ARGUS’ LAST RIDE- By Beatrice and Godfrey

Godfrey wrote a thank-you letter, sent it off addressed – To Argus C/O Buller Transport Westland. (Driver of an old red truck, wiry , cheerful man)     Two years later a reply came- To Vagabond Godfrey- somewhere in Wales- (Sonsie Farm).  I kept post for him, in a box behind the old defunct T.V.   I generally did not read it, but the look of this scrawled post card intrigued me.

A card of transport trucks in a muddy work yard, lined up neatly parked, It read, “Argus got your letter- no the river did not get him, Argus had a heart attack last year, the blighter carked”       It was many years later still,Godfrey told me the whole story, of Argus’ own wisdom , acceptance of life and it’s true simplicity.

He recalled, “There is no river anywhere wilder, faster than what flows the mighty Buller. Many times I have followed her from Murchison on down. “In  crystal streams I’ve panned for gold, stood shivering deep in her canyons o fbeech wood, steel and stone”. “I have trod her hills, camped in the spooky ghost town of Lyell alone”.    “For every sand-fly that bit me, every rain squall that hit me, every day spent where I did not wish to be”, I would give all to ride again, down the unforgiving Buller to the roily Tasman Sea.

“I was just a hitch-hiker, knew him briefly, but that ride up the Buller Gorge still stays with me”.   “High in the red trucks cab, road awash with rain, mist hides the tops, drifts in shreds amid the ferns”. the way is narrow, far below, the river rolls and churns.  “I chatted with the trucker as he drove bold, but cautiously, said, “this is my last ride , tomorrow I will wake a retiree” Thirty years of driving, Nelson down to Grey, you are my last hitch-hiker, it’s my last ride today”     “Never vulgar of words, not crude this chap, he wore a wool singlet and a faded cobber hat”. He spoke in brief, laconic statements, and I learned some truckers wisdom, said Argus of most every thing- “Well, you get that”.

Argus said, ” I will tramp the Heaphy track, The Milford too, fish all I please and work my gold claim now the drivings through” “Maybe even some traveling, have a look about like you”.      As they shared stories of adventure on the road, came a hard jolt, a thud and snap of chains from the large tractor that was Argus’ load.  In sparks and dust the load slowly tilted, falling into the abyss over side…he was just a young hitch-hiker on Argus’ last ride…

A car stopped to help, was the district Veterinary, (who oddly one year later would help sew up Godfrey’s knee)    None of the three considered prayer, deep in own thoughts for a moment they just sat, spoke Argus, peering over the cliff side-  “Well, you get that”..

..Godfrey produced apples for all to enjoy from his suitcase, “We ate apples, glad to be alive, in the middle of the Buller Gorge beneath a rock- face”.

“We parted when help came, with firm handshakes the three of us,” “I journeyed on with the Vet, all I know of the brave trucker is that his name was Argus”…..So is told the story of Argus’ last ride, yet legend has it there is a transport truck down on the Buller Gorge, words of wisdom, “Well, you get that” painted in small lettering on the side. “It’s how I came to love the Buller River, in all her might and moods, for I was the young hitch-hiker, on Argus’ last ride.

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