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Poem by Robert William Service


It was the steamer Alice May that sailed the Yukon foam.
And touched in every river camp from Dawson down to Nome.
It was her builder, owner, pilot, Captain Silas Geer,
Who took her through the angry ice, the last boat of the year;
Who patched her cracks with gunny sacks and wound her pipes with wire,
And cut the spruce upon the banks to feed her boiler fire;
Who headed her into the stream and bucked its mighty flow,
And nosed her up the little creeks where no one else would go;
Who bragged she had so small a draft, if dew were on the grass,
With gallant heart and half a start his little boat would pass.
Aye, ships might come and ships might go, but steady every year
The Alice May would chug away with Skipper Silas Geer.

Now though Cap geer had ne'er a fear the devil he could bilk,
He owned a gastric ulcer and his grub was mostly milk.
He also owned a Jersey cow to furnish him the same,
So soft and sleek and mild and meek, and Kathleen was her name.
And so his source of nourishment he got to love her so
That everywhere the captain went the cow would also go;
And though his sleeping quarters were ridiculously small,
He roped a section of them off to make Kathleen a stall.
So every morn she'd wake him up with mellifluous moo,
And he would pat her on the nose and go to wake the crew.
Then when he'd done his daily run and hitched on to the bank,
She'd breath above his pillow till to soothing sleep he sank.
So up and down the river seeded sourdoughs would allow,
They made a touching tableau, Captain Silas and his cow.

Now as the Captain puffed his pipe and Kathleen chewed her cud,
There came to him a poetess, a Miss Belinda Budd.
"An epic I would write," said she, "about this mighty stream,
And from your gallant bark 'twould be romantic as a dream."
Somewhat amazed the Captain gazed at her and shook his head;
"I'm sorry, Miss, but we don't take she passengers," he said.
"My boat's a freighter, we have no accommodation space
For women-folk; my cabin is the only private palce.
It's eight foot small from wall to wall, and I have, anyhow,
No room to spare, for half I share with Kathleen, That's my cow."
The lady sighed, then soft replied: "I love your Yukon scene,
And for its sake your room I'll take, and put up with Kathleen."

Well, she was so dead set to go the Captain said: "By heck!
I like your spunk; you take my bunk and I'll camp on the deck."
So days went by then with a sigh she sought him so anew:
"Oh, Captain Geer, Kathleen's a dear, but does she have to moo?
In early morn like motor horn she bellows overhead,
While all the night without respite she snores above my bed.
I know it's true she dotes on you, your smile she seems to miss;
She leans so near I live in fear my brow she'll try to kiss.
Her fond regard makes it so hard my Pegasus to spur...
Oh, please be kind and try to find another place for her."

Bereft of cheer was captain Geer; his face was glazed with gloom:
He scratched his head: "There ain't," he said, "another inch of room.
With freight we're packed; it's stowed and stacked; why even on the deck.
There's seven salted sourdoughs and they're sleeping neck and neck.
I'm sorry, Miss, that Kathleen's kiss has put your muse to flight;
I realize her amber eyes abstract you when you write.
I used to love them orbs above a-shining down on me,
And when she'd chew my whickers you can't calculate my glee.
I ain't at all poetical, but gosh! I guess your plight,
So I will try to plan what I can fix up for to-night."

Thus while upon her berth the wan and weary Author Budd
Bewailed her fate, Kathleen sedate above her chewed her cud;
And as he sought with brain distraught a steady course to steer,
Yet find a plan, a worried man was Captain Silas Geer.
Then suddenly alert was he, he hollerred to his mate;
"Hi, Patsy, press our poetess to climb on deck and wait.
Hip-hip-hooray! Bid her be gay and never more despair;
My search is crowned; by heck, I've found an answer to her prayer."

To Patsy's yell like glad gazelle came bounding Bardess Budd;
No more forlorn, with hope new-born she faced the foaming flood;
While down the stair with eager air was seen to disappear,
Like one inspired (by genius fired) exultant Captain Geer.
Then up he came with eye aflame and honest face aglow,
And oh, how loud he laughed, as proud he led her down below.
"Now you may write by day or night upon our Yukon scene,
For I," he cried, "have clarified the problem of Kathleen.
I thought a lot, then like a shot the remedy I found:
I jest unhitched her rope and switched the loving creature round.
No more her moo will trouble you, you'll sleep right restful now.
Look, Lady, look!; I'm giving you... the tail end of the cow."

Robert William Service

Robert William Service's other poems:
  1. The Wee Shop
  2. The Sum-Up
  3. Resolutions
  4. The Robbers
  5. Pedlar

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