The Throwback

A poem by Pat O'Cotter

He was born far east of the Rockies
Of a pet in society's van;
A wine-soaked daughter of pleasure
Bred back and threw a man;
A man-child who grew up a stranger,
Who never could learn the way
Of a people who gauge their pleasure
On a line with the price they pay.

Just a shred of an education--
A few years of college life,
A course in the card and wine room,
A year with a chorus-girl wife,
Then disgust with a life unnatural
Spurred on with the curse of the go,
He quitted that life forever
For the land of the gold and snow.

The Lure of the Land had gripped him,
The Land where you die if you fail;
The Land of the fabled fortunes,
The Land of the endless trail.
The Land of the lonely silence,
The Land of the cruel cold,
The Land of the lost ambitions
Alaska, the Land of gold.

There winters of long hungry hardships,
Summers of pest-ridden heat;
Dicing with death for a grub stake,
Risking his life for meat.
Tossing away his young manhood,
Giving the best of his youth
To the holes that he bedrocked on wildcats,
Where gold was scarcer than truth.

Ten years spent in Alaska
Gray haired, with cheeks all atan,
Beaten, but still unconquered.
Flat broke, but still a man,
Digging and sinking and drifting,
Trying to locate the "pay,"
With each hole a fresh disappointment--
Yet hoping to strike it next day.

Scorning the letters recalling,
Forgetting the friends he had known,
Turning his back on the Outside,
Facing the future alone.
A Cabin, a Squaw, and a Fishwheel,
A bend in the river's flow,
A band of half-naked breed kids--
He stayed there, a sourdough.

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