LUMBER

If I've got to choose alone
One of all the freights I've known
All my cargoes live or dead,
Bacon pigs or pigs of lead;
Cattle, copra, rice or rails,
Pilgrims, coolies, nitrate, nails,
Lima beans or China teas
What do you think my pick would be?

Loading lumber long ago
In a ship I used to know,
With the bow-ports open wide
In her stained and rusted side,
And the saws blades screaming shrill
At the Steveston lumber-mill;
Where the Fraser floods and flows
Green and cold from melting snows.

And the tow-boats' wailing din,
As the booms come crawling in,
Fills the echoing creeks with sound,
And there's sawdust all around;
Deep and soft like drifting snow;
Nowhere much a man can go,
Nothing much to see or do
Mouldiest burg you ever knew.

But I'd give the years between
All I've done and all I've seen,
All the fooling and the fun,
All the chances lost or won;
Near and far, by shore and sea,
I would give them all to be,
Loading lumber long ago
With the lads I used to know!

Loading lumber at the mill
Till the screaming saws were still,
And the rose-red sunset died
From the mountains to the tide;
And the night brought out its stars,
And the wind song in the spars,
Of that ship I used to know
Loading lumber, long ago!

Reprise:

Cattle, copra, rice or rails,
Pilgrims, coolies, nitrate, nails,
Lima beans or China teas
What do you think my pick would be?

(Based on a poem by Cicely Fox Smith
from Rovings: Sea Songs and Ballads,
edited by Cicely Fox Smith, published by Elkin Mathews,
London, UK, 1921, p.p. 33-34.
Adapted for singing by Charles Ipcar, 2005.
Tune after traditional The Boys Won't Leave the Girls Alone.)

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Charlie Ipcar
Richmond, Maine