Stories of Göte Vikström
By Anton, Karina, Karl, Rosalind and Frida Vikstrom
A boy with golden hair
There once was a boy with golden hair. He was born in the forest. In a place at the top of the world.
Where the winters were long and dark and cold and where the summers were short and light and glorious.
The forest was as old as time itself and filled with moose and deer and trolls and elves. His family had lived in the forest for as long as the elves, but not as long as the trolls. He lived in a timber house
painted dark red with white trim.
Now this boy was different to everyone else in the forest.
This boy was born with a sparkle in his eye.
Göte learns to speak Swedish
The boy with golden hair spoke the language of the forest. This was not the same as that spoken by the king or the people in the town. It was bonska – the language of the farmers.
He learned Swedish when he started school. For the language of the farmer did not suit the king.
Göte meets a Tomte
There are Tomtes in the forest. They have long white beards and pointy red hats and look after the birds and the animals through the winter.
Göte met a Tomte once, and learned some of their secrets.
What’s that in the coffee grinder?
Göte and his brother were curious - what happens if you put explosives in the coffee grinder?
They set the grinder on the kitchen table, stood in front of the windows so they wouldn’t break and turned the handle.
His Mother’s reaction was explosive.
The old men of the village wake very early on the first day of the annual moose hunt. They dress in camouflage and walk quietly to their secret spot awaiting first the first rays of light. The village has a quota of 3 moose and great honor is bestowed on those fortunate few with the skill and know how to
secure the kill.
Two young men of the village woke late and headed off on their motorbike, the noise echoing through the still of the morning. This spot looks good - said one. There’s a moose said the other. Göte knew that the gun did not shoot straight, so he aimed at the feet, the shot went high and he had secured the first moose of the season.
And the old men of the village were not impressed.
A golden haired youth goes adventuring
Göte went and did his national service like all the other young men of the village. In the army, life was easy. All you had to do was make sure your boots were shiny and that you stood up straight at the right times. He spent his night watches staring at the sky and watching “Sputnik” traverse the heavens. Life was much easier than on the farm, where his days revolved around the endless routine of milking cows and chopping wood. He realised that the world was bigger than his forest.
Off to sea and around the world. Working on ships he traversed the seven seas. One day he stepped ashore in the city of Melbourne.
Young Rosalind was with a group of proper young ladies from the Hotham Ski Club. They were going to a party, but had lost the door number on which to knock.
Behind one door was a mob of Aussie yobs. Behind the other, carousing Swedish sailors.
Fate, destiny or choice? Rosalind met Göte and a grand love story begins.
Let's meet the parents
Not long after they met, Rosalind’s father became extremely unwell and Göte quickly became part of her family as he supported Ros, her mother and sisters through a very difficult time.
After they married, their first adventure began. They traveled by ship to Sweden where Ros was welcomed to the forest and to the traditions of the land.
Awakening the lion
Göte and Rosalind volunteered to work in Ethiopia. Göte built dams and bridges. He was allocated a Government Horse to ride to work.
The Emperor of Ethiopia Haile Selassi was the Lion of Judah and a direct descendent of King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba. Inside his palace lions roamed the grounds. Outside his palace Göte honked his horn at a Donkey blocking the road. The lions roared and the guards of the emperor descended
on Göte. “No honking” read the fine he received.
A golden haired man and his family
Speewa is an island in the Murray River on the edge of the Mallee. The island is fringed by giant, ancient River Red Gums. And that is where Ros & Göte buy a farm and build a timber house painted dark red with white trim. And the moose horns are hung on the wall.
The red gum forest was home to a creature - it had turned down toes and powerful claws that shredded the bark off the trees. This creature was a BULLEFANT, the bunyip of the Speewa swamp.
One night Göte went into the forest and when he came home he was as white as a sheet and shaking all over.
For he had met the Bullefant and had learned some of its secrets.
Göte was a practical man. There was a huge gum out the front of the farm shed. “That branch looks unsafe and needs to go” he said. And so Göte and his mate got out the 303 and shot at it - again and again and again - until it fell.
The mighty Murray river wrapped the island of Speewa. A fertile landscape flooded by the annual snow melt. Göte rowed through the red gum forest to take his kids to school.
Sometimes he went fishing, setting traps in the trees and the main flow. This was not, strictly speaking, legal.
Göte went to check his traps. A large Murray Cod in the first trap. He leaned to lift the second and the boat tipped alarmingly. Haul, haul, haul. 1 fish, 2 fish, 3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11,12. Too many to carry. So much fish to eat. The family have “fish dreams”. They are not allowed to tell anyone.
More fish dreams
There is a delicacy in Northern Sweden called Surströmming - which quite literally translates as ‘rotten herring’. It smells so bad. Worse than you can ever imagine. Now - maybe in Sweden on a mild evening with potato and onion and good company and tradition this might be a good thing.
But on a 40 degree summer’s evening on Speewa, with the air so thick and still that you could almost see the stench, this was always going to end in nightmares.
How to teach kids about snakes
1. Catch a tiger snake and put it in a hessian bag.
2. Ride your motorbike home, carrying snake in bag.
3. Let snake loose in the kitchen.
Rosalind was not impressed - but the kids were.
Ros & Göte moved to Cooma in the middle of the 1980s drought. The idea of buying a farm was quickly abandoned - dashed by endless months without rain. They settled in town and the kids were delighted to finally get a TV.
An essential service
Vikstrom Transport was an essential service. It took wool to Goulburn and carried the beer back to Cooma. Göte carted sheep and excavators and hay and firewood. Briefly, he moved furniture with his mate Ken Boate ‘Goat and Boat’ removals had a nice ring to it - but they really were not cut out for moving crystal glasses or pianos.
When boys would come around to flirt with Karina, Göte would challenge them to a pushup contest.
Their faces would drop when Göte proceeded to do a handstand, and then do push ups from there.
They never returned.
Let's make fireworks
“Those fireworks are too expensive, let's make some like when I was a kid”. With kids in tow, he visits the butcher for Saltpetre and the chemist for Sulfur. Rosalind’s reaction was explosive.
Göte has raised three practical children. His approach was to empower his kids to explore their boundaries. It wasn't “don’t climb a tree” it was simply “hang on”.
Karl was 10 - Sure, go plough the paddock. Just keep the rows straight.
Karina was 11 - You don't need a saddle, that’s what the mane is for.
Anton was 14 - The car needed to get from Polo Flat to home “Take the keys son. If the Police stop you…run. If they ask how you got the keys… say you stole the car”
Norway vs Sweden
Göte welcomed Scandinavian strays. If a golden legged backpacker passed through town, he was welcomed to the family home. A champion skier from Norway came by. A challenge was made – a race to the top of Kosciusko by ski. At half his age the Norwegian was six foot tall and broad of chest.
Hop Hop Hop, Göte runs on his skis to the top. Be careful if you challenge him to a race.
A Golden Haired Sailor
Göte was not always a sailor
When his children were small, Göte bought a book. “The Longships” told of the adventures of Vikings sailing the high seas.
Ten years later Göte bought a boat and learnt to sail at Lake Jindabyne. Learning from books and wiley old sailors who had seen the lake flood the first time. For forty years he raced his boats in the clubs at Jindabyne, Eden and Wallagoot.
Later when he crossed the equator with Karl, they gave The Longships a Viking burial, burning it at sea, like a ship of old.
Göte makes a boat
Göte visited his family in Sweden. “That's the last time I'm flying. Next time i visit i will come by boat” said Göte. “Well go on, do it” said Rosalind.
So he buys a set of plans. He does a 3 month welding course. He goes to the shed and starts welding, and welding and welding. He grinds and cuts and grinds. He paints and sandblasts and paints the boat. He's there at 5am. He’s there on Saturday. He’s welding and painting and grinding for ten
He puts the boat on his truck, drives it to Eden and cranes it into the water. It floats. He sails the boat from Eden to Sweden - from the bottom of the world to the top and visits his family.
How to make money by building a boat
Göte needed somewhere dry to work on the boat. So he built a shed at the Polo Flat industrial area.
A fellow wanted to rent the shed. So he built another. Someone else wanted to rent that shed. So he built another. Someone else wanted to rent that shed. So he built another.
Still the sheds stand as do the fellows who have rented them. Just enough money to sail around the world.
The Monaro is a romantic place, a stark landscape with beautiful names: Jindabyne, Kiandra, Numerella, Nimmitabel.
But Göte was a practical man “I will name my boat Polo Flat”.
Karina and Göte embarked on sea trials. Sailing Polo Flat from Eden to Mooloolabah and back. As if she were a dinghy, surfing down the swell trying to beat the storm at Narooma. Hand steering, paper charts, dodgy battery, no lights.
If you love someone, let them go
Rosalind and Göte had love, patience and trust. They talked of sailing the world.
“The world is big and the oceans are rough.”
“The seas are beautiful and the moon shines on the waves”
They talked and Ros let him go.
Not completely, because she was a clever woman. She let Göte sail the oceans and she joined him for the seas: The Coral, The Mediterranean, The Baltic, The Caribbean.
The biggest thing since the war
Göte left for Sweden. From the coast and the mountains his supporters came to farewell him from Eden. A flotilla of boats escorted him to the open sea.
Years later he arrives at a jetty with a sauna on the edge of the forest of his youth. The locals fly banners and cheer. Swedish television and the local paper recording the event for posterity. “It's the biggest thing since the war” said a local.
Göte set sail from Darwin across the Indian Ocean. Day after relentless day the wind blew him East to West. To stay sane he practiced wiggling his little toe.
There was no internet and crackly long range radio. When you were at sea you were truly alone.
The boat was laden with supplies, Jerry cans of water and fuel were tied to the decks. One day he retrieved a tattered broom that drifted past, he used it to clean around the jerry cans.
He passed Christmas Island, Cocos Keeling, the Seychelles and the Port of Aden. He entered the Red Sea.
Behind him a ragged boat appeared on the horizon. It chased him down, hailing him to stop. He ran forward and hoisted more sail for speed. They brandished guns and fired at him across the narrow gap that separated them.
He looked around desperately and saw the old broom, he wrapped the broom in a shirt and doused it in fuel.
The boat ganed on him, crashing into his stern, bending the hard steel of the hull. He hoisted his now flaming broom and warned them off.
The pirates backed off and Göte sailed into the night.
A Norwegian ship captain calls Rosalind in the night. “Don't worry, your husband is OK”.
In following years sailing boats and their crew are kidnapped and destroyed. The Red Sea is now off-limits to sailors.
The next day Göte hears a crackle on the radio “Mayday, Mayday, Mayday. I am Shipwrecked”. A fellow sailor has come unstuck on a dangerous reef. Tacking through the reefs and shoals Göte skippers Polo Flat to rescue the stranded solo sailor. They unloaded all that was useful to them and then watched the locals clamber onboard to salvage the rest.
The sailor was now both homeless and penniless and so Göte bought him a ticket back to Australia.
The flotation ring of “Rainbow” was strapped to the stern of Polo Flat and taken to Sweden as a gift for his brother.
The big storm
Jim and Mary were captains of the racing yacht Aurora. Every year Göte and another six people would join them in the Sydney - Hobart as they battled across Bass Strait in the cold and wet. Every year there was a storm. But in 1998 it was different.
The wind blew and blew. The waves grew bigger and bigger. The crew started getting sea sick and one by one they went below and strapped themselves in their bunk and prayed for the nightmare to be over. In the end it was Jim and Mary and Göte battling the storm.
The wind blew force 12, gusting to 150km/hr. 5 boats sank, 55 sailors rescued from the storm and 6 poor folks drowned.
Jim and Mary and Göte went with the storm, blowing them far from land. Under bare poles they surfed the boat down 10 metre waves. Through day and night they held the tiller until the storm was spent. They found themselves somewhere near New Zealand. It took days to wend their way back to Tasmania. It was their best race result ever.
Göte goes by many names
Göte, Gerty, Goat, Yerty, Yergen, Yocken, Yorgen, Gunter, George, August, Eugen, Derty,
Farfar, Morfar, Dad, Capitan
An old man with grey and golden hair
Bass Strait at 83
Many years have passed and that Golden haired youth was now a Golden haired old man. He still had the twinkle in his eye as he set sail to Tasmania last summer. He had a dream crossing of Bass Strait traveling with friend Karen and nephew Colby. He cruised the D'entrecasteaux Channel with Anton
and granddaughter Frida to the southernmost anchorage of Cockle Creek. They caught flathead fish and fair winds.
His return journey was rougher. Billy, Karina and Jacinta joined him in a long crossing with fickle winds.
In April he pulled his racing boat up the beach for the last time at Wallagoot.
A week ago Göte passed away at home with his family by his side.
Fair Winds Captain.
By Anton, Karina, Karl, Rosalind and Frida Vikstrom
16 October 2022