Guest Post: The Cremation of Sam McGee

Friday, March 22, 2013

Wow! It's been a week since I posted! Must be a record. We are settling in quite nicely into our new place. I love unpacking and setting up house. I have also enjoyed staying a liiiittle more unplugged this week. I should do it more often.

This guest post is by Nate's cousin, Scott. (He is married to Erika, who guest posted last week). Nate and Scott are like two peas in a pod. They love all things outdoors, grow their beards the same length, buy the same clothes, are allergic to the same foods and have gray hairs in the same places on their heads. It's kind of creepy sometimes to be honest. The book Scott is reviewing today can be recited by he and Nate both. This book is for children, but it's a weird one and loved deeply by these two men. So if I have any male readers at all, maybe you will appreciate it!

By Scott.
The Cremation of Sam McGee

At some point in every man's life he sheds childhood, ventures into the wilderness, and carves out his lot in life. The burdens of bread winning and the sweat of his brow quickly replace the smell of baked goods and the soft nurturing wings of a mother. But if he is lucky - truly, deeply, lucky - he'll find someone to balance out the calluses in his hands and stubborn rough edges of his heart.

Together they will make a house a home, living, loving, and growing together. Soon, with hopeful hearts the two of them become three, and an entirely new unexplored wilderness opens in a man's heart - he becomes a father.

Many books have been reviewed on this blog. Books with messages about kindness, love, sharing, and all things needed to raise a child correctly. And while not all men may have perfected the gentler meaning of nurturing, there are things he deeply wishes to imbue into his sons' or daughters' heart; adventure, truth, work, and courage to be sure. There are not many books a man will get to read with his kids, and he may not get to bring his children into the torrent ocean or over the stolid glacier-tipped mountain peaks. But he can read with them The Cremation of Sam McGee.

There are strange things done in the midnight sun / By the men who moil for gold; / The Arctic trails have their secret tales / That would make your blood run cold; / The Northern Lights have seen queer sights, / But the queerest they ever did see / Was that night on the marge of Lake Lebarge / I cremated Sam McGee.

(The poem's opening and closing stanza)

Robert Service, the author, based the poem on the actual experience of Dr. Sugden, who found a corpse in the cabin of the steamer Olive May. I like that the wildest part of this story is true. I also like that its a story of a common man, thousands of miles from home and comfort, filled with passion, and a dying wish. I like that the setting of this book is in the lesser carved out parts of the map, the northern Yukon, Canada, accessible only by sled or kayak to this day. I like that it's a place where even a grown man can still exercise his imagination and dream of the cold stars and twisting northern lights.

Once published, The Cremation of Sam McGee was widely told throughout elementary schools in Canada, and contains several messages near to my heart that I hope to be successful in passing to my children. I hope they can say that their father taught them many things - truth, obedience, family, happiness, and hard work. But I also hope they can say that from their earliest age - among their first memories curled up late at night next to the fire with dad - their father taught them adventure, and he taught them courage.

Note: My live-in Canadian expert would like to note that most of the Yukon Territories can now be accessed by snow-mobile or helicopter.


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