Sunday, November 9, 2008


Some years ago a young fellow came up to me during a break in the action at a poetry reading and told me that my poems reminded him a lot of the work of Robert W. Service. I thanked him. I'll take a compliment anywhere I can get it. My Gosh! Robert W. Service yet! Almost every red-blooded young man has read "The Shooting of Dan McGrew." Maybe even memorized parts of it. And perhaps heard and memorized some of the downright bawdy versions and revisions that have cropped up from time to time. And then there was "The Cremation of Sam McGee." I liked "The Spell Of the Yukon" best of all. Some of that rhyme was written so well that it almost gave me goose bumps. Almost to the point where, as an old fellow once said, he "almost hankered to start sprouting a few feathers."

I basked awhile in the glow of the kind compliment, then filed it away in my memory, where it remained untouched and uncalled for, until several weeks ago. A rerun of the TV show "Northern Exposure" found Dr. Joel Fleishman becoming homesick for his native New York City. In all that town of Cicely and the surrounding area, he had found not one other person of Jewish descent. Joel confided in the pompous, influential ex-astronaut, Maurice Minnefield, who wasted no time in trying to assure the young doctor that he was not alone. That he was not the first of the Chosen People to venture north into the cold and untamed land--and he pointed out various mountain peaks that had the names to prove it.