NUMBER 98

A blog about James Cooper of The Royal Newfoundland Regiment and one of the first five-hundred, and Newfoundland's links with Ayr

The Caribou

by John O'Brine Frisse

17 September 1933 ~ 26 August 1997

 

In fondest dedication to the late

Mr. James Cooper

of St. John's and Ayr.

April 1981

How do you do? I am the Caribou!

Have you a minute to spare?

I understand that Newfoundland

Once gifted me to Ayr;

Now if I may, I'd like to say

Just how that came to be,

And what I was meant to represent,

And to tell you a bit about me.

For it's not by chance that I have this stance,

This honoured position I'm in;

My story is true, and so if you

Are ready, then I'll begin.

Oh, the savage North that gave me birth

Is the jewel in Canada's crown,

Where the blinding snow and the storms that blow

Beat all but the strongest down,

Where the blizzards wail on the raging gale

And it's hard just to stay alive,

Where the ice-packs fold in the biting cold

And only the fittest survive,

Where the piercing frost, like a sabre thrust,

Cuts through to the frozen bone,

You must be strong, as the winter is long,

For you stand, -or fall, - alone!

On a fateful day, up near Hudson Bay,

Came the signs that winter had perished,

From the snow underfoot poked the odd green shoot

For a glimpse of the sunshine it cherished.

Though the light was pale on the Caribou Trail,

It was surely the herald of spring,

All Nature seethed as the Wastelands breathed

New life into each living thing.

The melting snow had a friendly glow

Gleaming white, with a warmth in its essence,

And from all around came the busy sound

Of a land in the joy of renaissance.

I stood there tall and absorbed in it all,

For this was the land I adored;

My Tundra blood raced warm in a flood

Of pride, as my spirits soared.

I was thinking then, "Well I've done it again",

"Still alive, and the winter's done!"

When a rifle spoke from a cloud of smoke,

And I fell to a hunter's gun.

Here my memory bank has a long, long blank

Of weeks or months uncounted;

My body was shed, but I kept my head,

Albeit, stuffed and mounted.

Then I was assigned to be a kind

Of token of love and care,

Of friendship bonds, between St. John's

And this old town of Ayr.

Well, this is how you see me now,

High in a place where I'll show;

So lend an eye as you pass by,

I'm here for a purpose you know!

You look at me, and what do you see?

Surely not just another old Deer;

Look deep in my eyes, - they tell no lies.

And remember the scenes that appear.

See the battle lines, the fields of mines,

The swirling smoke and fire,

The rancid mud, the death, the blood,

The miles of tangled wire.

Hear the roar of raging war

The screaming shells, and then

The blinding flash, the deafening crash,

And the groans of dying men.

Smell the fumes in billowing plumes

Of gunsmoke, and the stenches

That hang like death on the putrid breath

Of yawning, stinking trenches.

Know the thoughts of all the Scots

And all Newfoundland's sons,

In battle order, - so much fodder

To feed the hungry guns.

Feel their grief, their disbelief,

The horror in their eyes,

As unrestrained the slaughter reigned,

And thousands fell like flies.

There is, I fear, no glory here,

Just a job that had to be done.

We count the cost in good lives lost,

For a freedom that had to be won.

Thus side by side our brave sons died,

As side by side they stood;

But never the less, from that bloody mess

Came an everlasting good.

For Brotherhood bears us through the years

Of darkness and oppression,

And our people are bound in the friendship they found

In the fight against aggression.

In Friendship's name we'll stand the same

As then, against the horde;

We'll stand and fight for Freedom's right,

'Til Justice is restored.

So come what will, - come Kaiser Bill,

The Hitlers, the Stalins, whatever,

They'll have their day, then pass away;

But our ties will last forever.

Tyrants tumble and bigots crumble

When Brother stands by Brother;

Nought can rise above the simple love

Of one man for another.

As a symbol I stand for the friendly hand

Whose grip is firm and true,

St. John's and Ayr, long may they share

The bond of "The Caribou"!

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