I wrote this poem, whose
structure (and more) I borrowed from Robert Service's poem The Shooting
of Dan McGrew, in the summer of 1991. I readily admit that, reading
it now after a gap of some 15 years, it has a ring of being 'not very
PC' about it, but in that sense it does, I suppose, remain consistent
with the original poem from which it arose. A little background is in
A friend and I were up at the UBC Varsity Outdoors
Club's Harrison Hut above Meagher Creek Hot Springs in the upper Lillooett
River valley to climb a couple of peaks, Mt Overseer and Spidery Pk if
I recall correctly. The hut log book contained many entries including
some from snowmobilers and some from others who had come in by helicopter
to ski in the area, as well as entries from many who, like us, had come
up on foot. The tone of the accusations was occasionally quite heated,
to say the least.
Now, I'm not a fan of the over-use of helicopter
or airplane access, especially to areas traditionally visited on foot.
But I have certainly used air access from time to time, and it occurred
to me that the tone of the accusations in the hut log was not likely to
accomplish much in this ongoing discussion.( I have expanded on my ideas
of wilderness and access in the Philosophy pages of this web site.)
So, I whiled away some dark evening hours constructing
this rather preposterous poem, with the hope that it might attenuate the
outpourings of vitriol that seemed to be flowing into the hut log book.
Then I abandoned the poem there in the hut log. A friend who visited the
hut several years later was kind enough to transcribe it and publish it
in the Island Bushwhacker newsletter in Volume 23:5 1995 (the Annual).
The Shafting of Heli-Hater McGrew
(with many, many apologies to Robert Service)
A bunch of guys were whooping it up in the Harrison
The kid that blows the harmonica was blowin’ our blues away.
At the back of the hut in a mellow state sat heli-hater McGrew
Keeping his eye on the beautiful Di he’s hoping one day to…wed.
When out of the night, which was fifty below, and
into the din and the glow,
There staggered a fellow fresh from the woods all sweaty and covered in
On his back was a pack that you wouldn’t believe, behind him he
dragged a long sled,
With things sticking out in front and behind. “God, it’s cold
in the forest” he said.
There was none could place the stranger’s face, so we gave up by
The party raged on, and the stranger stayed, and he winked at the girl
There’s men that somehow just grip your
gaze, whose appearance tells no lie;
And such was he, and he looked to me like a man who was born to fly.
With the clean-cut hair and the sprightly stare of a hawk upon the wing,
As he sipped on the green stuff in his glass and softly began to sing.
I got to figuring who he was and wondering how he’d fly.
I turned and there was that gorgeous gal giving him the come-on eye.
The revelers dropped off one by one and Di, she
turned in too.
I feigned a sleep, but I stayed tuned in, to see what the stranger would
He took out a light and into the night he snuck with a parka and mitts,
Then he pulled out a big piece of paper, like instructions for one of
Even now as I tell it I hardly believe, you many say that I’m telling
But he bent to his work and inside two hours the bugger’d assembled
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?
Well, I thought all night and I lay awake. In the morning I scarce could
In the name of God, why would anyone drag a chopper up from Meager Creek?
And my mind went back to some notes in the log, some disparaging things
that were wrote.
As the puzzle began to come together, a lump arose in my throat.
As light began to banish the dark and the stars
began to fade,
There sat the stranger in plexiglas, a lookin’ up at his blades.
He cracked a smile and a whine arose, and them blades went round and round.
Bleary-eyed skiers rushed downstairs to see what was making the sound.
Well some just stared and some complained; McGrew ran out shaking his
But the rotors were ripping and snow obscured the whirly-bird like a mist.
Then the stranger turned, and his eyes they burned, in a most peculiar
In a clean wool shirt that was neat and pert he sat, and I watched him
His lips went in, in a kind of grin and he spoke, the loud-hailer pierced
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
shirt they’re true,
That one of you is a goddamn wimp, and that one’s named McGrew.”
“I saw the note in chalet log calling me
It was you who called me a mountain pimp and prayed that I’d never
I understand where you are coming from, but I won’t be called a
So I dragged this f…ing machine up here to show who’s a real
Keep it clean, and cool your jets, let’s have a little respect.
If all of us don’t co-operate, the wilderness will be wrecked.”
When he’d said his piece some smiles appeared, bad old McGrew dropped
The stranger torqued on the throttle, the chopper began to lift.
“Good skiing!” he said, then he flicked off the mic, to concentrate
on the breeze.
He scanned all around, in the sky, on the ground, and located all of the
From the back of the crowd, dressed up in a shroud of colourful, down-filled
Came a figure crouched low, and she ran through the snow into the whirling
The door on the bubble popped out on the double, the stranger he waved
Then he hovered aloft and we all saw the soft glowing eyes of the beautiful
Offered in the spirit of lightening up.
By Sandy Briggs
August 23, 1991
P.S. Hey, I’m not a fan of helicopters to
areas traditionally reached on foot, but name-calling doesn’t accomplish
P.P.S. The term “guys” in the first line is used in the widely
accepted sense of including all sexes.