YELLOW FEVER (SECOND INSTALLMENT)
“Your brother was holding a chair in that game,
And that was the night that we met.
In the very last hand we both checked with two pair,
when a grubstaker started to bet.
I stayed like a fool, and your brother did too,
And the stakes got more steep with each hike,
Till the last thing that grubstaker threw in the pot
Was a map he said led to a strike.
I know most of those maps are just prospector’s dreams.
You could use ‘em to paper your wall.
But the dog-hungry glare in that prospector’s stare
Made us bite. So we said that we’d call.
The look that passed over that prospector’s face
Wasn’t pain or remorse, but relief.
As he tossed in his cards, he said, ‘Good riddance, boys.
That old map’s brought me nothing but grief.’
I looked at your brother, and he looked at me,
And we laid down our hands for the call.
We had two pairs apiece, nines and jacks with a trey.
So we set about splitting it all.
When we got to the map, there was no way to split,
So there seemed to be one thing to do.
We shook hands on a scheme to go after the dream.
What a nightmare that dream put us through.
The money we won in that very same pot
Was enough to get all that we’d need.
We bought us a sled and some grub and warm clothes,
And nine dogs that had courage and speed.
For a month our of Dawson, the going was soft,
And nothing a kid couldn’t take.
But then it began, like a curse on our plan,
That tried us with every bad break.
By then we had left every vestige of life,
And for three hundred sixty degrees,
The horizon was stark, so damned lifelessly stark,
That you’d sell your right arm for some trees.
We were mushing on snow, that repelled the sun’s glow,
Till the glare nearly burned us both blind.
Our eyes were like slits that we’d open in bits
To see what our compass would find.
I was riding the sled, with Jim running the tread,
When we lunged, and Jim pulled the sled back.
But a gaping ice flaw had sucked into its jaw
The lead dog and three of the pack.
I grabbed hold of the sled, while Jim raced to the head
And cut the four loose with his knife.
It was tough to lose four, but we could have lost more,
So we settled with fate for our life.
When we started to go, it was painfully slow,
cause the weight was too much for the five.
So we jettisoned all but the rations of food,
Bare enough to just keep us alive.
We rationed the food to the dogs and ourselves,
And for weeks we drove on at half fare,
Till I figured that if we weren’t killed by the cold,
We’d starve by the time we got there.

CHECK NEXT WEDNESDAY FOR THE THIRD INSTALLMENT