The Greenhorn, Terry Hynes’ winning Robert Service contest poem

Grand Forks' Terry Hynes won a Robert Service poetry contest. Here is his winning poem, The Greenhorn.

The greenhorn was fresh from the southern town,he’d just come north to have “a look around.””Seeking his fortune” he was, you see,and figure the north was his “cup-a-tea.”

One night when the mercury dropped down tot he floor,the greenhouse came crashing right through the bar door.Every face in the room jerked round with a fright,to see what the devil had thrown them that night.

He stood there a moment, then cleared out his throat,shook off the snow from his hat and his coat.He started to speak, kind of stuttered at first,”I’d like a wee gin, I’ve a terrible thirst.”

“Gin!” they all laughed, with unrestrained glee,who’d drink that sop, but one such as he.Then Pete, the old timer, sauntered up to his side,said, “it’s time to make a sourdough out of your hide.”

“It’s really quite east,” he said with a flicker,the rest of the barroom suppressed a loud snicker.”To make a sourdough from one such as you,there’s only three things that you’ll have to do.”

“Three things you do, in their order of taking,I’ll tell them all to you, just stop your shaking.The first one is easy; it’s really no feat,drink a barrel of whiskey while still on your feet.”

“The second’s no harder than working the mines,you wrestle a grizzly, and pin it three times.Now, just quit your shaking, I’ll promise you this,the last of your trials, will bring you sweet bliss.”

“The last, as promised one time before,will be waiting to meet you, behind that red door.It’ll give you much pleasure, for this I know, she’ll be waiting to greet you, her skin all aglow.”

They brought up the barrel of whiskey so neat,he drank it all down, and stayed on his feet.With a lurch and a stagger, he made off in the night,to find that old grizzly, and be done with his fight.

Long into the night, they all partied and talked,and laughed at the greenhorn, and the way that he walked.They laughed at his manners and habits so fair,said “He’ll be done for, when he wrestles that bear.”

Late the next night, as they gathered once more,came a half-dead collection, right through the door.He was torn and ragged, and bled from his face,his eyes were still bloodshot, they stared into space.

Not a sound was there heard in the barroom just then,not even a snicker from one of the men.They stared at the greenhorn, their eyes wide with fear,and each one drew back, as he slowly came near.

He stood there a while, then slowly he spoke,his voice had the sound of a man that’s just woke.”I’ll admit that the grizzly was a bit of a hassle,now I want you to show me that woman I’ll wrastle.”

– Reprinted with permission from Terry Hynes