Thank You, Robert Service

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On mornings like this, when my commute is marked by temperatures under -20 C (-4 F for those using the imperial system), and a wind chill, and it’s at least a handful of degrees warmer than when I got up, I somehow always find myself reciting an old Robert Service poem, “The Cremation of Sam McGee”. Specifically, the third stanza.

On a Christmas Day we were mushing our way over the Dawson trail.

Talk of your cold! through the parka’s fold it stabbed like a driven nail.

If our eyes we’d close, then the lashes froze till sometimes we couldn’t see;

It wasn’t much fun, but the only one to whimper was Sam McGee.

And it’s really that one line I’m thinking of: “Talk of your cold! through the parka’s fold it stabbed like a driven nail.” Because it’s really cold. Really cold.

But then I remember that I’m sitting in my wife’s Pathfinder, which isn’t much more than a year old, with heated seats and hot air pouring out of every vent, my high tech winter coat unzipped, hat and gloves lying on the passenger’s seat. I compare that to Yukon Gold Rush era cold weather gear and being pulled through northern forests on a sled by a team of hungry dogs, and I realize that we’ve got things pretty good.

Either way, it’s a great poem. Possibly Mr. Service’s best, but certainly my favourite. I wonder if I still know the whole thing.

There are strange things done in the midnight sun…


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