Dad used a branch about six-foot (approximately two metres) long off the poplar tree from beside the house to discipline us. When all the leaves dropped off that branch he let us go. When I saw him going for that tree, I ran upstairs and jumped out the window onto the kitchen roof, then slid down the water pipe while Pop egged me on.
Uncle Will and the bridge
An idea came to Tim and me one day; to hide under the bridge, jump out and say good morning to Uncle Will (Dad’s brother) when he approached on his horse. “We’ll drop down under the bridge, look’s he’s coming now,” Tim said. Uncle Will’s horse Baldy also never liked the bridge, in fact he hated it. At the appropriate moment, Tim and I jumped out from under the bridge and yelled, “Good Morning Uncle!” from the top of our lungs. Bloody old Baldy reared right up on his hind legs and spun around. Poor Uncle Will, I could see him go. He landed on the gravel road and slewed down it on his back. I turned to Tim and said, “I think we should get out of here – if he’s anything like his brother we’ll be in for a bloody hiding.” We got out from under the bridge and were on our feet just in time to see Baldy galloping off, leaving poor Uncle Will high and dry without his ride about a mile from home.
We bought fifty plugs of gelignite at a time to blow stumps out to clear our farm. Once a stump is out of the ground it leaves a thin crust and water can easily flow up out of the ground from springs. Dad’s detonator often didn’t work because he crimped the fuse into the detonator with his teeth. He never owned a crimping gun like I did to crimp the detonator. This was important as it had to stay dry to detonate.
I first used gelignite when I was a boy and there’s no doubt Dad used to be a holy terror. The dangerous thing that could happen was if you let the fuse screw around in the detonator, causing it to ignite. Dad used to say, “Oh. We’ll blow it, put a plug or two under it.” He put ten gelignite plugs under some of the tree stumps – colossal great big rimu stumps about a metre across. Once blown out they were only good for firewood.
Often, I’d go with Dad and my brothers to fish for flounder in the lake. We used a mantel light; a big white-spirits lantern that had a little cover over the top. It produced a very white light and it was good for floundering as we could see all around. If there was no wind and the lake was calm, the mud settled and we moved carefully around in our thigh boots with the mantel light. We also rowed to near the mouth of the river where fresh-water-flounder were known to hang around and set our nets. My school friend, who lived not far from us, Onslow Daysh, regularly joined us floundering.
The hay shed
Once a full load of hay was forked onto the wagon, Dad and I jumped on the back and tramped on it to make it into an even more solid heap. Then we used the spear to pick it up and ram it down, solidifying it further. We used clips to clamp the hay before putting it on the back of truck. Two big prongs stuck out of the truck that helped keep the hay on the back. A pulley system was in place to multiply the horse power and the cable was so heavy I could barely lift it. There was about fifteen feet (approximately four and a half metres) of cable, about half an inch thick that swung out. The large fork grabbed a bunch of hay from the trailer and our horse Baldy, pulled the cable up as he walked away from the shed. Uncle Charlie who stayed in the shed with a pitch fork, pushed the hay to get it swaying and when it was near the wall of the shed, he grabbed the cable, which released the hay, and dropped it. He had great control over where he put the hay; Uncle Charlie had been doing it for years.
All the loose hay was on the top at the back of the wagon. It was too loose to pick up with the spear so we used a canvas sling that covered the whole floor of the wagon. The ends of the sling were pulled over the top rails of the wagon. When we got near the tail-end we pulled one side of the sling over, hooked it up and gave it a yank. My cousin, Arthur (Uncle Will’s son) would go up two or three feet (approximately a metre) and let it slack again. We’d grab one side, then the other, and have both sides of the sling covering the whole wagon in no time. Then we got out of the way in a hurry otherwise we’d risk going up with the sling. Uncle Will’s horse Baldy, pulled the wagon and if we overloaded him he’d rear up in the air and come thundering down. One day, he came down on Arthur’s foot. Baldy wouldn’t get off him despite pulling on the rope. Finally, he whipped his foot out from his shoe before too much damage was done
The hay shed was pulled down in the 1970s and some of the material was used for the cow shed roof. The cow shed’s floor was brick.