This is not poetry but rather a ballad in the style of Robert W. Service. I wrote this in 1987, during a short stay in Denmark. John Ross was a close friend of mine and a collegue in the mining business. We worked on many projects together and I have fond memories of him. John passed away away a few years ago so I’m publishing this in memory of him and the many crazy adventures we had together.
THE BALLAD OF JOHN’S MOUNTAIN
He went to a bar, a hangout for miners
And shouted aloud in a searing voice,
Are you game for a chance on golden riches,
Or is this for you tramps the only choice?
I heard of a mountain, it is far from here,
Well south of the border, the Rum is free
I’ll give you a share of the gold we find,
Enough to pay for your longest boozing spree.
What say you four in the corner there
Will you join me in this and earn some green?
I’ll pay for your fare and treat you all right,
we’ll make it in ways you have never seen.
The tramps signed up and off they went
To the land of sun and rain and heat.
Don’t fear, said John, We’ll soon be there,
You’ll like it just fine, its hard to beat.
They climbed for hours toward the mountain,
The men were tired, the mules were kicking,
The packs were heavy, the rain was pouring
and the tramps were taking a heavy licking.
Keep on, said John, We’ll make it yet.
The mist was clearing way up yonder.
Oh curse this day and the promise of gold
the tramps said loud, it’s all a blunder.
They made their camp at journeys end
And faced the rugged towering cliffs,
Let’s make some holes and blow a round,
Before we end up as walking stiffs.
The mountain roared, the smoke was acrid,
There’s gold in there, John heard them shout;
She’s four foot wide and speckled with yellow
We’ve got her beat, we’re rich, no doubt!
They laughed and danced, all smeared with grime,
I told you all, you worthless scum,
You’d find that gold and make some cash.
Let’s head for the village and a taste of Rum.
They slugged their way down the mountain path,
The mules could sense the miner’s thrill.
We’ve got her made, we’re wealthy tramps,
There’s plenty of gold in that there hill.
Let’s hang our guns at Rosie’s place,
Tonight we’ll think of other duties,
Forget that dreary mountain mine
And treat the lovely dark eyed beauties.
The feast went on to dawn’s first light,
The girls were soft and willing.
Wake up you tramps and hear me well,
Its time to go back to the drilling.
With a curse on their lips and pounding heads
They headed back up the mountain.
The sweat was pouring, their thirst was fierce,
They were miles from Rosie’s cantina fountain.
The rounds went in by day and by night,
They mucked and trammed to a growing pile;
They swore at the work and damned the heat,
The tunnel was less than one twentieth mile.
She played us foul, that yellow streak,
She pinched and died in the last two rounds.
Fear not, said John, that strike is fair,
The ore may be running at least an ounce.
They figured the cost and the total tons
And the price of jacklegs and scattered tools.
They made a report on their worthless findings
Designed to attract some promoting fools.
They came in droves to buy up the options,
Their greed was beyond our wildest notions.
We’re experts, said they, we mine the markets,
We make our millions on phoney promotions.
Let’s take their money and run said John,
It’s time to leave this stinking place,
they paid us high for a worthless mountain
And I hold in my hand another ace.
written in Assens, Denmark, 1987