Thursday, April 25, 2024

Pass the rooster: practical jokes for practical farmers

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Steve Wyn-Harris recalls games of pass the rooster and bring out the vote.
Steve Wyn-Harris once had a rooster mysteriously appear in his sheep yards, and it would crow early every morning. Rather than dispose of the bird, he dropped it off at a neighbour’s house.
Reading Time: 3 minutes

There are some stories not yet told that should be.

The 1978 election was the first that I was able to vote in.

My father was standing as the Values candidate for Pahiatua, so I had little choice really.

It was a Saturday and the Takapau cricket team had a match in the Tararua district against Waitahora.

We travelled down there and although I can’t remember, I’m sure we would have got our usual thrashing.

I noticed that the local hall was an election booth.

I had a quiet word with my team and there were nine of us eligible to vote so I promised to shout them all a beer at the Norsewood pub on the way home if they voted for my father.

I assume that this is illegal behaviour but hope that some sort of statute of limitations has now passed after 45 years.

The next day’s paper with the booth results of all electorates showed that the Values Party had won just one booth and even more surprising it was in a conservative rural Pahiatua electorate polling station where my father got not nine but 11 votes, and John Falloon just nine.

They might have beaten us at cricket but would have been left scratching their heads for some time after that election.

Practical jokes are always fun but more fun when you are the perpetrator than the victim.

I was cleaning out a shed when I found a several-years-old Hawke’s Bay Today newspaper still wrapped in cellophane and looking pristine.

It sat in my ute for a few weeks waiting for an opportunity.

Early one morning I swapped it for the newspaper at my neighbour’s gate and for a year enjoyed the thought of their confusion that day.

When I finally fessed up to Dennis and Debbie they told me how the more they read that paper the more confounded they got, reading about forgotten wars and sports results that didn’t make sense.

They finally noticed the date and complained to the newspaper, who apologised profusely and were themselves perplexed how on earth their system could have delivered such an error.

However, Dennis and Debbie did their own investigation and narrowed their suspect list down to one.

It explained the rooster that mysteriously appeared in my sheep yards and which we could hear calling out every morning.

I’d caught the miscreant with the plan of dropping him off at a rest area with the other abandoned roosters but on the way suddenly thought what would happen if a neighbour rang looking for their escaped rooster.

So, I quietly dropped it off near another neighbour’s house. A case of “pass the rooster”.

Yet another neighbour, Steve, who I knew to be away, had a dead sheep for everyone to see at the intersection where we all had to stop.

I wrote the word “dead” in red aerosol on the sheep, where it remained for the week until he came home.

Some months later I saw I had a dead sheep on the boundary so went to collect it to dispose of it.

I saw that it was his earmark, not mine.

Reasonable revenge.

So, I dropped the sheep back over the fence.

We continued to return that sheep until I hurt my back as by that stage it was better to hold it as far from your body as possible.

A couple of years later I saw he was up to his old tricks again as there were several goats in a pile on my side of the fence.

Naturally, I put them back over the fence and arranged them in a decorative manner.

He rang me that night to tell me that they were persistent escapers and he’d shot them in my paddock, dragged them to the fenceline and gone to get his trailer. He thanked me for helping him out by lifting them over the fence.

I eventually got him back by spraying a returned sheep in the colours of the rainbow, which he told me meant it couldn’t get near any other sheep because of their fear of it until it was shorn.

Proving that sheep can indeed see colours, although I’ve subsequently learnt not as well as us and can’t see red at all.

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