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banner - the ballad of charlie mcgoffus


A field engineer named Charlie McGoffus
Worked all day in the field and all nite in the office,
Checking contracts and vouchers and estimates, too,
To be picked all to bits by the Washington crew.

For the boys in D.C. in their double-lensed specs
Their sallow complexions and fried collar necks,
Care not for the time nor the money they waste,
If a carbon is missing, a comma misplaced,
And they bounce back the paper with ill concealed jeers
To harass the hard-working field engineers.

To get back to Charlie, he struggled along
'Till an ache in his head told him something was wrong,
He went to the doctor and "Doctor" said he,
"There's a buzz in my brain, what's the matter with me?"

Well, the medico thumped as medicos do,
And he tested his pulse and his reflexes, too,
And his head and his heart and throat and each lung,
And Charlie said "ah" and he stuck out his tongue,
Then the doctor said "G-, what a narrow escape,
But a quick operation will put you in shape."

"Your brain's overworked like a motor run down,
And you're flirting with death every time you turn round,
I must take out your brain for complete overhauling;
In the interim take a respite from your calling."
So Charlie McGoffus went under the knife,
He struggled home brainless and kissed his own wife,
While old Doctor Loomis and two other men, were putting his brain in order again.
Well, the weeks rolled along and Charlie McGoffus
Never called for his brain at the medico's office.

The doctor got worried, gave Charlie a ring,
Said, "You'd better come over and get the d----d thing."
Thanks, doc, I don't need it" said Charlie McGoffus,
"I'm being transferred to the Washington office."

So Charlie now wears a fried collar to work,
And he hides in the lairs where the auditors lurk,
And his letters bring tremors of anger and fear
To the heart of each hard-working field engineer,
And the pride and the joy of the Washington Office,
Is brainless, predacious, young Charlie McGoffus..

From the editor:

This anonymous satirical poem highlights the perceived difference in attitude between the "young Turk" field officer who was responsible for running field parties and collecting survey data and those who controlled the purse strings in the Washington office.

Often the young field officer would do the "expedient thing" to get the job done. Sometimes this didn't quite mesh with regulations and it was the job of the folks in Washington to let him know the errors of his ways.

If the "young Turk" was transferred to Washington, he would sometimes find himself in the position of enforcing the very rules that he chafed against while in the field. When running a program and being responsible to upper levels, this same individual would be transformed and see the wisdom of the many rules and the necessity to vigorously enforce them with no exceptions.

Thus, in the view of the writer who was obviously an old field man, Charlie McGoffus became both brainless and predacious when transferred to headquarters.

Publication of the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), NOAA Central Library.

Last Updated: June 8, 2006 9:24 AM

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