There were of course stories and poems Godfrey did not share even with Worzel or me. This one was written in rain stained scrawl in a tattered old diary. Something about it was his alone,a time of his life he held deep somewhere, a memory of the Rakaia River and the Sweetwaters Music Fair.
Two sheppard dogs let Godfrey know, that they guarded the wagon the hot summers day, when he met the indomitable Jasper. She was taller than he and wiry, on her shoulder was balanced a large bale of hay, her boots and hat dusty, her blue eyes knowing and her fair hair threaded with grey. He said I stopped here for a cool drink of water, saw your horses and wagon parked, I am Godfrey may I camp here to? Il’ not get to Sweetwater’s Fair by dark. That night neath the stars round the fire, where the gentle Rakaia rolled past, they sat in companable silence, until Jasper told Godfrey her story at last. I built the wagon myself she spoke in the yard of friends down south, Paddy and Tarot were unwanted horses donated by word of mouth . I have been on the road 6 years, more work some days than it seems, but its all I desire I built it and I am living my dream. He rode with Jasper to Sweetwater Fair, 10 days of dancing and song. When it was over Jasper asked of Godfrey would you like to journey along? I am bound she said down the Rakaia River, down where it meets the sea, and would very much like it if you would acommpnay me.
They named their camp sites creativley, like Nasty Bend, Our Golden Cliffs, and the cold and rainy days at Penquin’s end. Sometimes, wrote Godfrey to greet the day, Jasper would sit by the river and play, haunting music on an old violin. I asked him once why , violin music made him cry, he muttered some tale about a spider but now I think I understand that he did not wish me to pry. Godfrey wrote of the horses, so big and gentle, at night with the dogs lay down to sleep beside me. Never he said, had I felt such peace and so free.
..Came the day, we stood barefoot in sand at the rivers” end watching dolphins leap and spin in the sunset. Jasper told him I must carry on alone soon, we parted at Rakaia Bridge, north side’ not far from where we had met..She said now do not be sad my friend, do not grieve she told him I know, we will carry the water, the sky, the memory of the lovely Rakaia wherever we go. Here the page was now unreadable, age and wear had left his writing a blur, but I believe that years after parting ways, he journeyed those South Island back roads again seeking Jasper. Godfrey no longer an awkward youth, toughened by a life vagabonding alone, I never knew if they met up again- this was a story he kept as his own.
The story Beatrice told sent the visiting Worzel off to rummage through her Godfrey File Bag- this is a poem I was sent, she showed Beatrice, a librarian found it in a photo copier, in a place called Temuka in New Zealand. SONG FOR THE RAKAIA- WHITE WILLOW- In my mind I smell it still, the breeze sweet from the hayfields. The rough gravel track where the big river flows, on the banks of the Rakaia River, we camped where the white willow grows. In the pool that was cooled by the shady white willow we bathed in the summers heat. Naked we swam with our horses, to cool their tired legs and sore feet. From the willows supple branches, I built a bender for you, as the traveler folk had taught me to. And there in the evening of the day, in our bender of white willow you and I lay. Long ago I gave up the free life, the joy, of living just day to day. In words oft muttered with bitter regret- I did not know freedom, I did not know joy, I did not know love until I threw it away. I have mind and memory only now, body too old and infirm to go. So in my dreams I roam where we parted, where the Rakaia still bends and flows, deeply I drift in that sweet shady pool, down where the white willow grows…