November 12, 2008

Where Warmth Means Wood

Lessons learned from my father are reflected in the poem Where Warmth Means Wood. This poem has become through the years somewhat of a standard cowboy poetry Thanksgiving poem. I am thankful to have had such a father. We all miss him but are thankful that the enormous pain he endured from cancer has come to an end. Below is the text of his obituary, which appeared in several western newspapers. Thanks to Margo Metegrano at for her kind and unsolicited report on Dad's passing. You can read it here.

Reese Shipley Kern passed away October 29, 2008 in Loveland, Colorado after a courageous battle with cancer. He was born May 5, 1922 in Preston, Idaho to Alfred and Amy Kern. He graduated from Preston High School in 1940. In 1947 Reese graduated from the University of Colorado with a B.S. in Chemical Engineering and served with distinction in the Marine Corps in both World War II and again in Korea. He married Rae Christine Madsen on March 19, 1945 in the Salt Lake Temple. They are the parents of seven children. Reese spent his professional career working as a chemical engineer and nuclear physicist. He was the construction project manager of the Power Burst Facility experimental reactor located west of Idaho Falls, Idaho. He was a successful businessman and co-founder of an environmental recovery company in Grand Junction, Colorado. During his lengthy career, he worked for Standard Oil, Philips Petroleum, Allied Chemical and Norman Engineering.Reese was a lifelong member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints; serving in many capacities and callings throughout his life. He served as a stake missionary, high councilman, member of several bishoprics, full-time missionary with his wife Rae in Apalachicola, Florida, temple worker and counselor in the Denver Temple Presidency. He most recently served as a temple sealer. One of the highlights of his life was that he had performed the marriages of most of his espoused grandchildren. Although he had a lifelong passion for horses and the outdoors – his last act before entering hospice was to attend to his horse Indy in Stringtown, Colorado – the love of his life was his wife Rae and the family they founded together. Reese is survived by his wife Rae of Loveland, sons Richard (Jaci), Ralph (Connie), Paul (Kathie), Rob (Cindy) and daughters Marilyn Arrington (Howard), Jane McGee, and Holly Thomas (Mike), brothers Earl (Irma) and Demar (Doris). His posterity includes forty grandchildren and twenty-four great grandchildren. A memorial service was held Saturday, November 1 at 10:00 a.m. at the LDS chapel at 1445 W 28th Street in Loveland. In lieu of flowers contributions may be made the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Perpetual Education Fund at

Where Warmth Means Wood
by Paul Kern

In the winter of nineteen twenty-one,
Before the arrival of their firstborn son,
Alf took Amy through snow and ice,
Forty miles by sleigh from Preston to Paradise.

My grandfather felt a little regret,
That a horse and a sleigh was all he could get,
To visit her family as he knew he should,
When travel meant horses and warmth meant wood.

In the winter of nineteen sixty-eight,
Thanksgiving that year just had to wait,
My father drove cattle through drifting snow,
To the shelter of valleys down below.

We just put off our holiday feast,
Grateful for safety of man and beast.
The cattle were cared for best as they could,
When rescue meant horses and warmth meant wood.

A little closer towards the end of the year,
We called on poor families living near,
In a Quonset hut and a tarpaper shack,
Heat was by fire and water they'd pack.

Country radio had made a plea,
To donate a Christmas gift or a tree,
So we took a present to each little child,
They were ragged, dirty and a little bit wild.

Plastic sheets on the windows let in daylight,
And the wind and the snow and the cold of the night,
We tried to help out as they expected we would,
Horses lived better than this; still warmth meant wood.

So here we are in two thousand and some,
It's hard not to let your feelings go numb,
So we remember our folk's blood, sweat and tears,
We try to pass it on down through the years.

From horses to cattle to neighborly ways,
From harness and saddle to one-horse sleighs,
To being kind to man and to beast as we should,
It still means something where warmth means wood.

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