In addition to being a distance cyclist with the Enbridge Ride to Conquer Cancer, Ria Pickering is also a poet and member of Toastmasters, a club with branches all over the world that aims to help members improve public speaking and leadership skills. She wrote about the ride, about staring down a hill in the unseasonable chill and wet weather. She read the resulting work of cowboy-style poetry, reprinted below, at a Toastmasters event.
Ode to Bugger Hill
Stories have been told in the days of old,
of bulls that have challenged men.
Names like “Texas Tornado” or “Atilla the Killa”
have driven the fear of God into them.
This bullriding immersion has caused many a conversion,
and speak of a bull’s mastery.
A bull of a hill has taunted me and I’ll tell you the story of her treachery.
To clear the confusion I’ve suffered no contusion,
on the back of a brawny bull.
This career I’ve eluded, lest you think I’m deluded,
though my story is not so dull.
Cycling’s my hobby, I ain’t no bull jockey,
black spandex is what I ride in.
It would leave you in stiches to see a cowboy in those britches,
in fact, he would rather be dyin’.
The first time I laid eyes on her, I was perched upon my bike.
It was the great size of her I didn’t like.
She streached out in the valley like a mean old rattlesnake,
I knew right then and there that she was too much bull for me to take.
The signpost named her Coalbanks Trail,
but as all her rode her would loudly wail,
“That name is lame and much too tame!”
….and utter words much too profane.
Colourful words I dare not share,
No, “Bugger Hill” is more than fair.
Then one day I took a gamble,
at the bottom of that hill I’d ramble.
I squared my shoulders at that imposing boulder,
geared down my bike, pushed away my fright,
and held on tight for the ride of my life.
She rose up sharply right out of the gate,
and accelerated my normal heart rate.
My lungs cames next, I’d have no rest,
As I fought like hell to regain my breath.
A twist and a turn, she rose steadily up,
I whimpered and cried like a beaten pup.
“Lord have mercy,” I gasped in a plaintive whine,
I teetered and swayed like a drunk on moonshine.
Hundreds before me had dared challenge that hill,
and laid sprawled on their backs like so much roadkill.
I cinched in my breath and reined in my resolve.
This fate would not for me evolve!
I’d not like to be the one bucked off and fallen,
who’d collapsed beside this black tarpaulin.
This brass lass would not lay a hand on her…in the grass!
I gave it a shot and got right to the top.
And then I coughed a lot.
The trail took me past the graveyard I’d evaded.
I smiled, and waved and siad, “Hey Mom, I made it.”
Ten years ago, by her graveside I knelt.
With tears in my eyes, so hopeless I felt.
“Mom, I’m here to confess, my life is a mess,
I’m under so much stress.
My marriage and children are broken you see,
my future looks mighty bleak to me.”
But today I’ve come by, with a sparkle in my eye,
my life no longer awry.
Things are so much better, I’m a real go-getter,
and I’ve conquered Old Bugger Hill.
I rode that hill again and again,
Sometimes twice a day without any pain.
And I don’t know just when or how,
she changed from a mean old bull into a cow
The day of the big ride finally came,
I’d ride from Cowtown to Chain lakes and back again.
At the first hill I passed the other riders with ease.
My fears fell away like a sheep shorn of fleece.
“On your left,” I called out — an etiquette must.
(In cowboy lingo it means, “Eat my dust!”)
I pressed boldly foward, o’er a dozen hills I smoked.
“Bring it on!” was the bravado of my newfound hope.
I recalled that old hill back home that made me so moan,
of her incline I’d groan,
has brought out of my best, with so harsh a test,
more than any of the rest.
That big hill cast not a shadow — but light! — on:
the plight of my might
the mettle of my pedal
my straddle in the saddle
the malice in my callous
the issue in my tissues
the thrust of my trust
the hope in my rope
the radiance of my cadence
the curfew of my virtue
the measure of my pleasure
the depth of my breath
and the decision of my vision.
— I am grateful still to that Old Bugger Hill.
By Ria Pickering