Niger River

For the summer I’m going back to the series of pieces mythologizing my growing up in Cape Breton. Check the Village Stories page for links previous pieces in this series.

Niger River

unlike many of the boys in my village

who dreamed of becoming

great moose hunters

or owners of strip joints

I wanted to become a famous writer

I would spend hours writing out the stories

that were told to us by the elders

I would try to copy down what the bishop

would chant in his sermons to us

each word was like a precious stone

that I would read and read

time after time

even if I had written

the same thing every time

it wouldn’t have mattered

it allowed me to travel away

from the routines of village life

away to escape the smell of the smelt

the groaning of the moose

the flying of the frenzied flags


no our flags didn’t do that

that was a phrase in a book I read

‘the flying of the frenzied flags

as our boats guided by the dark natives

darted down the dangerous Niger’

I could taste the frenzy in those words

a taste sweeter than blueberry pie

I could hear the Whistling Wood wind

tear at those flags

as my tiny birch bark canoe

was flung along the white water of the Niger


I didn’t know where the Niger was

the sound of it was enough to take me away

to let my mind fumble with visions

so I was determined to become a writer

I wanted the lesson of those waters

of those native guides

that I was sure would fulfill

with the spiritual freedom

the bishop’s sermons promised

Thanks, mainly to Tarzan, I had a boyhood fascination with Africa. Little did I realize the extent of how fake that movie Africa was – stock footage for jungles east, west Africa, India, South America were mixed together. I can’t remember when I first realized that King Kong was set on some Polynesian Island – I always though it was Africa. The Niger runs through several nations in western Africa including Nigeria.

Of course part of my interest was in those usually stripped to the waist native bearers. Often gleaming in the jungle sun. It was the nakedness that I found curious – at that age I didn’t have an awareness of sexuality mind you but this (along with furry men in sword & sandal pics) certainly informed my future sexual fantasies. Never the professor’s daughter.

I’m not sure where the flying flags phrase came from though. I may have made it up when I was writing this piece or it might be from Tarzan. I had several of the novels in hard back, along with some based on the TV series. In fact I still have some of those books on my shelf & have re-read them to see just how much influence they – and Tom Swift, Hardy Boys – had on my world view.

Being a writer was a dream that started very young too even though teachers went out of their way to discourage me at every opportunity – one even calling out in front of the whole class for my bad spelling & mocking me for thinking I could ever be a writer. Looking back I was probably slightly dyslexic – reversing letters in words – bit I survived. It took more than some bitch teacher to smother my dreams.

Hey! Now you can give me $$$ to defray blog fees & buy coffee in Washington at 2018’s – sweet,eh?

Like my pictures? I post lots on Tumblr

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.