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Judge Powers: Poet, lyricist, rhythmic sing-talker

Staff writer

When the honorable Judge Mike Powers hangs his robe up and puts away his gavel at the end of the day, there’s a good chance he’s stringing together a rhyme.

“He constantly makes up lyrics and songs,” Josh, his youngest son, said. “Sometimes it’s to existing tunes and sometimes it’s all original. Road trips were always fun because of it.”

Judge Powers reluctantly commented about his talent, stating that it is not something he usually demonstrates unless he’s chewing the fat with friends, in which case his rhymes are typically a topical play off of whatever the subject of conversation happens to be.

He also is known to demonstrate his talents while announcing high school sporting events on Marion’s public access cable station.

“I don’t know if you can really call what I do singing,” he said. “Some are just kind of rhythmic sing-talking. All are terrible and they leave the brain as fast as they come in.”

One of his creations, a parody of the “Battle Hymn of the Republic,” firmly rooted itself in his memory since he conjured it out of the bewildering depths of his subconscious back when he was a kid.

He noted the song was an inside joke between him and his childhood friend Richard “Duck” Swanson.

“Mine eyes have seen the glory of the shooting of a duck. He fell right in the water, didn’t even make a cluck. The dogs went out and got ‘em and they brought ‘em on back in, and I said, ‘Oh my gosh I’ve went and shot my friend,’” Powers recited, moving into the chorus. “Criminitly it was Richard! Criminitly it was Richard! I shot ‘em in the bottom and the dogs went out and got ‘em and brought him on back in.”

“I have done a hundred or more of dumb little songs like this over the years,” Powers said. “Most are spur of the moment, and I can’t even remember the next day. This one goes back to seventh grade and I remember it only because I repeated it so many times bugging Richard.”

His wife Judy said Powers recently sang the song again at Swanson’s birthday party.

She has been privy to Powers’ talents for more than 26 years. Judy said he doesn’t break into a little ditty every day, but it does happen quite often, especially “when all the family is around and people are doing strange things.”

“When Maggie was little and her friends would come over, they would ask Mike to make up rhyming stories for them,” Judy said. “He does it for the grandbabies now, too.”

Maggie said the aim of her father’s perpetual off-the-cuff rhymes is always humor, and she suspects when he’s not talking he’s usually formulating a new masterpiece.

“I’d have to assume that rather than listening to the conversation he is actually coming up with his next joke, rhyme, or song,” Maggie said. “He’s pretty witty most of the time, but sometimes he gets an eye roll.”

Maggie’s friend Jessica Ottensmeier has experienced the relentless mystique of Powers’s mysterious talent, too.

“It’s tough to think of a specific one, I feel like they are so random,” Ottensmeier said. “They leave me laughing and pondering where he comes up with this stuff.”

Powers’s stepdaughter Camille Hohnbaum also finds it’s hard to classify his talent.

“He can break out into a rhyming type song about anything at anytime,” she said. “But I definitely wouldn’t call him a singer.”

Last modified March 18, 2015

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