He was an odd young man who disliked beets, his life’s desire was for “Whirled Peas”, to avoid all manner of discord, and beets. He feared little, only moths, antique shops, closed in spaces and waxed floors..but came in time to tolerate heights, wobbly tables and owls.

Godfrey did not “Gasconade”, was never prideful , yet was cheekily confidant with his navigation skills, I happily let him lead. I misplaced Godfrey in a large grocery store one day, deduced he would be far from beets as could be, and located my friend down the pet food aisle, behind several large bags of dog food, and a stack of tins, eating a can of vanilla cake frosting…the vagabond was happiest outside, he truly was a fine navigator, venturing off track a joy.  

“I am a fine navigator”, pompossed my vagabond Godfrey. For it was summer, early morning and we were off on an adventure. I brought water, and plums and cheese with crackers, (the ones that don’t crumble with sesame seed). “Feh”, said Godfrey,” Vegemite in ones pack is heavy, we shall forage in the wild, and drink from a muddy boot print if need”. “Feh”, I thought back, muddy boot print indeed…

We drove from the city, to a raffishy back road near a derelict homestead. As directed by Godfrey, “I shall navigate from here”, he assured me. We decended a forest track narrow and green, soaked still in dew, cool in the shadows, I could hear rushing water before it came into view.

I tried not to see neath his kilt as he clambered, nimbly over wet rocks shedding knapsack and coat, Godfrey sat to wait, for me on the boulder I gracefully fell off. Sank in icy cold water up to my throat- “Mind”, he said politely, fishing me out, “it is slippery”.

Beets nasty hot, beets nasty cold, beets nasty all the time, gone to mold. Beets with gizzard meat, beets and Bulgar  Wheat, rather eat from muddy boot print nine days old..

Godfrey sang this as we tramped, a nonsense song…I must state here the truth, the awkward lad I once knew was gone, over the stones he hopped, never once getting mis- matched socks wet. “Trust  my navigation, dear Worzel, laughed Godfrey, let us see how far up this sweet river we can get”.

No poet as he was, allow me to describe our journey. Excuse my verse if too “Esoteric”. We did forage berries, the tart, thimble shaped ones where brambles grew thick. I pointed  out skeeters and odd “Jesus” beetles, dragon flies, the still pools with very light dusting of pollen. He scampered, I crawled cross a natural bridge, the trunk of an ancient cedar long fallen.

I fell off it thrice, water twice then fine river sand, it wedged in every crevice, as I followed my fine navigator, cross farmer’s fields over land. “I am a fine navigator, learned neath the stars from an old sailor Verne Lipshimmer, (something of a tippler). Twas my first long  voyage as a lad, each night looking out for The Southern Cross,  respect for the sea, I learned from Verne, a fine navigator was he..”

“And sense of direction unerring, came from being tormented with beets when young, that and the odd knitted clothes I was wearing”. “Hid I did often from beets hard tossed, even on a moving train, got off before I was far away lost, Ma slapped my head when sister Alice told her…I survived my Welsh childhood, a fine navigator”. . .

We were now on a cow path, cows zigged, calves zagged, bulls ponderous lagged behind later. Round still steaming leavings, barely looking still singing, trekked cheerily  Godfrey, my fine navigator. We had hiked a “De-Hoop”, he called it, back to our clean flowing river.

“He never failed to find his way, rarely by passed a bake shop or cafe’. We sat outside, damp and hungry, my bony behind having endured, stone, bark, and Godfrey the charmer brought out laden tray- “Never Pass Up a Bun Offered Free”- said he, my friend, a fine navigator…


I liked the chap, Reilly, Godfrey tells of in this story. Godfrey would talk to anyone, talk of anything but beets, and meandering about  Canada, he was never short of persons to talk to. 

     “ Here’s a simple wee ballad you can play on a marsh reed, or only three chords, even just read it aloud written down, not high in drama, no pathos or mirth, Reilly did not get his heart broke or drown”. “It’s about how a boy loved the Vermillion River, flowed through his prairie hometown”.

“From the time he could see over the grass he’d explore, while dad worked cutting wood, and ma sit, reading or draw”. “The dragon flies, the “Jesus” beetles in summer, all the times he fell in with a splat and a shout, always someone to scold and fish him back out.”

“Duck hunting in autumn on the freezing slough, skates stuffed with sock till they fit, on the ice in winter was the childhood that Reilly knew”.  “All Reilly loved dwelt along the Vermillion, and the prairie town it ran through’.

“There was pond hockey, harvest time suppers, there were plates of chips and gravy, Saturdays, down at the cafe’. “There was the track his old man bulldozed, to the deep swimming hole, on the river bend, he cleared  a pathway. There was a high rope swing over the water, horses and dirt bikes to ride, he’d gallop when the fields were bare, after school, along the winding riverside”.

“Yes, I met Reilly at the turn of his young years, saw him every day, passing over the new bridge way”. There he would be hip deep fishing, or just dreaming youth’s dreams. I swung down through the tall grass, to talk to him one day”.  “He carved as we’d chat, as strangers do, on the banks of the Vermillion we sat’.

“I commented, how serene this river, it must be very special to you?. “Was a whistle Reilly carved from a reed, I could not make it work when I blew”, Reilly could, and like an odd, beckoning call, it’s song, made me long to see what lay around the next bend, touched deep in the heart of this vagabond”.

“My life has been charmed, said Reilly”.  “Oh the stories he told me as we sat carving whistles, not I or the river have been dammed, hurt, or harmed”. All Reilly loved his whole life, all he knew, dwelt on the Vermillion, and the prairie town it ran through’.

“He said, I thought the thought over, and under again, as friends could not wait to leave for the city”. “I am six generations living on the Vermillion, it is where I am contented to be”.