and confronted something that was 200,000,000 times bigger than himself. To this day, Derecho Dan is either admired or reviled, depending on who you ask. Local songwriters inspired by his wild and wicked story, have recorded several successful novelty hits like, “The Ballad of Derecho Dan,” “He Who Spanks the Wind,” “The Wind Cries Kablooey,” and the classic, “Little Pink Houses Covered in Goo.”  All became certified Gold.

Though Derecho Dan’s actions on Lake Erie made him infamous around the world, his infamy was magnetic and a slew of high-profile defense lawyers offered to run his widely televised trial at no charge. During a moment of high drama, the heavily bandaged testimony of the corrupt and recently noseless River City Mayor Bart Ridgewood was interrupted when FBI agents burst in on the proceedings. They arrested him right off the stand for defrauding the buyers and investors of his Erie Water Wave Estates. If the explosion and storm had a bright side at all, it was to reveal Ridgewood’s chicken wire and chewing gum approach to home building. (Bart is currently doing a 5 to 10 year stretch at the Mansfield Reformatory).

Derecho Dan’s legal dream team ably convinced the jury that the LSD had rendered him irresponsible for his actions (forever known thenceforth as the “Grateful Dead Defense”). The charges emanating from the Gas & Lube catastrophe were also dismissed after neighbors who’d lost their homes refused to press charges. They all remembered the times when Old Dan, Big Dan, and Little Dan had taken care of their cars regardless of whether they could pay or not. And, there was also Wilmena to consider. No one wanted to hurt Wilmena, not after all she’d done for them throughout the years.

Derecho Dan was sent to a Psychiatric facility for three months, given 2 years probation and had to perform 2000 hours of community service. He and his fellow reprobates spent most of that time steam cleaning off thick layers of fish entrails spread over 10 square miles of River City by the explosion. The cleanup of that pungent atrocity, (an effort severely hampered by Hitchcockian moments involving thousands of hungry seabirds), took a very long year to complete.

Today, Derecho Dan Newman is a free man. Unemployable and still unwelcome in places outside of Rockport, he began taking night school classes and before long emerged with a good head for business. Forbidden to ever again have anything to do with petroleum or dynamite, or boats, he instead used the money earned from the sale of the Gas & Lube property to buy a broken down laundromat in the middle of Rockport.

After he'd spruced the place up, he installed comfortable couches and easy chairs, state of the art washing machines, and, not one but, two televisions. Soon after that he added a coffee bar that featured, what else? Wilmena’s famous tuna salad sandwiches! Before long, “Derecho Dan’s Suds ’N More Laundromat with ‘Derecho Clean Technology’ became a huge hit with the local laundromat community. Though once shattered, Derecho Dan and mother Wilmena were last seen picking up what was left and making something out of it.

It’s widely believed that the Earth has already crossed over an ecological point of no return. Here in 1980, there is a steady stream of prophetic warnings about the future of Earth coming from scholars and scientists who truly understand the rhythms of our planet. Those in control of things continue to ignore them utterly and, in keeping with our American traditions and norms, have labeled the scientists as socialists and enemies of the state.

The real “Rockport Miracles” are ourselves, the resilient citizens of Rockport. Through it all, most of us have stayed and remain positive despite our uncertain futures. We are, by way of our generosity and kindness, miracles. As long as we remind ourselves of that from time to time, we’ll be alright.

We will survive trying times.

© 2020 Scott MacGregor-EOI Media Press Inc.

Catch up on previous episodes at: http://lakewoodobserver.com/read/special-section/the-rockport-miracles

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Volume 16, Issue 22, Posted 8:02 PM, 11.04.2020