Saturday, May 19, 2007


The Shooting of Dan McGrew

The Shooting of Dan McGrew
by Robert Service

A bunch of the boys were whooping it up in the Malamute saloon;
The kid that handles the music-box was hitting a jag-time tune;
Back of the bar, in a solo game, sat Dangerous Dan McGrew,
And watching his luck was his light-o'-love, the lady that's known as Lou.

When out of the night, which was fifty below, and into the din and the glare,
There stumbled a miner fresh from the creeks, dog-dirty, and loaded for bear.
He looked like a man with a foot in the grave
and scarcely the strength of a louse,
Yet he tilted a poke of dust on the bar,
and he called for drinks for the house.
There was none could place the stranger's face,
though we searched ourselves for a clue;
But we drank his health, and the last to drink was Dangerous Dan McGrew.

There's men that somehow just grip your eyes,
and hold them hard like a spell;
And such was he, and he looked to me like a man who had lived in hell;
With a face most hair, and the dreary stare of a dog whose day is done,
As he watered the green stuff in his glass, and the drops fell one by one.
Then I got to figgering who he was, and wondering what he'd do,
And I turned my head -- and there watching him
was the lady that's known as Lou.

His eyes went rubbering round the room, and he seemed in a kind of daze,
Till at last that old piano fell in the way of his wandering gaze.
The rag-time kid was having a drink; there was no one else on the stool,
So the stranger stumbles across the room, and flops down there like a fool.
In a buckskin shirt that was glazed with dirt he sat, and I saw him sway;
Then he clutched the keys with his talon hands
-- my God! but that man could play.

Were you ever out in the Great Alone, when the moon was awful clear,
And the icy mountains hemmed you in with a silence you most could HEAR;
With only the howl of a timber wolf, and you camped there in the cold,
A half-dead thing in a stark, dead world, clean mad for the muck called gold;
While high overhead, green, yellow and red,
the North Lights swept in bars? --
Then you've a haunch what the music meant . . .
hunger and night and the stars.

And hunger not of the belly kind, that's banished with bacon and beans,
But the gnawing hunger of lonely men for a home and all that it means;
For a fireside far from the cares that are, four walls and a roof above;
But oh! so cramful of cosy joy, and crowned with a woman's love --
A woman dearer than all the world, and true as Heaven is true --
(God! how ghastly she looks through her rouge, --
the lady that's known as Lou.)

Then on a sudden the music changed, so soft that you scarce could hear;
But you felt that your life had been looted clean
of all that it once held dear;
That someone had stolen the woman you loved; that her love was a devil's lie;
That your guts were gone, and the best for you was to crawl away and die.
'Twas the crowning cry of a heart's despair,
and it thrilled you through and through --
"I guess I'll make it a spread misere," said Dangerous Dan McGrew.

The music almost died away . . . then it burst like a pent-up flood;
And it seemed to say, "Repay, repay," and my eyes were blind with blood.
The thought came back of an ancient wrong, and it stung like a frozen lash,
And the lust awoke to kill, to kill . . .
then the music stopped with a crash,
And the stranger turned, and his eyes they burned in a most peculiar way;
In a buckskin shirt that was glazed with dirt he sat, and I saw him sway;
Then his lips went in in a kind of grin,
and he spoke, and his voice was calm,
And "Boys," says he, "you don't know me, and none of you care a damn;
But I want to state, and my words are straight,
and I'll bet my poke they're true,
That one of you is a hound of hell . . . and that one is Dan McGrew."

Then I ducked my head, and the lights went out,
and two guns blazed in the dark,
And a woman screamed, and the lights went up,
and two men lay stiff and stark.
Pitched on his head, and pumped full of lead, was Dangerous Dan McGrew,
While the man from the creeks lay clutched to the breast
of the lady that's known as Lou.

These are the simple facts of the case, and I guess I ought to know.
They say that the stranger was crazed with "hooch",
and I'm not denying it's so.
I'm not so wise as the lawyer guys, but strictly between us two --
The woman that kissed him and -- pinched his poke --
was the lady that's known as Lou.

More poems by Robert Service at

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Saturday, May 12, 2007


The Call of the Wild

The Call of the Wild
by Robert Service

Have you gazed on naked grandeur where there's nothing else to gaze on,
Set pieces and drop-curtain scenes galore,
Big mountains heaved to heaven, which the blinding sunsets blazon,
Black canyons where the rapids rip and roar?
Have you swept the visioned valley
with the green stream streaking through it,
Searched the Vastness for a something you have lost?
Have you strung your soul to silence? Then for God's sake go and do it;
Hear the challenge, learn the lesson, pay the cost.

Have you wandered in the wilderness, the sagebrush desolation,
The bunch-grass levels where the cattle graze?
Have you whistled bits of rag-time at the end of all creation,
And learned to know the desert's little ways?
Have you camped upon the foothills, have you galloped o'er the ranges,
Have you roamed the arid sun-lands through and through?
Have you chummed up with the mesa? Do you know its moods and changes?
Then listen to the Wild -- it's calling you.

Have you known the Great White Silence, not a snow-gemmed twig aquiver?
(Eternal truths that shame our soothing lies.)
Have you broken trail on snowshoes? mushed your huskies up the river,
Dared the unknown, led the way, and clutched the prize?
Have you marked the map's void spaces, mingled with the mongrel races,
Felt the savage strength of brute in every thew?
And though grim as hell the worst is, can you round it off with curses?
Then hearken to the Wild -- it's wanting you.

Have you suffered, starved and triumphed,
groveled down, yet grasped at glory,
Grown bigger in the bigness of the whole?
"Done things" just for the doing, letting babblers tell the story,
Seeing through the nice veneer the naked soul?
Have you seen God in His splendors, heard the text that nature renders?
(You'll never hear it in the family pew.)
The simple things, the true things, the silent men who do things --
Then listen to the Wild -- it's calling you.

They have cradled you in custom, they have primed you with their preaching,
They have soaked you in convention through and through;
They have put you in a showcase; you're a credit to their teaching --
But can't you hear the Wild? -- it's calling you.
Let us probe the silent places, let us seek what luck betide us;
Let us journey to a lonely land I know.
There's a whisper on the night-wind, there's a star agleam to guide us,
And the Wild is calling, calling . . . let us go.

I just like this one. Actually, I like almost anything by Robert Service. I have started a site with his poetry at

It will take me a while to get all his poems on the site, but thought I would go ahead and set up the link now.

Have a great day...


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Tuesday, May 01, 2007


A Place to Hear the Last Silken Sighs of a Dying Art

Copyright 2007 by Donovan Baldwin

It is a small gallery on a side street in Carmel, California. There are more prestigious and glamorous sites in town, such as the Hogs Breath Inn Restaurant and Bar, owned by local resident Clint Eastwood (back when this was written), and it may be easily passed amid the maze of galleries of various arts.

My wife and I would never have seen it except for a sequence of failures, and we never would have met the lady who ran it had we been there one minute earlier, or if my wife had not loved embroidery and needlepoint.

Whatever the events, had we not encountered problems finding what we HAD been looking for, or had we not had trouble navigating the narrow streets of Carmel, and finally decided to park and search on foot, we might never have been introduced to Lu Luo, owner of Lu Lu Silk Art Gallery of Chinese silk embroidery. That would have been a shame, for then a certain macho dude, i.e. yours truly, would never have stood gazing in awe at what might be the last examples of a dying art.

We were actually looking for a scent shop when my wife, a lifelong devotee of various forms of needlepoint, glanced in a window. One more gallery in a sea of galleries, we commented on the beauty of the "paintings" and almost walked on. As we were about to leave, however, she realized that we were seeing for the first time in our lives exquisite examples of an art she had only read about and I had never even known existed...Chinese silk embroidery.

She called me back and I took another look at one of the "paintings" in the window. As I looked more closely, I realized that what had appeared to be tiny brushstrokes were actually threads, some of which seemed much smaller than a human hair. Using tiny silken threads, some of which actually are finer than a baby's hair, the hands that had held the needle had created a masterpiece equal to those of any brush wielding artist. In fact, as we gazed through the window into the closed shop, we saw that many of the works were almost of photographic quality!

Sadly, the shop was closed and we began to walk away, but as we left, we heard someone calling out for us to please wait. We turned and saw a diminutive oriental lady, who, as it happened, owned the gallery.

As one interested in art and needlework, my wife was in awe of all she saw. As a writer, I was in awe not only of the artwork, but of the story Lu Luo had to tell.

What we saw before us in her gallery were perhaps some of the last examples of an art begun a mere 2,800 years or more before. It was an art form developed for the pleasure and adornment of Chinese royalty, but modern times were drawing a line it could not cross.

Developed in Suzhou, China, this form of silk embroidery begins with a finely woven silk cloth as the "canvas", and the finest silken threads as the "paint". They are the finest threads because the artist must split each silk thread into as many as 64 smaller threads as one of the first steps in preparation for the creation of the work. This is the first stumbling block, as the artist must begin learning her craft when still a child, when eyes and hands are still keen and nimble enough to do this well. Attempts to teach even this apparently simple task to older women have failed.

Once threads have been split, each and every pass of the needle must be perfect as the artist employs approximately 40 different techniques to create effects such as fog, smoke, water, texture, or play of light. Should the artist falter in her stitches, there is no way to recover the work. She must begin again.

The effects produced with silken thread can be amazing. From the fine skin of a maid to the whiskers on a tiger's face, the range of effects is stunning...and unbelievably realistic. In one example on display in Lu Lu Silk Art Gallery, we were able to watch the morning light change to noon and dim back to the dusk of evening as we walked across the room in front of a work showing a scene in Suzhou. A skilled artist can create an original work in traditional Chinese motifs, duplicate or emulate the most famous works of western art, or convert a favored family photograph into a silken masterpiece.

As alive and vibrant as this work seems to be, its days may be numbered. The artists must begin training as children and dedicate their lives to their art. As China joins the commercial world, children learn other things and seek careers that seem more rewarding. The skills needed demand the lifetime attention and devotion of the artist, and it has become harder and harder to find those to take on the task. It is estimated that the artists working today may be the last, and the end of the art may be as little as twenty years away.

Each work demands time or artists. The larger or more complex the work, the longer it will take, and the only way to shorten the time is to assign more artists to the task. As an example, Lu Luo pointed to a beautiful picture entitled "Tang Dynasty Polo". It is a vibrant work showing Chinese girls on horseback playing polo for the entertainment of the Emperor and his court. It is approximately four feet by five feet in size, and a similar work would require a team of five or six artists a couple of years to complete or one artist several years.

My wife and I are grateful that we have had the chance to see this wonderful art, but we are saddened that in a few years, no new works will be available to the world.

For your opportunity to see this art while it is still available to the public, you can visit Lu Lu Silk Art Gallery on Mission Street in Carmel between 5th and 6th streets. You can phone Lu Luo for more information at (831) 620-1122, or visit her gallery online and view examples of the works on display at

Donovan Baldwin is a freelance writer living in Copperas Cove, Texas. He is a University of West Florida alumnus, a member of Mensa and the National Society of Newspaper Columnists, and is retired from the U. S. Army after 21 years of service. In his career, he has held many managerial and supervisory positions. However, his main pleasures have long been writing, nature, health, and fitness. In the last few years, he has been able to combine these pleasures by writing poetry and articles on subjects such as health, fitness, yoga, weight loss, the environment, global warming, happiness, self improvement, life and the arts. He has a collection of articles on health, fitness, diet and weight loss at

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