Scrub-cutting on the East Coast: On the Job

They ride up through the sheep paddocks, climbing up the rough clay landrover track that leads to the ridge, opening and shutting farm gates as they go. Its early morning , but already the sun beats on Mark’s back. The horse is skittish, snorting and waving her head and an occasional stamping of the hooves as they wait at the gates.

Then they’re on the top of the ridge-Mark can see the sea over a few miles of curving bluish hills.. Instantly, Mark’s horse smells the wind in her nostrils; and she’s off; galloping full tilt across the ridge on a sheep track just wide enough for one horseshoe. “Pull the bloody horse in boy” yells Jimmy to Mark , from a rapidly increasing distance behind him.

But Mark is too busy holding on to the horse’s neck, making sure he doesn’t fall off, to worry about reining the horse in. Hemi thunders past on his horse on a track above; somehow gets in front of Mark’s horse, and steadying her, they slow to a respectable canter. Ten minutes later , they group together on a small plot of level grass surrounded by manuka bush. “This’ll do” Jimmy grunts, and Mark slides thankfully to the ground from the saddle. Hemi leads the horses to the trees and ties them on long leads to some of the branches; they seem familiar with this routine, and munch the grass contentedly.

Jimmy’s going over the chainsaws; checking the oil, the blade tension and a little file of the chains here and there. ÖK boy; know what to do with this?”. To Mark’s negative sway of the head, Jimmy runs through the basics of operating the chainsaw. ”OK, all yours; you take the ridge to the stream between me and Hemi-I’ll give a call for smoko-ok?”” Mark nods and, strapping an oil bottle to his belt, hefts the chainsaw and walks down the ridge to where Hemi is already swinging the chainsaw at full blast by the stream. Tiny inch high shrubs to foot thick trunks of manuka are sliced through in a flurry of wood chips, dust and noise. Within a few minutes Mark can feel the sweat dripping into his eyebrows , forming rivulets down his cheeks and his back as he works his way up the ridge, creating devastation in his wake. An hour later, Mark hears with joy, Jimmy’s yell of “smoko”, and clambers back to camp where Jimmy is boiling a big black billy on a wood fire. Jimmy’s just pouring in the tea leaves:- one , two three cup-fulls of tea leaves. “I’ll never drink that stuff”-Mark thinks-but he’s wrong- a few minutes later, he’s helping himself to another mug- and another-God, he’s thirsty…

Scrub-cutting on the East Coast: On the Job

Paul Martin

DUNEDIN, New Zealand

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