October 22, 2007

Corporate Retreat at Daniels Summit Lodge

It is snowing in the Utah mountains now. Last Thursday night we had a mid-October snowfall of about three inches in the higher elevations near Park City, Heber Valley and vicinity. I had been invited to present an evening of cowboy poetry to a group of corporate managers, directors, managing directors and their wives during their semi-annual retreat at Daniels Summit Lodge located on a mountain pass 16 miles south of Heber City. The lodge is reminiscent of the old lodges in Yellowstone Park and Glacier National Park - heavy timbers, stonework and very rustic - yet cozy in a mountain kind of way. We gathered around the massive fireplace in the imposing lobby of the of the lodge around 8:00 PM, each person making himself or herself at home in the deeply padded rustic sofas and chairs with the fire blazing in the background. This had to have been the ideal setting for an evening of cowboy poetry. The lodge is decorated not only with hunting and outdoor memorabilia, but also with vintage saddles, cowboy photos from the turn of the century and pieces of tack hanging around.

For the next forty-five minutes I went through a program of sixteen recitations - half from the classics and half from my own writing. Of course there were the obligatory jokes and connective banter as I went from one poem to the next. Things went smoothly, the audience was receptive and appreciative and it was all very well received. Some said that it ended way too soon. That is a good sign - always best to leave them wanting more than to wear them out. I spent the night in the lodge and next morning over breakfast, we had some interesting conversation about poetry and writing of verse in general.

Daniels Summit is a big snowmobiling resort area in the wintertime. I don't snowmobile, but instead I choose horse drawn sleighs. We take the horses and cutter sleighs out on the same trails used by the snow machines. Our horses are broke to the sound and the motion of the motorized sleds and so are not bothered by them. In fact the area between Daniels Summit and Strawberry Reservoir is an ideal location for this sort of wintertime fun - we have gone on cutter sleigh rides there is years past. With snow on the ground during the retreat and just being in the area again made me think back on a poem I wrote about this most charming of all winter activities - riding in a one-horse sleigh. Though I didn't recite it that evening, I'd like to share it here still the same.

The Rush of the One-Horse Sleigh
by Paul Kern

They try to get me to, but I can’t convert,
To a motorized sled - now what would it hurt?
It’s not that I object to that kinda’ fun,
Making curves an’ all on a downhill run.

But what I really prefer is a different kinda’ ride,
In a one-horse sleigh with my bride at my side.
There are few thrills that can compare,
To thundering hooves kicking snow in the air.

I call out his name with a touch of the whip,
We charge off in an instant and hope we don’t tip.
Snuggled up warm in a buffalo robe,
Ears covered in fur right down to the lobe.

With gloved fingers ever so light on the reins,
A swish of the tail and a flying lead change,
Spraying fresh snow from a high stepping steed,
A turn to the right he again changes lead.

The creak of the harness and the groan of the sleigh,
Are all notes of the music of a cold wintry day,
Sleigh bells ring out as we flash through the snow,
We dash away now with cheeks all aglow.

The hours rush by in the wink of an eye,
The horse is tired now and, well so am I,
It’s hard to have a better day than this,
I reach over to steal a mid winters kiss.

For years we’ve all sung the songs of the sleigh,
There must be a reason for those carols to stay,
It’s a whole lot more than – the horse knows the way.
Must be the ride and the rush of the one-horse sleigh.

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