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The Autobiography of a Maori

And They Sleep in Their Gardens

And They Sleep in Their Gardens

Though we have no rabbits on the East Coast, we have much trouble with hares, there being abundant cover for them close to the kumara cultivations. They are very fond of the tender young plants, so in an effort to keep them away we tied dogs along the fence but the hares seemed to realise that, like the lions in Pilgrim's Progress, the dogs were tied up and were perfectly harmless. They did most of the damage in the early morning, so my wife and I decided that we should sleep at the cultivations. We improvised a roof by placing half-a-dozen corrugated iron sheets between two wires of a fence and placing heavy weights on the ends of the sheets touching the ground. We found ample cover from rain under the protruding ends of the iron sheets on the other side of the fence. Under this shelter we placed a spring mattress on two cross logs and on the top of the spring mattress another mattress. We even had sheets. It was a novel kind of camp and we immensely enjoyed our unorthodox life there. We tied an old iron dish to the fence and this we used as a gong which we beat occasionally. The loud beating of the gong sent the hares scampering into the jungle.

If the wind changed we had only to reverse our shelter and place our bedding on the other side of the fence. It might have been termed a sort of see-saw camp. As a precaution against a sudden change of wind and rain, we put oilskins over the blankets.

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When the kumara plants were sufficiently established the hares would not touch them and it was, therefore, no longer necessary for us to sleep out. But fresh troubles arose. A neighbour owned a Tamworth boar which was as large as a young calf. He warned us that he found it was impossible to confine the pig to a sty. In the daytime, the boar disappeared into the jungle but at night he raided the cultivations. One morning we found that it had been in our kumara patch. I was given permission by the owner to shoot the brute, so I kept my loaded pea-rifle handy in case it favoured us with another visit. That night we again had our bunk on the outside of the fence. Very early in the morning, upon opening my eyes, what should I see but the gigantic red boar, only half a chain away, curiously watching us as we slept. Evidently it was not sure whether we were living things or not, but he very soon found that out, for I fired at his head with my 22. The charge didn't seem to hurt him much for he just gave a grunt and turned away, but the noise awoke Kate who asked excitedly, "What are you doing? You startled me."

I couldn't help but think that if the boar had had a bit of intelligence he might have attacked us and we would have been helpless and Kate might have easily been eaten in her sleep.

Having put on my clothes, and with my rifle in my hand, I followed the wounded boar. When I came upon him I found he was groggy, and with another shot from my rifle he rolled over on his side. He was a huge pig and the pork was cut up and distributed among the whole East Cape community.