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My Good Friday.

In the last two days, much of my conversation has been about sawmills and this made me thing about the poetry of Robert Swanson.

Robert Swanson wrote wonderful poetry about logging and a book of his collected poems called Rhymes of a Western Logger is an entertaining read.

He wrote about all sorts of characters. My favourites include a story of a runaway train that stopped in front of the house of the engineer’s mistress out of habit and a deceased boilermaker sent by St. Peter to work on the boilers “down below”; where he found the working conditions better than when he was alive.

Here’s one of my favourites that I wanted to share, especially since I’m planning to spend Good Friday working on tired, old equipment:

The Cat Skinners’ Prayer

I’ve shivered and shook on a Dozer
I’ve ranted, and raved, and I’ve cu’sed.
My kidneys are dislocated
And I’ve swallowed ten bushels of dust;
My fingers are broken and bleeding
From wielding the tools of repair.
O God of Internal Combustion,
Please answer a cat-skinner’s prayer!

Now, I’ve studied your parts-book Bible
And here are the things I require:
A pair of unstretchable cat-tracks
That will never “come off” in the mire;
But the thing that would tickle my fancy,
When I’m miles from the fuel supply,
Is a tank,for both gas and for diesel,
Of the type that will never run dry.

Oh, send your toil-worn disciple,
Who has gobbled and swallowed your smoke,
A heaven-invented fuel pump
That will fire on every stroke,
A set of perfected injectors
With guts that will never wear.
O God of Internal Combustion,
Please answer a cat-skinner’s prayer!
Please send me the grease of perfection
And a change of eternal oil,
Some diamond bearinged cat-rolls
That will run in abrasive soil,
A final-driving assembly
With everlasting gears,
And a set of sleeves and pistons
That will run for a million years.

Oh send me lining, immortal,
For my steering-clutch mechanism,
And a cranking-motor magneto
With permanent magnetism;
A set of valves and tappets
At which I will never swear.
Oh God of Internal Combustion,
Please answer a cat-skinner’s prayer!

Great God of the Red-Hot Piston,
I have worshipped and served you well,
Forsaking the Gods of my fathers,
Till my soul has been slated for Hell!
If you’ll send me the things that I ask for
I will never work Sundays again;
But I’ll worship Internal Combustion
Forever and ever. Amen.

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