Written by Poetry

NaPoWriMo Day 27: Wilderness Tavern

A poem about a group of doctors from Salt Lake City, Utah, taking a sabbatical to the Wilderness Tavern, near Chancellorsville, Virginia, in May 1864.

NaPoWriMo Day 27 - Wilderness Tavern

Todays’s NaPoWriMo prompt asks me to write a poem in the form of a review. But not a review of a book or a movie of a restaurant. Instead, they challenged me to write a poetic review of something that isn’t normally reviewed.

I wrote a poem about a group of doctors from Salt Lake City, Utah, taking a sabbatical to the Wilderness Tavern, near Chancellorsville, Virginia, in May 1864.

Wilderness Tavern

Several of my closest colleges and I recently took the train East to visit the small retreat near Chancellorsville, Virginia, called the Wilderness Tavern. We had heard from other doctors that the turkey hunting in those parts were on-par with those of Salt Lake City. Not wanting to be without an adventure story, we all — most of us transplants from Ohio from a very young age — decided to take our first sabbatical to the rustic setting of rebellious Virginia before these quaint locations become harder to get to.

On the first day, we were met by our host Mr. Simms and soon discovered that his wife, Mrs. Simms, was no cook. Whatever she was doing in that house kitchen was an insult to our senses. But we had no other options due to the late hour of our arrival. So after chewing on what could only be described as a boot, and smoking all our pipe tobacco under their leaky roof, we retired to the comfort of two small shacks they had converted into cabins. What a mistake! I’ve slept on dirt that had more give and to call those half-made coffins beds is an insult to beds!

Fortunately, we were not to be dissuaded from our adventure. After waking to the enjoyment of sore backs we did admire how the morning light broke through the leaves. We took a hike down the turnpike to enjoy the bright green of Virginia Springtime in early May. We even shot two good-sized Jakes with the hopes that Mrs. Simms just needed inspiration to improve her cooking skills. But unlike Spring in Utah, the scraggly woods that surround The Tavern are thick as thieves. We lost our way bushwhacking back and were set upon by blood-sucking bugs. I think the ticks and mosquitos ate better than we did that day!

When we finally found our way back to Wilderness Tavern just before dusk, only to find the Simms family had all but up and disappeared. Even our host and proprietor, Mr. William Simms, had not awaited our return. Perplexed by this turn of events we decided to fend for ourselves in the kitchen and inquire about the Simms whereabouts in the morning. Still in possession of two fine turkeys for Mrs. Simms to work with, we hoped that Mr. and Mrs. Simms were only away on family business. We would not be so lucky.

Before sunrise on the third, we awoke to a thunderous commotion. An entire thrall of unruly noises were taking shape outside our cabin doors. Guns shots, charging horses, cursing shouts, and even insane whooping could be heard throughout the surrounding forest. We stayed hunkered down just outside the Wilderness Tavern complex for what felt like hours. Dozens of armed rabble-rousers moved in and out of the woods while fires were burning all around us.

Then we were prayed upon by a group of blue-coated soldiers who treated us with extreme prejudice. When we announced that we were doctors on sabbatical from Utah, they decided not to shoot us. However, they did decide to put us to work by turning the Wilderness Tavern into a field hospital. For the next few days, my cohorts and I were indentured to patch up an assortment of wounds and tragedies that are too horrific to mention here. Save it to say that we worked in those pathetic excuses for hospitals until the Federals pulled up stakes and marched down Germanna Plank Road towards Spotsylvania.

In the aftermath, our sabbatical at Wilderness Tavern resulted in bad food, poor sleep, horrendous bug bites, near-death experiences, and forced labor. Not only did we have the worst hospitality ever encountered but we never did get to enjoy those two Virginia turkeys — the only two turkeys, mind you, that we saw during our entire extended time in Virginia!

Next time we take a sabbatical we’re going West! Maybe even try our hand at fishing in the Little Bighorn River out in the Montana Territory. At least out there we won’t be interrupted by war, have our hosts disappear, or be forced into servitude!

We are never coming back to Virginia again!

One Star.