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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ALL THE BEST GRUMPY