Raul Pevere’s Ride

By George M. Hosier II 

Listen my children and you shall hear

Of the arctic ride of Raul Pevere,

In middle of winter, of seventy-five;

How the man did ever survive

Is a secret we’ll never know, I fear. 

He said to his wife, “I’m out of beer

So I’m making a run to the town to-night.”

Said his wife, “That’s madness this time of the year!

The thermometer glinting ‘neath Northern lights 

Is pegged at sixty and five below!

You leave, and you’ll never come back, you know.

Drunk as you are, I bet my right arm,

You’re setting yourself up for ruin and harm.

Please stay by the fire with me where it’s warm.” 

But he growled “Good-night!” and with teeth clenched tight

Lurched silently into the frost-laden night,

Just as the moon rose over his cache

Now starkly devoid of his alcohol stash.

But long winter nights make some men drink

And most drink more than they’d like to think.

Across the valley an all-night bar

Called Raul’s name like a siren’s song

And the cold bit deep and the wind howled strong

As he fumbled with keys to his car. 

Meanwhile, his wife with slipper-shod feet

Rushes outside, propelled by her fears

And grabs for the keys, but her husband veers–

She slips in the snow and with heavy heart

Watches him climb in the driver’s seat!

But his triumph is hollow for it appears

Cars at these temperatures don’t like to start. 

Then he burrowed frantic through hand-split birch

In the woodshed where he’d stored his sled.

He barked his knuckles and bonked his head,

And startled the ravens from their perch

On the black spruce rafters that o’er him made

Masses and moving shapes of shade,–

With a trembling hand he dug and tossed

‘Til, to his relief, he came across

His snow machine, and he squealed with glee

At finding a method to guarantee

That the miles to town he now could cross. 

His bad back spasmed; and made him shout,

As he seized the Snow-go by force of will,

Drug it to the top of the hill,

And pointed it toward the snow-choked rout

That led to booze-soaked happy hour

There to bask in Bacchus’ bower.

The watchful night wind seemed to whisper,

“The road is long; the cold grows crisper.”

Yet for only a moment he felt the dread

Of the lonely tundra that stretched ahead;

For suddenly all his thoughts converge

On a shadowy need–a poignant urge

To be blowing cash in a reckless splurge

On bosom pals he’d barely met

And whose love endured while their glass stayed wet. 

Wheezing, impatient to mount and ride,

Mittened and booted with stumbling stride

To the starter cord handle Raul Pevere

All his tugging strength applied.

But the cold caused the brittle spring to shear.

Raul’s momentum flung him to earth,

Where all the weight of his ample girth

Contorted his ankle with a crunch

That nearly compelled him to toss his lunch.

Yet he rose again to pursue the fight,

Lonely and spectral and somber and white. 

And lo!  As he scans his homestead plot

A nicker, and then a quizzical trot!

He limps to the paddock, infused with hope

And after a chase, his mule he had caught

Assisted by a short length of rope. 

A hurry of hoofs on the glacial lane,

A shape in the moonlight, a bulk in the dark,

And beneath from the permafrost, icy shards arc,

Struck out by a saturnine steed with its mane

Frozen stiff–its ice-fogged breath forms a haze.

The mule and its rider press on in a daze

And the shards struck out by that steed formed a glaze

That still in June would mark the terrain. 

It was twelve by the village clock

When they crossed the bridge just east of town.

The mule moved in a shuffling walk

And the barking of a husky dog

Failed to pierce their mental fog,

For their bodies’ cores were shutting down. 

It was one by the village clock,

When a patron at the craved saloon

Noticed them like a frosty rock

Standing stiff in the parking lot.

And Raul’s fingers clenching the frozen reins

Were hard as links of an iron chain.

His beard was set with freeze-dried snot,

And it glittered in the light of the moon. 

It was two by the paramedic’s watch

When they got Pevere pried from off his mule.

His feeble bleating for a fifth of Scotch

Brought the toughest EMT’s to tears,

But they could smell he’d had too many beers.

They gently eased the fragile fool

Out of his saddle and into a bed,

Taking great care not to let him fall,

Lest he shatter a limb or head.

Then gave his wife an urgent call. 

You guessed the rest.  In the books you have read

How drinking in winter can make you dead,–

How what you sow at 40 below

You’ll reap in spades among the snow.

Harmless stunts where palm trees thrive,

Are death traps when Jack Frost arrives.

Raul’s survival was not due to smarts,

And now he’s missing some body parts.

In the cold and the dark, I hope you will heed,

I pray you will waken and listen to hear

The staggering hoof-beats of that steed,

And the midnight folly of Raul Pevere.  

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