When a yak is not enough


I always had a romantic fondness for yaks, dating from my child’s anthology of literature which included the poem below by Hilaire Belloc, illustrated with a pen and ink drawing of a friendly yak carrying a little girl who looked (I thought) just like me. A yak would be just the thing for taking me to school, which was a long walk (through snow, dragging my lunch pail and so forth). Here’s the poem and doesn’t it make you want a yak?

The Yak

As a friend to the children commend me the Yak.
You will find it exactly the thing:
It will carry and fetch, you can ride on its back,
Or lead it about with a string.

The Tartar who dwells on the plains of Thibet
(A desolate region of snow)
Has for centuries made it a nursery pet.
And surely the Tartar should know!

Then tell your papa where the Yak can be got,
And if he is awfully rich
He will buy you the creature – or else he will not.
(I cannot be positive which.)

Inspired by these immortal lines I asked my father for a yak. I knew for sure that he wasn’t “awfully rich” or even close, but I thought it worth a shot. No, he would not buy me a yak. Imagine. Winters can be cold in New Jersey, but he was immovable, actually didn’t even seriously entertain a conversation about yak-pet pros and cons.

My mother, however, did say that if I opted against a fancy wedding, they’d give me a yak for a wedding present. Sounded reasonable to a 7  year old.  Some years later when I was 20, I did get married, did have a very inexpensive wedding in my parents’ living room and did NOT get a yak. Or rather not a real one. On top of the wedding cake (German Chocolate, my favorite) was a paper mache’ yak  made by an artist friend. What a blow.

As it happened, the marriage was a huge mistake, ended not soon enough, and the yak was lost in the shuffle. But I still like yaks, or rather the idea of them. However now I live in Tennessee which is probably too hot for them.

What animal did you always want?

Pamela Schoenewaldt, historical novels of immigration and the search for self in new worlds: WHEN WE WERE STRANGERS, SWIMMING IN THE MOON, and UNDER THE SAME BLUE SKY (all HarperCollins).

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Sunday, May 6, 2pm reading from latest work at Hexagon Brewing Company, Knoxville, TN.

Thursday, May 10, 6-8 pm presentation on research on the historical novel, Blount County Library, Maryville, TN.

When We Were Strangers, Italian translation, to be presented in Pescasseroli, Italy, August 2018.

Recent Review
“Absorbing and layered with rich historical details, in Under the Same Blue Sky, Schoenewaldt weaves a tender and at times, heartbreaking story about German-Americans during World War I. With remarkable compassion, the author skillfully portrays conflicted loyalties, the search for belonging, the cruelty of war, and the resilience of the human spirit.”—Ann Weisgarber, author of The Promise and The Personal History of Rachel Dupree

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