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Kaura ki te pakanga (2). 

Chapter 3 

Possum hunting 

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 cane knife.  

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 to leaf.  

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 toward Kaura.  

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 in Mahitis’.  

Mahiti was on the ground groaning, he had a severe head ache where the handle of the heavy hay fork had struck him. 

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 day. 

Mahinga Kai (Vegetable garden) 

“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 coloured mare.  

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 legs. 

Mahiti would cry out a loud for help.  

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 any better. 

Breaking 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 farm (Waitaha).  

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 ride. 

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. 

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