BROKE YOUNG ADULT- The 57th wisdom of Godfrey

I had misjudged the tidal crossing of the inlet on a long, hot, sandy tramp. Secure in the knowledge I was not to drown, crawled like a sodden sheep safely spewking up the shore, where a kindly chap in a wayward bus, like this happened every day, dropped me off in the next nearest town..

I was a broke, young adult, by societies standards of acceptability, a tad below it. I preferred to consider myself a “Vagabond, Professional Fig Picker and Poet”. Was hitching down Central Otago way, no shade there was, no passing car, hot wind in the canyons, goo of melting tar.

Out of the mirage a hearse appeared, a dour old man in black rolled  down the window, he said, “I will take you on down to Clyde..yet we are not alone you know”. I shivered in the chilly hearse, he drove so very slowly, did not look back at the box behind that rattled all the way to Clyde, I counted cows, although there were none, at the funeral home thanked them both for the good ride.  I was a broke, young adult. The undertaker shook my hand, pressed into it a five, said he rarely got to journey with someone still alive.

I was a broke, young adult. whiskers now growing in, hair long and bleached by sun and sea. Still cut in the style a monk may wear, last parting gift my sister Alice gave me. I had always feared high, wobbly places, could not abide beets, or cramped closed in spaces. In the brown, muddy boot prints of the bold I set out. “You will perish in the cold, or nasty cable swing bridge will pitch you over-side”, I was told.

At the first cable swing bridge, my knees knocked, at the sight of the river roiling brown in flood, so I sat in the mud, thought one step at a time, up the ladder to the bridge, hold the cables, look ahead not down, you will live to see the treats in the bakery case, far down the wild coast in Westport Town.

I was a broke young adult- taking shelter neath a rock ledge when the storm came, not far from that last cable swing bridge. And as it poured, I had chocolate for reward, located notebook and pen, watched lightning over the mountain, did not fear it or the closed in space of my snug den.

A broke young adult was I, far from home down in Sydney on the harbor quay. she wore a pale grey dress, same shade as her long hair, and from where I sat looked as though her head was no longer there…Elegantly she did glide, rather than walk past The Salvation Army, intent I remained on my writing, until the strange looking woman stopped before me.

She had a head- smiling introduced herself as Miss Lucerne Swish, from Manly. Miss Swish  said my kilt stood out, in the sun on the harbor wall, and the way I was bent over writing, looked as though I had no head at all. We  chatted as new aquaintence ships do, of bush-ballads, vegemite, books wise and ridiculous, talked of anything but beets, was a day I recall time paused for us.

As a broke, young adult, Godfrey’s early years on the road meant facing his fears, he never forgot the swing bridges, or the night he spent huddled in a remote ladies concrete loo as lightning struck all about, and flood waters rose. He never learned to abide moths or antique shops. Now with this “Computery Thing”, I have attempted to locate Lucerne Swish, whom must be very elderly now. In my search, I did locate Mrs Hortensis, landlady of the Woolamaloo boarding house where Godfrey resided in Sydney…another story…here is the simple wisdom he learned that day, so-long ago.  

The 57th Wisdom Of Godfrey states  –    By chance you happen be, Down Under on a  summers day, and observe a person who seems to have no head, passing along the quay, do not gawk. For it is entirely possible- that they may see you too, without a head and feel the same way. Take that time to just sit, time out to just sit and talk.


LISTENING TO AN OCEAN-That you can’t see for the dark- From Worzel and Godfrey

“Hey Happy”, though he never flew, Godfrey wrote words of encouragement on vomit bags, located on ferries, and train seat pockets. Here I was, boarding my plane home from Wales, over a vast ocean I could not see, or hear in the dark. I was mardy of heart, full of new stories, and stuffing the special jam sandwich Adelaide had given me for the journey, into an air-sick bag, for the desperate  hours of dawn…

Hey Happy”!, was written on the unused sack. A Godfrey message, I took it as a sign. It reminded me of his joy, in the third year of his travels, an epiphany  one cool morning picking raspberries, convinced him indeed, that that vagabond life was a wise choice. From that year, came these three stories.  

Listening to An Ocean-     Here I am, stretched on a log bunk, underneath a roof of cedar beams, waning of the moon, I light no lantern lest it lure a bat or moths into my room. The cabin is on pilings, so the crabs I hear scratching cannot climb up the smoothed bark, and I lie listening to an ocean that I can’t see for the dark.

The “come hither” beckons, every few seconds from gentlest of waves on the sand, and hear the grumble of gravel, disturbed  by the surfs flirtatious ways. That low murmur?, it is time trying to trick me. Soft as gulls feather, wafting by too quickly. I hear to, the thork and puff, of Orca whales , in the sound passing through. imagine the tremble of the salmon, about to meet the hungry moon whales off Port Renfrew.

I keep in memory a hut  on the high, remote Gouland Down. The ocean two days tramp, beech forest, muddy ground, cable swing bridge.On a ridge, at midnight feel the seas salty breath, as she meets river mouth in full moon rendezvous, parted only by demanding tide, to reunite at dawn, slip behind tides back, I heard the Tasman Sea calling, in the dark on that old, long Heaphy track.

In old man dreams I will ask, “oh sandy pathway carry me down, to the work worn streets of Westport Town. She’s a place rough and tumble, alright. Out on the dunes I will sleep,  and let my lullaby be the echo of the wild Paparoas, and  the dark, unseen Tasman’s rumble in the night.

Quinney’s Bush-   All you road weary travelers bound for the west coast, look for the farm gate  with a box nailed to the post. In peaceful Motupiko break your journey, as long ago I did, wrote Godfrey.

Ray Quinney made his river section, where it meanders through the trees, a place to camp for families, a home for hippies. Instead of rules or fees, all donations in the box went to aid The Red Cross, Arthritis, even Leprosy. All very rustic, the best shower ever, in a wee hut stand on a drain, pull one rope for hot water, one for cold, let it pour down from a boiler above. He had flying foxes, and wood for the fire, and Ray Quinney dragged the kids behind his tractor on a tire.

Sweet the Motupiko River, with deep bends, and tiny clear pools in which to bath, end of hot days picking raspberries up the valley. In the river I’d float, at evenings hush, hear distant singing from the campfires, down stream at Quinney’s Bush.

Last time I stopped by Quinney’s Bush…I knew on sight that the old man must be gone, no more box on the gate for the poor, “Manager”s sign on a new office door. Fancy new shower, his odd old contraptions gone, grid of campsites, no more hippies, no deep random grass to pitch a tent on. It was raining steady, the Motupiko wild and brown, I said a silent thank you to Ray Quinney for the memory, and hitched on to Murchison Town.

But that rain and wind will calm, turn the hills of Motupiko verdant green, and all who knew Ray Quinney, will not forget his goodness, or the medal he received, for creating Quinney’s Bush from The Queen.

And all you modern travelers , heading weary to the coast, keep an eye out for Godfrey, peddling down the Buller Gorge, listening for the sound of ocean, unseen in the dark, down that winding road that he loved most.

A Very Good Year-    Perhaps, looking back, I ought have listened to Ma and wore a sun hat more. Focused thoughts on career, than spending days fishing in roily surf, or off pier. But what a good year! I rode a pink bike with the basics of gear for life outside. I dragged us up some steep bits, down the back blocks, and beach stretches in fearless youth we’d ride.

Oh, the characters I met, like the old chap who showed me in a jar his pickled piglet. another who gave me a ride in a cattle truck, across the hot, flat plain. He handed me $10.00 and a recipe for raisin scone, when we parted cool  of evening and I peddled on alone.

I tended chickens and goats, mucked about in boats both grand, and sinking. Was first time I had my poetry called “What Utter Crap”, by a decrepit old professor, showed up at the hostel, as I was working. We rarely spoke, and the elderly grouch did not think much of me, he would fall asleep in the shops  of the small town, and we’d get a call to fetch him home, myself and  the bosses son, Brenty.
Lest I awake dead,  Ma warned me-” Do not hitch-hike a ride”.This day a car older than we are, pulled off to my side. The roof was caved in, it was missing vital parts like windows and side door. On the back seat slavered three hunting dogs, the driver shoveled rubbish from beside him to the rusted out floor.It was once a Morris Minor. The dogs amused themselves by tearing up the fellows groceries, as we hared along at 70, he told me his sad story. ” The cops took all my weaponry, but I got my sharpened screwdriver!”. This he proudly waved about,” it’s lovely”, said I, at the crossroads where  he let me out, roaring off in a cloud of oily smoke, I oft wonder what became of that young bloke…

What a very good year!, Invited to a wedding, wrote my sister, Alice of it. For the beauty of the singing, homemade guitars were played, rain hammered on the sheet metal roof of the pub, and I was asked to sit with Grandma, lest she strayed. Ancient and tiny, well into the sherry, not as daft as she pretended to be, with a twinkle in her eye, let her hair down, whipped off cardigan, and danced the night away with me.

On the pubs veranda, seeking cool, moist air, was joined by the bride, quiet by my side. We did not see the ocean for the dark, but could hear it, the bride told me how her Grandma summoned whales to the boat with stick and song. She grieved for that wisdom, lost and gone. The rain had eased, I told the proud young bride, that I felt she had the wisdom in her, time would wait, show her how to pull it from that sheltered place inside.

It is the midnight ferry sailing,  the Arahura riding laden with boxcars, and trailer loads of sheep, all quiet now, about to disembark. Farewell, never goodbye, I cry over the railing, and listen one last time, to that ocean that I can’t see for the dark…

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.

THE POET’S FAREWELL- I Will Carry You, Bye Godfrey

A Vagabonds Farewell- is a check on the weather, and last look about. You shoulder your pack, I will look for your name in dust by the road or scrawled in the hut book on the high Heaphy Track. There is no goodbye- no words will do, for the grand time we shared, carry the joy always, as I will carry you.

The Pony’s Farewell- In retirement I grow fat and shaggy. You grew up as I could not help but grow old. On school days I would patient wait, for you alone I’d crowd the gate..I see by the signs you will leave soon for the city. I would carry you there on my back willingly. But it’s gentle whicker farewell tonight, soft nuzzle, farewell from pony.

The Peace Woman’s Farewell- We have halted the convoy, as we set out to do. Muddy boots and tattered cuffs, I shall pass them on to you. One last, long night’s chat neath the ancient, giving oak tree. One last long look down the fence, I turn away forever, carry you and all you are away in memory.

A Sailors Farewell-  Do not waste a grain of sand on worry for me. There is mutual respect between I and the sea. A sturdy ship “My Lute”, a living thing. My farewell words will carry back to you. For as I clear away the bounds of land and shore- I will sing.

The Poet’s Farewell- It’s along the same lines as the Vagabond’s and all, though generally written as a note, left neath the tea-bags with a number to call. But the best farewell is one from a friend- thank you for being the best you could be. On those weary days and dark nights, your love carried me, farewell to my friend, farewell from Godfrey.

TRAMPING THE HEAPHY-on the rim of the Whirled- from Beatrice

With the Takaka Valley behind and below, you climb many hours through bracken and beech forest, where Keas rule and only the boldest trampers go.

Perhaps you passed him on a steep bit.. or caught a glimpse of plaid,in distant silhouette on the sky line when pausing to look back. For I feel that Godfrey’s joyous spirit, roams free high on The Heaphy Track.

For all the lovely places Godfrey tramped, the Heaphy is where he wished to soul to rest. Not as stunning in grandeur as some trails, but once you get up there  it’s no turning back. Godfrey faced his fear of high, wobbly places, cable swing bridges cross the big rivers on the Heaphy Track.

And he slept beneath the stars on the cold Gouland Downs, moonlight allowed him to write, late into the night. He wrote me,” I am muddy to the knees, on this my day three on the track. I have tripped over roots, wrung the water from my boots, very large sand flies are feasting on me. But this evening sky so clear I could see the distant Tasman, the sea another two days hike down from here.

“And I think, old friend, part of me wishes this track never come to an end. Godfrey rarely took photos of himself, but I keep one he sent me private, not on shrine or shelf.  There is the river high in flood, Godfrey standing in the mud, looking up with his backpack at a bridge. He is holding his reward for being brave when he crossed, a chocolate bar.

For he has crossed his last swing bridge, high and far. His last bridge crossed ,Godfrey stands in the mud, takes a photo of  himself lost in thought.

Many stories Worzel has gathered, many more we are sure will one day be told. But I’ll not forget the feeling when I looked at this photo, and realized Godfrey and I were growing old..

.From Perry Saddle Hut, there are many lovely miles still to go. Keep mindful of the ankle grabbing muddy roots, look for the old pairs of boots nailed to the tree. On the mystic Gouland Downs at night, or camped where the river, forms a lagoon by the sea. If you stop deep in thought or just for chocolate neath a swing bridge, you may just meet up with Godfrey..