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Settler Kaponga 1881–1914 — A Frontier Fragment of the Western World

The Saga of Hayes's Bull

The Saga of Hayes's Bull

James Hayes seems to have had a lightning-rod attraction for trouble. The following winter he found himself at odds with his neighbours when a bull of his got loose on Palmer Road. Hayes had taken a 100-acre DP section on the west side of Manaia Road just-below the Kaponga township site in September 1882. Besides meeting his DP payments he had a wife and a family of six to provide for, so he supplemented his farming income by taking road contracts, hunting wild cattle and gathering fungus.

In ‘Notes from the Bush’ of 11 August 1887 a Star correspondent remarked that most quarrels among farming people were caused by cattle trespassing and that a bull of an inquiring mind, anxious to explore some of the neighbouring farms, was sufficient to put a settler on bad terms with several of those about him. The exploits of Hayes's bull along Palmer Road on 20 July 1886 illustrate this well. Its rampage caused trouble both on the road and in at least four properties along it. A rather confusing account of what happened was unfolded in cross-litigation in the Manaia Magistrate's Court the following October5.

It seems that Hayes was running this bull in a Palmer Road paddock rented from R. Dingle. On 20 July 1886, as G.H. McKenzie and William Hicks were driving a herd of cattle past, the bull jumped the fence and joined them. It then jumped further fences into various properties and in G.H. McKenzie's it caused some damage. McKenzie advised Hayes of the bull's trespass and of the damage. Hayes tendered £10 for the damage but could not get his bull back as McKenzie had set off with it for the Manaia pound and lost it on the way. Thereafter it was missing, though one witness page 77
Sketch of Clearings, 1880s Episodes

Sketch of Clearings, 1880s Episodes

page 78 reported seeing it on Palmer Road on 24 July. Hayes proceeded against McKenzie for the loss of the bull and McKenzie countered with a charge against Hayes as the owner of a bull found wandering at large.

The court heard McKenzie first. A Scotsman from Ayrshire, he conducted his own case, calling his own father, George McKenzie, and William Hicks in support. Hayes had lawyer Caplen to conduct the defence. Hayes's eldest son, 19-year-old James, told of seeing the bull in his father's paddock on 20 July. The magistrate decided that Hayes was not to blame for the bull breaking out and dismissed the information.

The courrdealt with Hayes's claim for £46, detailed thus:
Loss sustained through illegal detention of bull £11
Loss of time 5
Value of bull 30

In defence McKenzie called storekeeper Henry Davy, who valued the bull at from £3 to £5, and Daniel Fitzgerald, who valued it at about £4. The very equivocal judgment was ‘for £5 or return of bull, and £5 for loss to defendant, with costs of court’. Whether the trek to the Manaia courthouse brought about any reduction in local tensions one cannot say.