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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 15, Issue 1 (April 1, 1940)

Jackson and His Rangers

Jackson and His Rangers.

It was Old Smith's wife who introduced Von Tempsky to Jackson in the big living-room of the Travellers' Rest. The two borderers quietly appraised each other. A contrast, that pair, who presently were to share in many an adventure together. Jackson, young John Bull even to the short muttonchop whiskers; Von Tempsky, swarthy, lean, a glint of fierceness in his dark eyes, a suggestion of the Magyar and gipsy in his cast of features.

“I like the looks of your Rangers,” said Von Tempsky, “most of them seem used to the rough end of life, if I'm any judge of men.” He had watched the company march in from a bush excursion. To the eyes of the veteran campaigner they were the right stuff for scouting and forest patrol. There were unmistakable sailors among them, there were two muscular Jamaica negroes—“as good as any white man,” Jackson said, “and more sober than most”—there were diggers from Otago and Coromandel; eager young axemen, bush-settlers'ssons. To a regular soldier's eye they would have seemed a raffish, disorderly lot, with their variety of dress, their blue blanket rolls worn just as the bearer pleased; but they handled page 38
(M. Lysons, photo.). On the road to the Glaciers, South Westland.

(M. Lysons, photo.).
On the road to the Glaciers, South Westland.

their Terry carbines as if they knew what to do with them. Each man had a Colt revolver holstered at his hip, each had a sheath-knife; and there was a further important item of equipment, a rum-bottle in a leather case. The pay was eight shillings a day and a double allowance of the customary Army rum ration, by reason of the hard bush-scouring work in a roadless, bridge-less country.

* * *

“I see you're interested in my fellows, Mister Tempsky,” said Lieutenant Jackson one day, as he and the soldier-correspondent sat at lunch in the Travellers' Rest. “How would you like to come with us for a bush expedition? I'm taking the company for a scout through the Hunua bush towards Paparata. Do you think you could stand the walk? It'll be hard going, I warn you, but it'll be a bit of active service experience for you.”

This was exactly what Von Tempsky had been waiting for with hardly suppressed eagerness. He was secretly amused at Jackson's apparently poor estimate of his bush-tramping powers. If the young Forest Ranger officer had only known of his acquaintance's campaigning and roughing it in many climes, he would scarcely have adopted so patronising a tone. However, Von Tempsky was content to let that pass. He chuckled inwardly at the thought that Jackson would discover before very long that he was entertaining unawares a practised soldier of bush experience far greater than his own.

“I'll be delighted, sir,” he replied. “It certainly will be an experience, and I shall, I hope, have something of interest to send to my paper.”

“I can promise you that, old man,” said Jackson. “I think I know where we can fall in with some of those jokers who've been laying ambushes and raiding the Wairoa farms. My Rangers will give a good account of themselves, I warrant you, if ever we pick up the Maori tracks.”

So it was arranged. Von Tempsky was to ride in from Drury two days later and accompany the Rangers when they set out at daylight next morning. Joyfully he promised timely attendance. He came in just before dark and dined with Jackson and his wife and his fellow-officer, young Ensign McGregor Hay, the stalwart son of a pioneer settler near Papakura. Von Tempsky learned that Hay* was a law student who preferred for the present the war path. The men talked with eager anticipation of the morrow, but the subdued presence of Mrs. Jackson gave the party a rather pathetic touch. She had been married only a few months, and she had before her always the fear of a Maori bullet or a tomahawk blade for her venturesome husband.