Willow Bill's canoe, New MediZen, will be on display through October at A to Zen in Carson City.
Shortly after being diagnosed with Stage IV colon cancer in April 2019, “Willow Bill” Goulardt told his medical team he would not be returning for treatment.
When they asked him what he was going to do instead, he replied, “I’m going to carve a canoe.”
He drove to Idaho to meet with his mentor and master carver “Idaho Jim” Jameson.
He spent the next 31 days in Hells Gate State Park with a team of carvers.
None of them knew of his condition, but when he asked Jameson the name of the canoe, he was struck.
“When he said New Medicine, I knew I was saved,” Willow Bill said. “I went to tears.”
He told Jameson, “I need new medicine.”
The crew shifted their goal when they learned of Willow Bill’s diagnosis.
“We’re carving a canoe for Willow,” he remembered them saying. “I was honored.”
They added a second dugout canoe for Willow Bill with a twist, “New MediZen.”
“There 1,000 percent is magic in that canoe,” he said.
Once the canoe was complete, he moved back to Oregon to start his treatment, where he underwent surgery on his colon and liver followed by chemotherapy.
Shortly after, he was back in Carson City, making willow reindeer with the students as he’s done for more than 20 years.
He brought along three of the deer for inspiration as he canoed down the Snake and Columbia rivers.
“In the canoe is one of the three wise deer that came all the way down the Columbia River with me,” he said. “The last of the wise deer is still in the canoe, and his name is Peace.”
The 28-foot, 1,200-pound canoe is on display now and will remain through October at A to Zen, 1803 N. Carson City. He’s also offering canoe rides starting in about September.
“If anyone wants to paddle, I’m a phone call away,” he said. “I’m the same way with a dugout canoe as I am with reindeer, when it’s time to get ’er done, I just get after it.”
He’d like to take the canoe to schools — like he’s already done at Eagle Valley Middle School — to teach students about Lewis & Clark and dugout canoes.
“Four kids can get in the canoe, and they’ll still be six feet apart,” he said. “And that’s with a paddle.”
Ideally, he’d even be able to carve a canoe with students.
“I’m so blessed,” he said. “I knew I wasn’t going nowhere. I have too much to do.”
With his new lease on life, he wants to share what he knows with others.
“Selfishly, I thought this canoe was for me,” he said. “I’ve figured out it’s for the whole world. The Lord already had me. We could all use some MediZen.”
For information about scheduling a ride in New MediZen or for a demonstration, call Willow Bill at 775-842-3594.