IMAGE WAS EMBARKING
As islands go, there are few places in the world so consistent remote as Aotearoa New Zealand. Enduring the cold weather, scorching heat, and demanding excursions into the rough and sometimes unforgiving isolation was made ever easier with a little company.
On the lengthy trips and wild explorations undertaken by the high-country musterers, the companionship and teamwork of every participant (whether two-legged or four) staved off the solitude, and helped the great distance between huts and towns feel a little less alone.
One of the richest offerings of the wide world
is the opportunity to journey together
Black Sheep of the Family
- From the diary of Dave Osmers.
"With a muster finished, we had some 6,000 odd sheep in the sheep yards ready to be drafted into smaller mobs according to age and sex. The owner had had a good year with few losses and decided on selling 200 surplus sheep. He was a true ‘sheep man’ and proud of the good bodied, good wool sheep that were bred on the station. After many house of sorting the young sheep that were to be sold he left the musterers to help ‘load in’ to the trucks that were to take the sheep to the sale.
One of the musterers espied a black wooled sheep and said “let’s put it in with the sale sheep for a joke”. We could imagine the owners face when he saw the black sheep of the family in the middle of his select line of purebred merinos, so in went the black sheep with much mirth amongst all.
The sheep were sold and the owner arrived back at the station telling us a ‘good line’ they looked. Nothing else was said and everyone wondered.
Quite some time later one of the boys asked him what the black sheep looked like at the sale and to our astonishment he said, “What black sheep?”
We never found out what happened to ‘blackie’ but were highly suspect that our joke turned into the truck driver’s joke. And anyone working on a sheep station will tell you that the ‘black sheep of the family’ tastes just as good as the purebred."
"Looked upon as a pest by the high country run holders, as many sheep lost every year – the kea is often blamed though in many cases actual proof is scarce. Also shepherds are encouraged to kill keas and payment of 10/- is made – by the run-holder – for the beak.
The run-holder is subsidised by the Govt whose payments in 1959 were over ₤300...
A “killer” bird is rare but one of these can do a lot of harm in little time – sometimes it leaves the animal alive but in hopeless condition, or teaches it’s cobbers the nasty “tricks of the trade”
And yet to look at this attractive little parrot it really makes one wonder if it is possible?"
"I’ve climbed out high and walked down low
Over shingle tops all covered in snow
Where the air is clear and the sunshine bright
A man steps free, his arms are swinging
Overhead in blue sky the kea goes winging
I stop to gaze on this mountain vision
Screams the kea as he flies in loud derision
I smile as I hear his mocking laughter
And wonder if in the long hereafter
Who accomplished most in his span
The bird on high------- or the man."
Companionship is the binding force that kept the high-country shepherds tethered to their hills.
Beyond the reach of the city road and radio, the long silence became a thing a times to be treasured, at times to simply be endured.
As long days pass, the wag of a dog's tail or the whicker of a trail horse could be the conversation for the day. Songbirds put on daily performances, and to the keen ear, even the wind in the valley and the babble of the creek would sing.
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