Tuesday, December 21, 2010

A Sugarloaf Poem

Three days from now, it will be Christmas Eve. Every year on that night, my children look forward to going sliding in the dark (often in their pajamas) down the little hill between house and barn with one of my best friends, Patty. It's a tradition. It's fun. It's something they do with Patty, and Patty, alone.

It is supposed to warm up to 40F today. The forecast calls for rain. We have only an inch of snow, at most, right now. Josie and Eli are bummed. Probably Guy is, too. But I have faith that there will be a white Christmas. And if not-- we'll find a new tradition for them to enjoy with Patty. Perhaps "Christmas Eve Puddle-Jumping".

To honor (and beckon) some of the 'white stuff', I am reposting a poem I wrote last year when I guested on Sugarloaf Mountain's television station, WSKI-TV. This is a (mostly) true story.

Merry Christmas.

I grew up in the shadow of a monolith in Maine.
Second to Katahdin, it’s called Sugarloaf, by name.
The mountain had a history: What once was wooded slope
Became a destination far beyond its founders’ hope.

A group of friends led by a guy named Stub, and one called Amos,
Transformed that virgin landscape to a ski resort–now famous!
They cut a trail, and then some more. They added tows of rope.
To ease the hike to summit was well within their scope.

Soon other lifts were added; a T-bar here and there…
It was the dream of skiers, though, to sit upon a chair.
And so, the Mighty Gondola (a word that’s hard to rhyme)
Was built from base to hilltop, eliminating climb.

More trails were cut, a base lodge built, and chairs with funny names
Like ‘Sawduster’ and ‘King Pine’, and ‘Whiffletree’ soon came.
A Village South, a Village East, a Village called ‘The West’
Were moved up from the Valley and their shops were soon the best.

And as the mountain grew in fame–as folks drove up to ski–
They realized that Sugarloaf was where they longed to be.
These skiers, they decided, no longer would they roam!
Instead they’d build some condos and have a second home.

I grew up as the mountain did. I watched it change and grow
From simple, modest mountain…to making its own snow!
And since I was a local, since Sugarloaf was here,
It was expected of this girl, that I would be a skier.

But just because a trail is cut, and just because it’s there
That doesn’t mean each Kingfield girl should ride the Bucksaw Chair!
My old friend, Amos Winter…he said that I could learn.
He told me all I needed was skill to stop and turn.

He laced up my old ski boots, he measured me for skis.
He pushed me towards the teacher, and said, ‘It is a breeze!’
He donned his skis, he grabbed his poles, and went to run a race.
And left me with some strangers…this girl who had no grace!

We started with a ‘snow plow’. They said, ‘It’s trouble-free!’
But holy smokes! These people had never met a ‘ME’!
My legs were not designed like that! I couldn’t make them plow!
I wanted to get out of there! Not later, I meant NOW!

My tutor wouldn’t baby me…but I was only SIX!
I had no urge to learn about those skiers’ little tricks!
He wanted me to ride the ‘T’…but that was going UP!
He said I must go higher to ever win a cup!

But racing cup, I didn’t want. Nor trophy set with skis.
I wanted to get down from there. I asked him with a ‘please’.
Instead, he tucked the T-bar high underneath my thigh
And when it started pulling me, this girl began to cry.

How high up would it take me? How would I get back down?
I couldn’t do the snow plow from high atop the crown!
My chicken-livered nature combined with lack of grace
Made me drop the T-bar and land upon my face.

I thought I would be rescued, and carried down the slope.
But my instructor told me that I must learn to cope.
I told him I could cope quite well by riding in a sled!
I could tell the ski patrol that I had bumped my head!

He shook his head, displeased with me. His mouth turned into frown.
He said, ‘You must be braver! What goes up must come down.
‘I’ll meet you at the base lodge…down by the Schuss CafĂ©.
‘You’ll make it there quite safely…now, please…don’t take all day!’

He picked one ski up in the air…a stylish little move…
And pivoted to face downhill! Right there, my point he proved!
He didn’t make a snowplow! He schussed and slid away.
He wasn’t making pigeon toes, like I had done all day!

I knew there had been trickery…t’was lies that he had spoke!
Nobody else was trying that! This snowplow was a joke!
I tried to get down bottom, but each time I tried to stand…
My skis, they started sliding! Back on my butt I’d land.

And then, I had epiphany! I’d slide down on my rump!
Gravity was on my side! I had that teacher trumped!
But woolen pants are not the best for sliding through the snow…
It took a half an hour, for eighty feet to go!

At last, I was successful! The slope, it leveled out!
I’d made it down the mountain! I’d never had a doubt!
I stood up without sliding! I wanted then to cheer!
But first, I had to pick five dozen snowballs from my rear…

Well, Amos came and got me. He seemed a little glum.
I’m sure he’d had great visions of the skier I’d become.
But after my adventure on the crags of Sugarloaf
I think my Mr. Winter was thinking me an oaf.

And even though I never skied, that man remained my pal.
I often sat upon his porch and chatted with his gal.
In fact, t’was Alice who proposed that Amos teach me tennis!
He flinched at her suggestion…like I would be a menace!

But surely nothing could go wrong! By now, I was a teen!
And Amos wouldn’t tell me ‘no’…I’d never seen him mean!
I showed up bright and early, new racket in my hand.
I’d show my buddy Amos! At tennis, I’d be grand!

There was one little problem…my racquet loosely gripped
Became a swift projectile when from my grasp it slipped.
The Winters…they forgave me. They said it was all right.
They said they’d fix the window ‘fore the bugs came out at night.

Old Amos put his arm round me. That founder of the ‘Loaf
Said, ‘Karen, stick to writing! You really are an oaf!’

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