Song or Story
Grand Lake Stream, ME
George MacArthur's song, "The Wabassus Cannonball," is a musical parody of the well-known American folk song "The Wabash Cannonball." The original song is about a fictional train and MacArthur's tune tells the story of how he and a friend, fellow guide Hazen Bagley, outsmarted two wardens and a judge to avoid a conviction for poaching.
1. A-listen to the jingle, the rumble and the roar, You could hear the ice a-bucklin’ up and down old Wabassus shore; When I arrived at Wabassus Lake it was early in the Fall, And Belden’s crew was glad to meet the Wabassus Cannonball.
2. I asked Belden for a job, he filled me with surprise, When he said, “Go take your sleeper ax and start in making ties.” There was about a week and a half the sun didn’t shine at all, Because the air was filled so full of chips by the Wabassus Cannonball.
3. Then I went over to old Third Lake to have a little cheer, I headed up to Slaughter Point to try and shoot a deer; The old buck came down Slaughter Point and he had no horns at all, His face was filled with buckshot by the Wabassus Cannonball.
4. The wardens came into our camp, they thought they had us beat, For cooking in an iron pot they found a little meat; And then they hauled us down to court but they had no case at all, And the both of them were beat to Hell by the Wabassus Cannonball.
George MacArthur, Ralph Rinzler, Grand Lake Stream, Maine, loggers, poacher, Wabassus Lake, Third Machias Lake, The Wabassus Cannonball, The Wabash Cannonball, parody, folksong, Maine Guide, deer, wardens, sleeper ax, Hazen Bagley, Paul Hoar, acquittal, lies
For a full description of a sleeper ax, see Michael Beaudry, The Axe Wielder’s Handbook. Bountiful, UT: Horizon Publishers, 2005, 9. Thanks also to Ian Spencer and Randy Spencer who provided background information on Grand Lake Stream and George MacArthur.
Ethnomusicology | Folklore | Oral History
MacArthur, George. 1969. “The Wabassus Cannonball.” NA573, T291. Northeast Archives of Folklore and Oral History, Raymond H. Fogler Special Collections Department, University of Maine.