Tragedy Narrowly Averted

That’s how Bobby Weir introduces a song during a Grateful Dead concert in 1980 that I’ve listened to a million times.  He says, “From a long line of tragedy songs, here’s a song about tragedy narrowly averted.” 

The band launches directly into an old standard about a monkey who’s so confident from years of sitting beside a train engineer that, when the engineer goes out for lunch, the monkey grabs the throttle and hijacks the train, speeding up to 90 miles an hour. After a panicked chain of telephone calls, the switch operator declares that, “the monkey has the locomotive under control.” It’s a swinging, silly song, in contrast to all the old tragedy songs that Bluegrass specializes in.

I’m enjoying telling that story because our story of tragedy narrowly averted is a lot less funny. 

Tracy and I had been out kayaking, and afterward when I dropped off my kayak at the trailer and was about to walk back to the shore to help get Tracy’s, I heard an alarm inside.

When I opened the trailer door I was struck by the smell of propane—like a wall. I lunged to the stove and saw that one knob was turned on, so I turned it off, grabbed Banjo, and ran outside with her. 

After maybe an hour of sitting outside with all the windows and the door open and fans on, we went back in and guessed at what had happened. I’d left a (clean) cast iron skillet on the stove, and maybe Banjo had put her paws up there to check it out and had turned on the propane to the burner. 

The entire trailer had filled with propane gas while we were out kayaking. It’s amazing that it didn’t explode. That Banjo didn’t get sick or simply asphyxiate.  Every single thing we own could have gone up in flames. Including Banjo.

All is okay now, but that was definitely a tragedy narrowly averted. 

Here’s my (painful) beginner ukulele/singing version of the Monkey and the Engineer. And if you’re interested in the Dead version, check out their live album called Reckoning.

And here’s a kayaking picture from that day to end well! 

More about kayaking and hiking here in Washburn, Wisconsin, to come.

12 thoughts to “Tragedy Narrowly Averted”

      1. I am so pleased to know you are well. Enough sad news in the world. That monkey!! Sending love. Lola

        1. It’s so so good to hear from you, Lola! Please send us an email or call. We’d love to hear your voice.

    1. That is sweet of Dave! Recording oneself is no fun at all, and I really didn’t want to include that. But what the heck, this is just between friends, and I know it would sound better if we were all sitting around a campfire drinking and singing.

  1. Wow! That’s quite scary. Is there an on-off switch for the propane? On the boat, we had to flip a switch in the cockpit. Plus, the knobs to the stove where such that you had to push them in before you could turn them.

    1. The on/off is outside, unfortunately. And you do have to press the buttons to get then to turn, but it’s not hard to do. Banjo is talented!

  2. I had to read more about your nearly averted tragedy after you mentioned it in your recent post. Yikes! So glad you got back to the trailer before it, you know, no longer existed.

    1. What’s extra weird is that as soon as we started telling that story, we heard of a viral video of a dog setting a house on fire in the same situation (and the security camera caught it). Turns out that was Tracy’s cousin’s house! Be glad you have cats, I guess.