When first I knew Godfrey, we were both young, he was all ready fearless, (But for beets, moths and high places) from years on the road. I had not yet found my way.
It is October, best time of the year for such a journey, Godfrey writes. The crops are in from the fields we must cross. I grip the fine wooden paddle she hands me, and the back end of her red canoe, Worzel and I set off beyond the slough.There are many things that warm you twice, like having breakfast out, and stacking firewood you cut and chop. Smell of coffee, plop of porridge cooking, warm wild honey drizzled on it from a spoon.
There is something special in an autumn prairie afternoon on the edge of freeze-up. It takes me back to Valley River and that little red canoe. Wearing wooly bloomers under kilt, borrowed mitts, (I can never keep a pair) Wearing my warm dragon hat Ma knitted long ago. I shall not romanticize the slough, as many poets do.
The bank was grassy, steep and muddy, stubble frosty crunched neath gumboots chilly as we carried our canoe through. It smelled of scorched grain , there were geese overhead in a skein, heading south in good time as I would head to..but not yet. Mist oer the river, clouds scuzzing boldly low. Last paddle Worzel reckons, before the first snow.
I kneel in reverence to the river in the bow. She steers out to the deep bit where the blue water pooled, the sweat I have worked up now cooled.Fall wind fools with us as it plays in and out of the shade along the water’s course. At Ginick’s Bend pass open farm land, pass the Tarzan Swing and a small bar of clean, pure white sand.
Worzel Writes Now- I could paddle to forever, softly speaks Godfrey. Said I, warmed twice by his thoughts, I must agree. When I am old. when we meet again on the other side, I hope to have a canoe or horse with me.
Things that warm you twice, hand written letters, received from far away, we had our own odd code- stamp slanted up means happy, all okay, stamp slants down, wet and cold, wish you were here today, stamp stuck straight, only his Ma wrote that way, Alice refused to use a stamp if she had to pay, stamp upside down meant Godfrey was Australia bound.
Things that warm you twice. Hauling out from the river to a gravel back road, hitching a truck ride home early evening with our load. He had unwavering faith someone nice would come along, “patience said Godfrey, vital requirement for the humble vagabond”
Things that warm you twice..a deep hot bath with lots of fragrant rose foam. A big mug of tea, Godfrey sits on his own, pen in hand by the window. “I am thinking of Wales, he says, look out, it is starting to snow, and it was to.
“When I was a lad I would run about outside until chilled well through and through. Dodging Ma”s whack in the head, burrow deep in my bed watch the fire burn low. I could never stay awake for the first snowflake out the window. In the cold, silent morning, smell of bacon and toast would waft up the stairs to me, warms me twice that boyhood memory..warmed me twice, made me laugh, all his life did the vagabond Godfrey.