We did all our own cooking, and Arthur baked the bread. I tried one baking, but it was too hard to eat. Every other Sunday it was my turn to wash the kitchen floor. Arthur was a tidy man and washed up after every meal. Once he was supposed to be away on holiday, but couldn’t bear to be parted from the farm, and came back before he was due. I remember the look of disapproval on his face when I came in to find him washing up an accumulation of six days dirty dishes that I had piled up in his absence.
I loved the riding. One day I rode 45 miles to a dance and home again next day. Arthur was annoyed and said it was not fair on a horse out at grass. Perhaps not if I had ridden at a canter as the New Zealanders did, but 45 miles is not too far for a horse trotting in English style.
Travel to New Zealand Photo Gallery
Nothing can be more stupid and obstinate than a sheep, and sometimes I found trying to move 500 stupid, obstinate, glassy-eyed sheep hard to bear. Once I was sent out with a packhorse to a neighbouring sheep station to skin some dead sheep, and bring them back for dog food. While being driven across country, the leading sheep of a mob had jumped down across a small stream below the track and landed on its knees. Before it got up, the sheep behind jumped on top of it. The sheep went on jumping until there were 500 piled up dead.
There came a time when I asked for a rise from fifteen to twenty-five shillings a week. The visiting owner had a long discussion with Arthur about this, and then came over and offered me twenty shillings a week. This was not my style and I walked off the farm. I went to visit my blacksmith friend whom I had met on the Bremen, and he got me a job on a farm near Taihape at £2 10s a week. They asked me if I could milk, and I said ‘no’. This was untrue, I had milked fifteen cows day and night while looking after de Ville’s farm when he was away, but I hated the smell of milk, it rotted my boots, and I had no desire to be a milkman. I used to lie in my bunk in the morning listening to the other chaps getting the cows in; I started work the easy way at 8 o’clock.
This farm belonged to three brothers called Williams, and their brother-in-law. Two of the Williams brothers and I totalled twelve feet round the chest, me being the smallest with forty inches. They were powerful men, and magnificent horsemen. We had eighty horses on the place, and used to break them in periodically. Sunday morning’s amusement was to put me on one and see how long it took before I was thrown. Once, the bucking bust the saddle girth and I shot through the air in a great arc with the saddle still between my legs.