Kaura ki te
Possum hunting was a popular
sport with us. As you are aware opossums are a pest in New Zealand.
They bread twice a year and thrive on fruit from local orchards.
Our weapons were a steel-handled
hay fork which John made for spearing large eels, a dog and a large
Kaura would command the hay
fork which was our own weapon of mass destruction, Mahiti would control
the dog and I was armed with the large cane knife.
Generally we would wait for
a clear night when the moon was full and the willow trees were about
The dog would be sent out in
the first instance to seek out the possum. We would encourage the dog
to focus on the willow trees along the Maraehara creek or those surrounding
the swamp below the homestead.
It was a bright moonlit night
when Mahiti, Kaura and I went out. No soon had we departed, our dog
ran to the large willow tree just below the homestead overhanging the
swamp. The dog began barking which indicated that he had pick up the
scent of an opossum on the willow tree.
We hurried to where the dog
was and noticed the shape of an opossum silhouetting against the moonlight
high on the willow tree. It was feeding on the young willow leaves.
Kaura and I climbed the tree
while Mahiti and the dog remained on guard below.
I instructed Kaura to climb
halfway up the tree and wait there while I climb further up the tree
towards the opossum.
As I drew my large cane knife
to strike the opossum, it jumped to the branch just below me and ran
In panic Kaura threw the steel-handle
hay fork at the opossum.
The heavy missile missed its
target and came hurtling to earth.
All of a sudden, I hear a blood
curdling scream from below. It was dark and we could not see a thing.
Mahiti had been struck by the hurtling hay fork!.
My first though was that the
three pronged hay fork had struck and killed Mahiti.
Kaura and I hurried down from
the tree. We noticed that the hay fork was near by and not imbedded
Mahiti was on the ground groaning,
he had a severe head ache where the handle of the heavy hay fork had
I said to Kaura, “Thank God
he is still alive!”
We shook Mahiti. He came back
to life and we continued on looking for more opossums.
When we returned home that
night with our kill, we noticed a large lump on the top of Mahitis’
head where the hay fork had struck him.
Mum questioned us about the
huge lump on Mahitis’ head to which Kaura and I replied “Kare maua
e mohio. A kuni pea i hinga aia” “We have know idea what happen.
May be he fell over and hit his head”
Mahiti lived to see another
“When the Pipiwharauroa (Shining
Cuckoo) sang melodiously in the nearby forest it was time to plant”
We had two draught horses,
Nugget and Romo. They were brought in from the hills harnessed
and used to pull the plough.
From dawn to dusk we would
work in the garden.
Most of the river flats below
the homestead were ploughed up and many types of vegetables grown.
Kumara, potatoes, pumpkins,
water melons, rock melons and corn.
The garden would provide all
the vegetable which sustained the homestead for the whole year.
Strawberries, lettuce and other
more delicate vegetables were grown in and around the homestead.
Joe Joe was the master. Like
our pakoroua and nanny kuia, before, he would plough up most of the
river flat ensuring ample supply of vegetable for everyone.
When Joe Joe moved to Auckland
to work at Hellabys freezing works, June and in particular John continued
to plough the river flats.
Mum, Derna, Mahiti, Kaura and
I would be there helping. Often when it was rest time June would call
us together for a bit of entertainment. He would organize a fight. Mahiti
and Kaura against me. (two on one) We did not mind either, it was a
little entertainment for us also. (Sometimes you win, sometimes you
loose, as long as you live to tell the story)
Kaura would come in on my right
and Mahiti would sneak in on my left. If I did not move quickly, they
would overpower me, put me to the ground and give it to me sometimes
boots and all.
So my strategy was to immobilise
Mahiti with the first punch, while he was recovering take out Kaura
as quick as possible then it was all over in no time and with the minimal
amount of fuss.
This strategy worked well for
me at least. To Junes’ disappointment, I won most of the fights.
Mum did not like to see us
fighting one another, but we were use to it.
Any bleeding nose was washed
away and the plough or growing continued.
Whilst still at a young age,
we would ride on horse back to Maraehara to catch the school bus. Mahiti
and Kaura would be on their horse named ‘Boy’ and I on mine named
‘Killer’ ‘Boy’ was a bay coloured gelding and Killer was a cream
Killer was blind in the left
eye. Never approach her on her blind side otherwise expect a kick from
her hind legs. If you are lucky the kick will either miss or strike
you in the stomach, which wasn’t too bad.
Our bridles were often made
of weaved flax from the nearby swamp and our saddle (If we could find
one) was made of untreated sheep skin.
Riding to school, Kaura would
be in front of their horse and Mahiti towards the back. Riding down
hill Mahiti would unintentionally force Kaura onto the horses’ neck.
Kaura would scream at Mahiti punching him in the face or pinch at his
Mahiti would cry out a loud
I would come to Mahitis’
aid. Pulling Kaura by the hair and forcing him to fall from their horse
and counseling him over the head with a stick until he promised he would
stop assaulting Mahiti again.
Looking back now, it appears
to be a very cruel way of maintaining law and order.
But, I suppose we did not know
in wild horses:
Horses were part and parcel
of our life at Porahu and breaking in wild horses was not only entertaining
and challenging but also provide the transport required to get us from
point A to point B.
On one occasion June asked
that we bring down to the stock yards wild horse from the back of the
About 8 wild horses were rounded
up and secure in the stock yards.
Kaura and I were instructed
by June to select one wild horse each which we were to break in and
Kaura selected the smallest
of the horse, a dark cream coloured mare which we later named ‘Scaliwag’
I looked at every other horse in the yards and picked the biggest wild
mare amongst them which was piebald in colour.
Both horse were lassoed and
brought out into an open paddock which Kaura and I had to ride.
Kaura was all smiles as he
had first pick and selected the smallest horse in the yard. He also
felt sorry for me for picking the biggest horse in the yard.
I was first to mount my bucking
steed. No sooner had I mounted the steed, it bucked, twisted and ran
down the bank towards the river forcing me to dislodge from my mount.
No sooner had I hit the ground,
I was up chasing the runaway stead. I cornered it, mounted it. The bucking
subsided as the horse broke into a sudden trot.
I rode it back to where June
and the others were.
Kaura, June and others looked
at my horse and I in and amazement. (I was to learn later that
the horse was pregnant possibly that is why it did not buck as much.
When the foul was born it too was Piebald in colour)
I could see by the look in
scaliwags eyes that Kaura was in for a tough time. As soon as June had
helped Kaura onto scaliwag, the horse took off. It bucked ferociously
snorting and farting on every turn. Kaura went one way scaliwag went
the other. I said to myself, my goodness that horse can perform!
We would chase scaliwag back
into the yards secure her and brought her back into the open paddock
for Kaura to ride her yet again.
Kaura was no fool, as June
helped him on to scaliwags back by raising his leg, Kauras’ body would
remain in the same place only his leg would go up. June would yell at
him, “Kia mama te piki ki runga i to hoiho, ka to te ra ia koe”
Hurry up and mount your horse, we don’t want to be here until dusk”
This went on over and over
again. Kaura was not silly.
Eventually June gave up on
him up on him.