He was an odd young man who disliked beets, Godfrey- my friend of 28 years..this is his story. Summer times, when we journeyed to our lake side cabin with Godfrey along, we always stopped for ice-cream in a coastal, hamlet, little more than fuel pump, cafe and harbor.
To the east were the blue sillouttes of small, scattered gulf islands. “Tridentata” was the largest, rocky, narrow, desecrated by logging 80 years before, a haven for hermits, and “back to the landers”, “Dirty Hippies”, we were told when Godfrey asked, I knew he was drawn to such islands…and dubious boat rides, I feared never seeing him again when I dropped him off at the ferry boat- The Myrtle- Irene…
Oft in travels, I have sought wisdom, sought the good in folks I have met, and in places been. I did my best, but was sorely pressed, to find wisdom aboard the mighty Myrtle-Irene.
There is a tune I learned long ago, from a rider of boxcar and crosser of sea. Played the banjo did she. Nary a province this girl had not been, we met one summer morning on the Myrtle-Irene.
19 treacherous miles oer the Salish Sea, lies a mysterious island, avoided by polite society, her mud flats and high, stony hillsides intrigued me. The ferry Myrtle- Irene lay alongside the dock, in sketchy gray patches of paint stains and rust. No low rumble or engine’s roar the good captain passed out on the wheelhouse floor, had left his ship in a young hippie’s trust,” no worries said he”, donning jacket and cap- this has happened many times before”….
Two milk cows were loaded on the sloping top deck, brave travelers the level below. Up in the bow , away from all chaos, a hobo girl sat alone plucking her banjo. I noticed that those in the know, seemed to know where to gather …along the rail on the leeward side, staked out space in a solid row.
A light in the sky above far Tridentata!, and promise of a fine summers day. The Myrtle-Irene set off with a belch and lurch, only knocking two fish boats out of her way.
The Mighty Myrtle- Irene had a list to port, and now I knew why no one leaned on the rail, when the cattle above did what nervous cows do.. the Myrtle- Irene fair got her name from a pioneer woman ran sheep. With a “nere do well” husband, uncountable number of children and homestead to keep.
On moonlit nights folks heard Myrtle singing, bent digging clams down Spinster Bay, she carried deer home over strong shoulders, and oysters by damp heavy sack, she passed into legend way some 100 years back.
Captain Querus Slape , chap with odd sense of humor, named his ship with affection for her. All his years the filthy old character drank, the mighty Myrtle- Irene never grounded or sank. Above the door of Slape’s private cabin hangs a portrait of The Queen, another of the dog he owned at age four, and a faded photo of old Myrtle Irene.
In scant twenty minutes the break water cleared, the captain snoring, intoxicated, I noticed a chart, spattered with stains, older than me and quaintly outdated. yet oddly, I trusted the Myrtle- Irene, good ship in her day, up the greasy old bow I slid, to hear the hobo girl with the banjo play.
The sea this morning was a platinum platter, on a bountious seagull buffet, the gentle banjo roll, in time with ferry’s sway. The dented Myrtle- Irene rode sturdy and bold, though something clanked and rumbling- thunking came from deep below in a hold.
“I inquired as to the toilet”, wrote Godfrey. An alcove with bucket an hose for use of the “Gent”. Somewhere in the bilge, formed a line up of lady’s, I assumed that is where lady’s went.
Now the Myrtle Irene lies along side the dock, no longer chugs from island to main. Said Querus Slape- “Were no longer the 70’s, and someone was bound to complain”. For the captain, retirement years were unkind, his wife ran off, his trailer flooded with sewage, he shot himself by accident in the behind.
Replaced by a shiny, new ferry boat, it carries both cattle and car, with a toilet and captain at the helm, not once has she been found passed out, or dragged unfit to sail from the bar. And what of the girl with the banjo? Did she settle on Tridentata or roam as a hobo? ..”As I wandered the island, recalled Godfrey, “I listened in vain for to hear her play, for folk songs carry well on the wind, and a banjo will resonate quite some distance away”.
“He was an odd young man who disliked beets”, the island residents wrote of Godfrey- that’s all. “He sought wisdom, we were sad to see him go, when the first snows came that fall”. No beets grew on rugged Tridentata, none in the only shop to be seen, Godfrey stood on the stern waving, kilt to the storm- when he left on The Mighty Myrtle Irene.
His was a primitive, fearless joy that Godfrey never thought would be lost or undermined by age- I oft have to remind my self, how food tastes best cooked over a beach fire, and that since age 11- Godfrey asked himself upon waking- “What is good about today”He always found at least three things…From Worzel.