Grumpy at Your Service: A Poem 4 U

Grumpy at Your Service

Quite a few years back I entered the Robert Service Poetry Contest held each year in the ski area of Vermont around the community of St. Johnsbury. The task was to write a poem that extolled the virtues of that area for Vermont Magazine but it had to be written in the style of Robert Service.


A lot of you would be familiar with Service’s Poem “The Cremation of Sam McGee”

There are strange things done in the midnight sun
By the men who moil for gold;
The Arctic trails have their secret tales
That would make your blood run cold;
The Northern Lights have seen queer sights,
But the queerest they ever did see
Was that night on the marge of Lake Lebarge
I cremated Sam McGee.

Over the course of three years I was able to secure a Second Prize (1996) and an Honorable Mention Award (1997).

I’ll give you the poem that received no recognition first. After all, I liked it a lot, even though the judges did not. So let’s take you back to the 1998 contest andGrump’s The Ballad of Lake Leapin’ Lou.

This is a bit of a teaser because we’ll post the other two Award Winners later in October.


The Ballad of Lake Leapin’ Lou

One’s memory may fade after ninety-nine years

Of life in the mountains near Stowe

But I’ll never forget, or claim to refute,

That momentous event in the snow

T’was a day to remember, that cold gray December

When Lou bore that stiff corpse into town

The body quite frigid; the legs they stood rigid,

Propped upright as a statue quite sound

The townsfolk they mingled, each spine gently tingled,

To view that queer sight in the square

Each child cuddled closely, the atmosphere ghostly,

I know, because I too was right there.

But this yarn began early, as I recollect surely

When Lou set out on his trek

The winter winds blowing, the air lightly snowing

His mission no one would suspect.

The snowman they said, dubbed Abominable Ed

Stalked hunters throughout our fair county

Too many went missing the sheriff kept hissing,

So he levied a generous bounty.

Lou came to this notion while swilling a potion

A drink he methodically brewed

He’d capture that creature the poster did feature

Now dauntless and effectively stewed

Lou grabbed his backpack, his musket and hardtack

A fur hat he drew over his ears

Set out to track slyly that monster that guiley

Evaded detection for years

He trudged through the snow, determined to go

Where no man would ever explore

For that monster whose history remained an odd mystery

Was the creature Old Lou did deplore

Lou stumbled upon prints and some fur bits as hints

So he knew he was on a hot trail

For tracking was never a task he endeavored

To practically or willingly fail

To Lou’s great surprise, as he blinked his sore eyes

At the shore of the lake he did view

A woolly white beast that was making a feast

Of a hunter old Lou had once knew.

So he raised his gun trusty, although it was rusty

And proceeded to fire at the beast

The recoil exploded, but since he was loaded

Poor Lou flew back off his feet

The abominable ghoul, suspecting a fool

Tore up the path toward Lou

It roared like a lion, as Lou kept on tryin’

To recover his balance, then flew

Straight to the lake, the path he did take

Then he leapt to the ice with a purpose.

His feet kept on slippin’; the monster kept trippin’

Neither noticed the cracking bright surface

With a formidable rumble, the ice it did crumble

Beneath those elephantine feet

To fall in the drink; disappeared in a blink,

Its maker that moment to meet

Lou crept to the edge of that slippery ledge

Peering with eyes that were yet blurry

A dark shadow then rose, til’ the tips of its toes

Emerged from the lake in a hurry

Lou pulled with great might, a ridiculous sight

For those critters who watched from the shore.

Like a great frozen prize, Lou feasted his eyes

On this notorious abominable bore

Hog-tied with twine, Lou had plenty of time

To lug his treasure to Stowe

For he knew that hard liquor would make him go quicker

So he sipped from a jug on the go

Now the bounty Lou fested all was invested

In card games, barrooms and booze

To spent all his treasure on all that good pleasure

For him there was nothing to lose

Now that is the story of the quest and the glory

Of incredible Lake Leapin’ Lou

Of the monster he bested, such that hunters are vested,

In a legend now held to be true.

And if you venture on over and take a good look

You’ll see that statue quite stoic

A salute to the tale of Lou and the trail

And his leap to the ice so heroic

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