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Pioneering Reminiscences of Old Wairoa

False Balances

page 29

False Balances.

In Holy Writ we are told that "a false balance is an abomination to the Lord" and even without that condemnation we know that the conscientious business man, and certainly the thrifty housewife, hates a false balance, and though the goods in the window, especially in the fruit shops, are far above the standard of what are weighed out when the back is turned to the customer, we are not quite as brazen-faced as they were in the olden days in Wairoa. On the site in Marine Parade now occupied by the County Club, there was established a storekeeper who was almost a "Jack-of-all-trades"—at all events he purported to be, in addition to a purveyor of eatables and wearables, a renderer of "The Maori language into the English language, and the English into the Maori language" as the form of oath had it. He was also a surveyor (of a kind). That is, he ascended the mountain tops and "took sights" and then made out a plan on which the Maoris sold or leased the land they owned—and it passed! But this deponent telleth not of the heart-burnings and the litigation which followed. This storekeeper traded wearables and food-stuffs in exchange for well-grown grunters, and to weigh them he set up his theodolite on the footpath, while Hori and Timu looked on, and their greatest wonder was not at the cleverness of the Pakeha, but how such a large "poaka" should weigh so little!

Somewhat farther down the street, about opposite the present town wharf, there was page 30established a butcher, who used a steelyards for weighing purposes, so constructed that what was called the "pea" or ball of iron that regulated the weight, could be slipped off and on in the twinkling of an eye, without any apparent sleight of hand. He had two "peas" of different sizes, and the heavier one he put on when he sold "cow" to the poor ignorant Maoris, and the lighter one when he bought from them! He dared not treat his Pakeha brothers thus, but the latter knew very well how the white man defrauded his brown brothers in early days; even common justice was denied them, both by Government and people, else Te Kooti would not have been converted into a marauding rebel by unjust transportation to Wharekauri.

A Wairoa farmer in the 'eighties, who liked not rates any more than the farmers of to-day, though he also appreciated good roads, sought to gain a seat on the County Council to further his ideas. After a brief canvass he considered his prospects of election quite rosy, but when the poll was declared he had just three votes—his own. Three years later he came up again smiling, and having by this time divided his run and placed his wife's name on the roll, he secured six votes, his own and hers! Yet another term he tried and the canvass was vigorous and the promises of support quite numerous. Yet the polling-officer declared he had less than a dozen votes. He then threw in the towel and added, "I think now that David was right when he said, 'All men are liars,' especially electors!"