David Thompson (Koo Koo Sint)

Not sure how many of you out there have ever heard of David Thompson. He was without a doubt one of history’s greatest navigators – land that is. He could be placed on the same footing as Captain Cook, history’s greatest maritime navigator.

Thompson opened up the Canadian and US Northwest map with his various journeys from Lake Superior / Hudson’s Bay to the mouth of the Columbia River. He was born in London in 1770; hired by the Hudson Bay Company at the age of fourteen; and worked for the Northwest Company (1797….) of Traders for most of his professional life. As with most Canadian explorers he was never recognized by his government, dying penniless and in abject poverty in 1857. London’s Arrowsmith, the world’s leading cartographers of the time stole his maps and ripped him off of all royalties. Tragic. Interestingly, he married a Metis woman, Charlotte Small, of whom he stayed married to all of his adult life…for 57 years. That was unheard of in those days. They had thirteen children.

He outsourced and out-surveyed Lewis and Clark making them appear to be mere cartoon characters by comparison. Indeed, if Thompson had been an American his memory and body of work would have been lauded and placed front and center by the Smithsonian Institute of Washington DC. Indeed, a theme park would have been constructed in his memory. In Canada? Nada.

The following is a poem I wrote in his memory. Hope you like it:

Two Shillings and Six Pence

(David Thompson 1770-1857)


This winter’s shade  ‘s so cold and pale

It besets my gaze and arthritic limp

With chills and hunger’s ceaseless laugh

I sit like poverty’s brazen pimp


I sense death’s subtle whisper there

As she smothers all thoughts of present, seeing

No past, no future, no joyful screams

Just drains my life-blood’s present, being


Too weak to cry or beg to feed

Only Charlotte’s love to soothe my fear

To lose all pride and self esteem

For a morsel’s taste of youth to cheer


Two shillings here and six pence keeps

My life away from some beggar’s fate

How I laugh at such a meagre scrip

And a legacy lost to some scoundrel’s bait


This Judas touch forsakes my warmth

Within this cloak of adventurous tales

While hunger sings its cryptic, sorrowful song

So hauntingly long, so distressingly stale


Yet my hands betray my mind’s ambition

Of an artist’s touch that sowed this land

From the chartless wasteland’s fearsome grasp

To mark and plot from a surveyor’s stand


For I observed the cold Prince Rupert lands

That surrounds the grey vast inland sea

As I tracked the tundra’s hard core frost

And fed my mind’s curiosity


I observed the wasteland’s magnetic strength

That draws one in like a madman’s gaze

And witnessed the great white creature’s feats

These lords of the barrens, of the inland bays


I observed the lands where the muskrat calls

And let the beaver seduce the zealot’s mind

I observed, and marked…ten thousand times marked

And culled the wilderness’ fearsome grind


I observed and marked…ten thousand times… marked

With my dear and dependable friends

I marked the time on my sextant’s arc

And undermined the sun’s eternal bend


I observed and marked ‘cross prairie grass

Stark contrast ‘gainst the granite’s stoic stance

As far away as my good eye could see

Just wave upon wave in a dreamlike trance


I observed the rivers that fed a thousand lakes

As their headwaters announced a torrent of spring

I observed the power of the snow pack’s flood

That fed and nourished my soul to sing


I marked the mountains with my measured glimpse

As they dwarfed my being within heaven’s glance

I observed their snow tops blinding strength

Like whitecaps whirled in some frightening dance


I reduced the stars from their heavenly maze

Like magic that masks the mathematician’s skill

Or the illusionist’s trick that traps an ignorant man

To marvel at some sorcerer’s will


I dared to dream of stars to capture thus

With my filtered plates and their golden arc

And hear my mark like some winsome sonnet, ring

And resonate through the superstitious dark


I marked the paths across this special land

Each river, each stream, each mountain pass clear

From Superior’s strength to Columbia’s Bar

And the 49th line in my sextant’s mirror


Yet my great map there in the great hall falls

Like a silent echo of some passionate deed

Observe… deceit in its projection thus

While rotting there in its mold-like seed


But the pain that lives within my heart

Not sorrowful pity or self-loathing disgust

It’s Arrowsmith’s torment, which lingers so

And rips my heart with such subtle thrusts


Just memories now to ease my pain

Such wondrous thoughts that no wealth could bring

 And marvelous dreams of dreams await

On the plains and the foothills, where the mountain streams sing


I’ll embrace death’s call for my observer’s touch

For I made my mark and claimed my stake

I unlocked the secrets that my Lord did cast

And traced a course for man’s knowledge sake.

Check out my other literary offerings. Good reads with great reviews.


Check out my books at: www.johnmorrisonauthor.com

Not dedicated to Thompson but a great song nevertheless.

Have a great Easter weekend and remember that Jesus’s sacrifice has set us all free.


2 thoughts on “David Thompson (Koo Koo Sint)”

  1. Thanks for the remembrances. Of Thompson and of our Lord.
    It is good to dwell on their journeys and be grateful for them.
    He is risen!

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