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It seldom snowed – Part II

It seldom snowed in Camp they said, on the mountains, yes,
And in the Styx, aka zone six. That’s where we were afoot
In alpine grass, garbed to test our winter skills,
Tramp the craggy hills and camp a night or two,
Spy a special site, an outing planned
To ready us for troop command. It snowed as we approached
Our mission site, we set up camp above the dam
Diverting Whangaehu River water to desert Tongariro.
The radio, an antique A10, worked okay in barracks
But in the snow it only raised a crackle now and then.
That night the snow reformed the land and we awoke
On an uninhabited earth, wrote our names freehand
In the continuous blanket surrounding our tents,
Laughing as we urinated, the moment indelibly etched
In the timeless serenity of the snow-bound plateau.
The still, clear air, the pervasive silence which raided
Our senses, calmed and freed us of the prying eyes
And demands our trainers made. We didn’t know
The exercise ended because of the snow,
The night before our fellow cadets slept in warm beds.
Our leader said we should take a shorter route
Through the woods out of view of the site, observe
Overnight and complete the task tomorrow; he might
Have missed the blended contour lines, where they
Converged we descended into a river gorge shown neatly
On the map, slithered down precipices, plunged through
Saturating snow drifts until baulked by white water;
In a mid-summer jaunt it would be a trekker’s dream,
But now rigid with cold and no-longer brave we demurred.
It only occurred then that our leader should relinquish
Command. He acquiesced when he knew our feelings.
We retraced our steps, tried our radio set and surprise,
Were informed of the already cancelled exercise. We plodded
The weary miles to the RV, meeting our SSM who grinned
When he knew we were safe, “Good show,” he said,
“I thought you’d gone rafting! So, what do you think
Of the snow?” I still don’t know; I’ll keep an open mind.

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Poem It seldom snowed – Part II - Ivan Donn Carswell
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