Berton House day 22

Tuesday evening, July 24, I went to see the presentation at the Robert Service cabin across the street. Johnny had 'em laughing from before I got there.

There were about 20 or so people for the presentation. They were from Scotland, England, Alaska, NY, BC, and Ontario.

Johnny had memorized The Shooting of Dan McGrew, and gave an impassioned performance. He had arranged with a woman in the audience ahead of time to be the shill. When he comes to the part where "a woman screamed," the shill is supposed to scream. Needless to say, she didn't. She started to laugh. So, Johnny backed up and repeated the line. She still couldn't scream. Another woman in the audience screamed for her. But, Johnny wouldn't let it go until the original woman finally screamed -- to much applause.

After reading Dan McGrew, Johnny asked how many people thought that Service had written it "as is, fully formed," or how many thought he was a tinkerer -- a rewriter. Most seemed to think he wrote the poem first draft in it's finished form. I voted for tinkerer -- mainly because I'd be really bummed if he could write that well in first draft. I know I can't.

Then Johnny got one of the audience members to recite from memory the first stanza of The Cremation of Sam McGee, then he read the first draft of it from a book he had. It seemed laughably bad compared to the finished version.

He also read, in Scottish dialect, a poem called Bessie's Boil. Which is really a shaggy-dog story about a woman named Bessie who has a boil on her behind. When she goes to have a doctor look at it, much mayhem ensues.

As for the cabin, there are raspberries growing on the sod roof. I was too short to reach them. The insides were pretty dark, but my camera's flash lit them up. There was a picture of Robert Service leaning on a table -- and the table was right there. Johnny said that the stove was much fancier than the one that Service had. And that the typewriter was presented by a grand niece of Robert Service to be displayed in the cabin.

Robert Service cabin

- Carolyn