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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 9, Issue 4 (July 2, 1934.)

Variety in Brief

page 39

Variety in Brief

Despite the popularity of aviation films railway romances can more than hold their own. In addition to such wellknown successes as “The Shanghai Express” and “The Ghost Train,” New Zealand audiences are now being treated to two other exceptionally fine railroad features, “Rome Express,” described as Britain's greatest screen achievement, and “Orient Express,” a story connected with the train that runs from Ostend to Constantinople.— O. W. Waireki.

I was interested to read Tangiwai's article on the wild horses which still roam the Taupo area of waste land. Catching and breaking-in wild horses was a source of livelihood to a few hardy pioneers in the King Country in the late 'nineties, and the horses, although mostly weeds, were hardy and sure-footed. It is, I think, not generally known that the practice of “creasing” wild horses, which one reads of in American “Wild West” yarns, was resorted to in New Zealand also. This consists in shooting the horse with a rifle, the shot passing through the neck below the vertebra, but above the main veins and arteries. The shock renders the horse unconscious for a few minutes, long enough to rope him securely, but afterwards he recovers and the wound heals. Of course, to do this successfully one must be a good shot. We used to possess a horse who had been captured in this manner. It was at first possible, although the wound had quite healed, to meet one's fingers through his neck. Later on, the hole gradually closed up. Strangely enough he was not frightened of gunfire. However, a boyhood friend of mine had a mare, on which we both used to ride, that had been creased. In this case the wound was much more completely healed, and indeed was hard to see until it was pointed out. This mare was most frightened of a gun, or of any thing sounding like one. We were riding her bare-back at a walking pace one day while a thunderstorm was backing up. The storm broke with one of those whip-like cracks of thunder, and she bolted so suddenly that she just slid out from under us, leaving us on the road! Daz.

Have you ever stood on a lonely country road and watched the night express rattle by? One night I stood on a road in the Taieri Plains (where night is night), and heard from afar the faint shrill from the whistle of the ghost train. Whistle after whistle rent the stillness of the air, and presently a faint rumbling sound could be heard miles away. I stood close to the railway track, positively thrilled. Then, far down, like a faint glimmer of a rising sun I could just discern the gleaming headlight—approaching, approaching, approaching: until the gloom was shattered, apparently for all time, by the long, bright, silver beam that thundered on. Overhead, a ruddy, whirling column of smoke was lit up by the inferno of the firebox when the door was momentarily opened, a streaking flash of sparks. Then the light of carriages, an increasing deafening roar (how those trains do roar in the night hours), a fleeting glimpse of travellers essaying sleep, or seated reading, heeding not the lone watcher outside—and the night train was past. Only a dying rumble and a little red light fast disappearing to convince me that the incident had been real as I turned and continued my way. But how incomparably dark and cold and lonely the night seemed now. —C.H.F.

What interesting folk travel by the Limited Express! One night recently we went down to Frankton Junction station to see a 'Varsity friend off south. As usual the train made its ten minutes' halt to allow the travellers time for refreshment.

My friend whispered to me, “There he is, in the flesh—the young chap standing by the window.”

“Who?” I asked, eagerly scanning the faces around.

“Your favourite New Zealand poet.”

“Not R.G.P.?”

“The same.” And by a strange coincidence he was exactly as I had pictured him! It is so seldom we have the opportunity of seeing our own favourite writers. Didn't I feel thankful I had gone to the station!

That night, by the way, Dad would insist upon donning his best suit. “Don't bother changing,” said I, but he took no notice.

“You never know who pops up with the Limited, I've been caught before.” We laughed; but when a real live Cabinet Minister came up to shake hands with him, we felt glad he had made himself presentable.

We often slip along to see who is on the Limited. Isn't it thrilling to say “Hello” to an old friend you haven't seen for years? —“Artful Dodger.”

Not the least of the troubles which beset the redcoats who fought New Zealand's battles in the middle of last century, was the Maori's way of treating even war in an apparently off-hand manner. The Maori thought nothing of running away if that seemed to be the best thing to do at the moment—it was better to run and fight another day than to die uselessly. Time and time again the redcoats laboriously sapped their way up to a pa and then storming it with inimitable dash, found that the wily enemy had slipped off into the bush. The Maori knew the plodding methods of the pakeha, and was quick to take advantage of them. One European commanding officer, a devotee of the sap and assault system, set his men to dig a trench nearly a mile in length, so that they might approach safely to within striking distance of a pa. As the work progressed a considerable quantity of manuka was required for fascines, and the “friendly” Maoris were paid to supply it. This arrangement was doubly agreeable to the beleaguered garrison of the pa, who now by day relieved the monotony by shooting at the pakehas in the trench, and by night cut scrub for their friends among the “friendlies,” who paid them in tobacco and clothes. Assuredly, the pakeha way of fighting was a wonderful one! Of course, the spoil-sport white officer objected to having his men fired upon; there was always a danger that someone might get hit, so he made a great sap-roller of manuka and turf which was pushed along in front of the workmen. In time this happy state came to an end; the head of the sap crept dangerously near to the stockade. The Maori description of subsequent events was a marvel of coolness and brevity; it ended, “and so we left that pa and built another one.” —E.S.A.

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