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.

PAMELA THE PACKRAT- Threw something out- by Worzel

Godfrey’s Ma was a pack-rat, as was my stepmother, Mrs Gibberflat. Wisdom undisputed did the two of them in odd way posess he told me this story long ago, as we sat below the summit of Mt Sogstat.

This sunset is the color of Harvard Beets said I. Godfrey agreed, it’s in the swirly tufts, that smudge the clouds pink. The memory of Ma rinsing beets in the sink is why I so love to spend time outside..though beets grow outdoors, a chap can always find a place to hide.

Tell me your story I said, taking his hand, no more thought of beets so late on such a lovely day, I will tell you of Pamela, he softly spoke, she only ever threw one thing away.

The first inkling Godfrey had about Pamela, is that perhaps she never threw anything out..She picked him up hitching near Lytton, her van a midden of objects strewn about. She was a collector without any doubt. At his feet where he sat he was boot deep in books, jars, horse halters, ropes and a Pizza Pamela was taking home for their tea.

My second inkling came when Pamela invited me, said she collected people, with enthusiasm, said Godfrey. It was not far to Pamela’s driveway, the hay was high in her yard that she never mowed, she said mind the dump  truck and derelict cars, I can’t be bothered having them towed.

For lack of dishes we ate dinner from the box, there were many stacked high, she ate Pizza a lot. We had yummy ice tea in frosty jam jars, for dessert the cream buns I had bought, I never throw anything out she beamed, folding the bun wrapper she had licked clean.

The third inkling Godfrey had came with the bunk, on the porch where he slept neath the arbor of grapes overhead, the most comfy futon he ever had had as a bed. At dawn Pamela, with a swish of the drapes (for the house lacked a door) appeared with coffee and explained “that is what the Pizza boxes are for, sturdy furniture can be built and topped with corn-shuck mattress, once the crumbs are eaten, and olive bits consumed. I have a Pizza armchair in my sitting room.

You are a vagabond, just passing through, you dislike beets, but I will share this with you. The only thing I ever threw away, she told Godfrey, was fear of what society expected of me.

“Keep a spotless house, do not guffaw or behave oddly, wear your teeth and cardigan, clean under things when you go out, you will not attract a husband if you look like a tram-smash, or smell like cats or Saurkraut.

I love my job in the charity shop, sorting the goods good folk have given away, bring kilted hitch-hikers home like you, and every other day, walk with my gentleman friend, Mr Yell at lunch down by the petting zoo.

In winter time I put the door back on the house, curl up cold days by the fire and read, I make tomato soup with vegetables I have preserved. Amid the chaos of the whirled I have all that I need. Pamela the pack-rat threw something out, she threw out fear of judgement, Godfrey wrote this in pen on a telephone pole, as he thumbed for a ride, he wrote bold in pen, I will carry her story across the miles, that I may one day return again.

THE WORLDS GREATEST PLUMBER- And Other Stories By Godfrey

Godfrey oft enjoyed recalling the time, “I hitch-hiked with an anvil up quite a steep incline” “Those sweet days with Jasper, my gypsy friend, out on the high Pigroot road. We lightened the wagon there to ease Paddy’s load up the climb. “I with the anvil hitch-hiked behind, with her cat in a crate, a bale of straw and my suitcase off to the side. “Had any cars passed, I may have quick caught a ride, but none did all day”. Until I met Carlotta the climber, heading the other way.

“She did not question the anvil or the cat, or the bale of straw upon which I sat..in the back of her Bongo Van strewn with blankets soft, “I was a happy vagabond when Carlotta dropped me off”.

Ernest Lee Sincere believed in The Lord , he talked of Him for hours, and though very rarely bored, it was the longest hitching ride I have ever survived..”I was ready to repent my loathing for beets when Ernest finally pulled off to the side” “With a handshake and smile, he handed me a $10.00, and said “Thank you for listening to a boring old man”.

..On a rainy evening, south of Omarou, stopped for me a Morris Minor- a 1952. The nice lady driving, Willadee, turned to me and asked, “Godfrey, are you afraid to die? She explained that her brakes often failed and she did not know why”

“It was quite a ride, with a one lane bridge, fuel tankers, a loose horse and several tunnels”. Indeed no one died, we got safely to her house which had an odd car shaped dent in the side.

When I traveled with my pink bike, I meandered off track, seeking a lighthouse miles from anywhere. I met The Worlds Greatest Plumber at such a spot remote, there was no one else there.

“Worlds Greatest Plumber” I read in faded paint on his truck door. Ward Rambutan introduced himself as plumber no more, I am retired and wander free like you. “No more leaky pipes, no nasty blocked up loo. “He asked me do you like pears or tinned Spam meat? “Will you join me for Penguin Eggs boiled on the beach?

“No thank you said I,( Penguin eggs and beets make me reechh”) “so I shared the Haggis I had brought from town, and The worlds Greatest Plumber and I sat on a log and watched the sun go down”.

“I found a higher wisdom in people I meet, out on the open road, avoiding all things beet. Plenty to do while waiting for a ride, like snoozing in the shade, or drawing with a stick in the dirt by the roadside.”Find a warm place to sneck in for winter. Dream of the warm nights of summer,

“I remember with affection Carlotta the climber, and my deep conversation with the Worlds Greatest Plumber.  From Godfrey.