I’m thankful for outboard motors. I love the smell of outboard motor exhaust. There is nothing like stepping off a wooden dock into a row boat with a twenty-five horse Johnson outboard motor. I sit down in front of the motor, set the choke, and pull the rope. I pull the rope again. I close the choke and pull the rope again. The engine sputters then finally starts. I turn the handle slowly and the motor responds as lovely blue smoke swirls around it.
I let the motor warm a little, untie the boat from the dock, turn the handle to “reverse” and slowly back out of the slip as the mirror calm water moves aside. I carefully turn the handle to “forward” and watch the magical swirl of water as the motor begins pushing my boat out into the lake where the fish are waiting.
The gentle chugging of the motor serenades me as my boat moves slowly across the water. The line from my fishing pole trails behind the boat, daring fish large and small to take a bite. Some do. I turn the handle to “neutral” and let the motor idle while I retrieve my lure. I feel the tug of a fish resisting my invitation to join me in the boat. I win.
I learned how to water ski behind an outboard motor. Actually, several outboard motors. The largest was 75 horse power, also a Johnson. The motor seemed huge. Water skiing was the closest I ever came to walking on water. It’s like standing on water, except the two boards I was standing on were skimming across the water as I hung on to the rope.
Sometimes I see rowboats with small outboard motors on them sitting forgotten behind houses. I wonder if they still run. I wonder if others know the magic of pulling the rope and hearing the motor come to life. I imagine that they do, and they love stepping into the boat beside a wooden dock.