Saturday, December 9, 2023

The running of the bulls – Wyn-Harris style, Part III

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In honour of Steve Wyn-Harris retiring his weekly From the Ridge column after decades wielding the pen, Farmers Weekly dips into the archives for another taste of ag New Zealand’s favourite scribe.
Steve Wyn-Harris shares how his journey to learning how to drive during his early years landed him in more than one sticky situation.
Reading Time: 2 minutes

From August 2016

Years ago I bought a good-sized mob of yearling bulls on the other side of Takapau and thought to save some money I’d walk them home instead of trucking.

It was about 15km but the small village of Takapau was in the way.

In those days it still had its own traffic cop. I knew this fellow quite well. Tony had taken me for my first driving test the day I turned 15. I’d chosen Takapau as it has no hills and I had yet to master a handbrake start, which was part of the test in Waipukurau.

Instead he took me down this ridiculously narrow road and asked me to do a three-point turn. On the backing up bit I managed to put the car into the water table. No amount of pushing and shoving would get the bloody thing out of the ditch. We had to walk to a farmer’s house and get them to tow it out with a tractor. Tony wasn’t too impressed.

Needless to say I failed. Not wishing to face Tony again, I learnt how to do a handbrake start and passed in Waipukurau.

Some years later I thought it prudent to get the nod of approval to trot my cattle mob through the township. But Tony informed me I would have to follow the stock route, which put several kilometres on the drive instead of several hundred meters along Charlotte Street. Indeed, one could see the turnoff heading for home at the other end of the street from where the mob was going to have to take its detour.

This seemed a ridiculous requirement so I pondered the dilemma.

Very early next morning I went and picked up my Māori mate Dean, who had offered to drive my old car in front of the mob. Dean and his new wife Chris had invited us to their wedding in Pātea, where we stayed on the marae with most of the Pātea Māori Club, which had been a great experience.

It was still very dark when I collected him and I can still remember both of us gazing up in awe at the perfectly shaped Halley’s Comet as it left the inner regions of the solar system heading back out to the Oort Cloud, not to return for 75 years.

We drove into the still-asleep township and past Tony’s house, relieved to see the traffic car still parked there with no sign of life.

We collected the yearling bulls from the vendor’s holding paddock and set off with the first touches of dawn painting the sky.

As we neared Takapau, Dean drove ahead to check on the sleeping policeman. He came back in great anxiety to report that the patrol car had gone.

I made a captain’s call and said that we would risk the shortcut. As we closed in on the pub I fired up the dogs and our bulls took off. There were so many gateways but we trusted that the speed of the run and luck would work in our favour.

The mob thundered down Charlotte Street much as they do in Pamplona. A scattering of bull manure fell in their wake but they held a true line and before we knew it Dean was turning them at the Takapau Golf Course onto Oruawharo Road.

I ran to catch up and then let them drift along and graze whilst Dean and I had a deserved coffee from a thermos and watched Halley’s Comet disappear into the sky as the sun rose.

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