In 1966/67 I was a student at the Stanford in France campus at Tours; the great tradgedy of Vietnam was heating up; DeGaulle was in the process of booting the U.S. military out of France (leaving of course the thousands of soldiers buried there saving their bacon in WWI and WWII, the streets of Paris were adorned with red flags welcoming a state visit of the Russian premier, and this 215 lb sophmore just off another summer of commercial seining was introduced to the game of rugby--wing forward, a lethal stalker of scrum halves playing in a league against the French whom we to a man despised. Four knee operations, torn rotator cusp and separated shoulders, cracked ribs later, no longer at 62 play the game. Long intro to being in Oakland on a pilrimage to Jack London square revising my manuscript--North to Alaska--Islands of Stability in Seas of Change the weekend of the 31st and stumbling into a combo bachelor and bachelorette party. Groom was a former rugby player and most of the men there had also played. As soon as they discovered I had played at Stanford and Yale, I was welcomed immediately into the band of brothers. The following poem came to me immediately to the pleasure of the attendees. Hope you enjoy it.
Artists go to Paris for the lure of romance,
Alaskans are drawn to the muddy fields of France
To without pads and helmets only hands bare,
To fight the French in the rugby le guerre
Years have passed and the knees are way too old
Only memories of red and white and moves so bold,
Scrum halves with eyes of fear trying so hard to escape,
The wing forward’s tackle and ribs to break,
And better yet memories of combat not mortal but to the max
Never ending no time to blow or relax
Ended by a whistle and then covered with sweat, blood and grime
The shaking of hands along the warriors’ line
Followed by now two bands of brothers sharing a well deserved brew
Scores long gone, only knowing your honor ran true.
© July 31,2009 Michael P. Ridley