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The Autobiography of a Maori

Watermelon-stealing Rampant

Watermelon-stealing Rampant

When watermelons were ripe, unless a strict watch was kept over them, the owner might wake up in the morning, to find his or her crop of watermelons depleted. It was easier for a camel to go through a needle's eye than it was for a Maori boy not to steal watermelons. If a patch of watermelons happened to be near a road, melon thieves, armed with wooden lances, mounted their ponies at night and, after stabbing large melons with the lances, galloped away as fast as their horses could go, carrying the watermelons on their lances. To find your patch of watermelons, which you had tended for several months, robbed overnight was indeed exasperating, and yet Maoris as a rule regarded melon-stealing lightly and a melon-thief was never prosecuted. Only recently did I read in the press of a prosecution in the Police Court for melon-stealing and several elderly natives were surprised to hear of it.

After an old woman's crop of watermelons had been raided at night, all the boys in the village were called for an examination. An old man named Ihaia was page 25the examiner. He had in front of him a box filled with fine earth. Every boy was requested to place his foot on the fine earth and the measurements of his footmark were compared with one found in the melon garden. The thief was too cunning, or perhaps he came from another village for he was never found out.