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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 9, Issue 12 (March 1, 1935)

Pictures of New Zealand Life

page 37

Pictures of New Zealand Life

Maoriland's Farewell.

When great occasions call for a touch of the poetic and the imaginative, our Maoris can be depended upon to surpass the prosaic pakeha. What could be more touching and beautifully appropriate than the Waikato tribes' good-bye address to their Excellencies Lord and Lady Bledisloe at Ngaruawahia? The Maori mind seeks the wealth of ancestral symbolism and legendary allusions for such ceremonial good-byes. The address likened the greatly popular pair to the “kowhai-tu-rangiora” of ancient imagery, the golden trees of life and health, showering their sweet blossoms upon the people, and they metaphorically waved a farewell to them as they voyaged across the great ocean which Kupe the navigator explored centuries ago.

“Let the vast ocean be spread out smooth and calm for you, may it glisten like the precious pounamu; may the dancing shimmer of summer be about you as you go!”

That is a true New Zealand farewell, something racy of the land and the forest, of halcyon days on shore and sea. And when the pakeha comes to add his farewell to the send-off of the Maori, he is not likely to find words more fitting and full-hearted than the godspeed that now belongs to the two races—“Haere ra! Haere ra!”

This fortunate Land—A Contrast.

We have had some experience of a dry spell this summer, which by reason of its unusualness we call a drought. Short supply of water and a hot summer have combined to make things uncomfortable, and in some places disastrous for farmers. But while such privations and losses as some of our country people have suffered in the drought and the fires are serious and call for sympathetic assistance, there is the offset of a certain quick recovery. This land of ours is never long without a bounteous rainfall. Think of those countries which for many months at a time never see rain and yet where the workers on the land carry on heroically.

Here, by way of consolatory comparison, is a cattle-man's description of his land and life, published recently in an American journal:

“Our ranch lies in extreme Western Texas. we own thirty-eight sections—24,320 acres—of land. We generally range, by leases, from eighteen to thirty sections more—some sand and some hard land. There are no running streams and no lakes; the country has no outside drainage, though the Pecos River flows through an alkali valley only fifteen miles away. Stock water comes from wells 250 to 300 feet deep, lifted to surface tanks by mills that whirl in the hard-blowing winds. The country is gently rolling, covered with scrub mesquite rarely as high as a man on horseback. The range is principally grama and bunch needle grass, though mesquite beans sometimes supplement these, and winter weeds are as much looked for as grass. Yet as poor and dry as this land is, we have that pride in its possession that is to be expected of people who have for long loved and lived close to the soil. And though state land across our pasture, fences leases for much less than the taxes and interest on ours, we have bought for assurance of tenure; somehow feeling that ownership of land and settled life are stabilising moral factors in a mechanical, mobile world. This ranch is in a desert country—a plough has never touched our land. During the last two years we have had less than five inches of rain.”

Try to picture life in such a land, ye complaining New Zealanders! Imagine a region without running water, without a lake. Those people, raising stock in such a land are the best type of pioneers; they deserve better fortune. New Zealand to them would be a farmer's paradise. Yet they stick it out in a country and climate that would terrify, horrify our New Zealanders. Let us be thankful we are where we are!

The Billy That Wouldn't Boil.

The late Mita Taupopoki, the picturesque and eloquent old chief of Whakarewarewa, was one of the Tuhourangi tribespeople who survived the destruction of Te Wairoa village by the eruption of Mt. Tarawera in 1886. In Wellington we have one of the pakeha survivors, Mr. H. Lundius, who was a surveyor in the district when this fearful rain of ash and mud descended on the village where the grass and the jungly bushes and trees grow green over the olden scene of destruction. Mr. Lundius could write a bookful of stories about that night of horror, when no one knew whether they would ever see daylight again. But he prefers to tell the lighter side of things.

One curious little incident the veteran surveyor relates concerns Joe McRae's hotel. A few hours before the midnight outburst of the volcano, Mr. McRae and several others were sitting in the smoking-room of the hotel. After a while McRae asked his cook, George Baker, to go out to the kitchen and boil a kettle for tea for the party. After a considerable time, when that pot of tea was overdue, the cook returned and said that the water would not boil. He had a good fire going, but the kettle would not come to the boiling point. McRae and his guests thought it was curious, and Joe gave it up, and they all had something else instead of tea. It was the peculiar atmospheric conditions immediately preceding the earthquakes and the eruption that prevented the water boiling; that was realised afterwards, of course, but it was a mystery at the time.

The Hand of Providence.

That night Mr. Lundius and his chief, Mr. J. C. Blythe, were staying with Mr. Haszard, the Wairoa schoolmaster and his family. They saved some inmates of the house, but Mr. Haszard and the young children were killed by the fall of the mud-loaded roof, and Mrs. Haszard was fatally injured. “When we got Mrs. Haszard out of the ruins of the house,” says Mr. Lundius, “she was very weak, and I went down to McRae's Hotel to search for some brandy for her. The place was in ruins and I had small hope of finding anything intact. But to my great astonishment and relief I found that the bar-room was quite in order. Not a bottle or a glass broken. It was the only room in the hotel that was not damaged by the collapse of the roof. I found the brandy for the poor suffering lady. I used to have a joke with some of my teetotal friends about it afterwards, once we had got over the tragic side of it. What moral does that point, I asked, when I told how every bottle of waipiro escaped. Someone retorted, ‘Oh, the devil looks after his own.’”