Topic: The Schoolboy Drovers

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A story by Lial Bredin

The Schoolboy Drovers

 Tom had promised his aunt that he would be at her place by nine o'clock.  She lived in Chilman Street.  He slowed down as he came around the corner.  Then he nearly stopped.  Coming out of a drive way in Chilman Street were two boys riding their ponies.  They didn’t look as though they were old enough to go to high school.  They looked like small scale drovers.  They were wearing long oilskin coats and brown felt hats.  They appeared to be carrying stock whips.

 There were no cattle in sight and as far as Tom could see the area consisted of house sections and local tennis courts.

 Tom asked his aunt, "Who were the young drovers at the bottom of the street?"

 She was a friendly person with a wide knowledge of the residents of the neighboring streets.

 "Yes, she knew them.  That’s Malcolm and Philip.  They live around the corner in Waiwaka terrace.  Their father is a lawyer.  In fact he is my lawyer and I think that your dad uses him as well."  Tom's aunt went on to explain that the boys lived next door to a livestock dealer, Dick Barnet.  The two families are very friendly and the two boys use Dick’s place as a second home.  They go around with him as he visits the various places where he grazes cattle.

 The ponies are recent arrivals and the boys have started to use them and their whips to round up cattle for Dick.  She didn’t know much more except that Dick had two daughters who were not interested in farming.  He did not have any sons.

 Some years later the two drover boys turned up in Tom's district down the Coast.  While Philip moved to South Taranaki, Malcolm stayed in the district and finally owned his own farm.  Tom used to meet him at the YFC and at Federated Farmers.

 They got chatting one day and Tom said that he remembered seeing Malcolm on his pony in Chillman Street.  Malcolm in turn knew Tom's aunt and remembers Tom visiting her.  They soon began to exchange memories about droving.

 Malcolm was about eight years old when he first started going with Dick on his rounds.  He enjoyed the rides in Dick’s car and helping move cattle.  At times he held the gate when cattle had to drafted into another paddock.

 Carlo, Dick's dog used to hold the mob up near the gate and Dick would select animals, which were fat and ready for market. He used to call out "gate" to the boy holding the gate, when he wanted it opened.  Dick would then chase a cattle beast through into the next paddock.

 Dick had been using casual drovers when he had to move stock from one grazing block to another.  Then the war came and many of the drovers joined the Armed Forces.  Dick had to make other arrangements.

 It was about this time that an elderly farmer asked Dick if he had any use for an old pony.  It could still be ridden, but it could not walk for long distances.  His children had left home and the farmer was too heavy to ride the pony.  It was free to a good home.  Dick could see the need of teaching the boys to ride, but gear was needed as well.  The farmer had a saddle, reins and other gear down in the shed.  For thirty bob Dick could have the lot.  They shook hands on the deal.

 Silver the aged pony was led to a grazing area that Dick had near Chilman Street.

 The boys started to learn how to ride and how to look after a pony.  They remembered always to rub Silver down after they had been for a ride.

 Dick had a talk with the boys father.  "Did he mind if the boys gave him a hand moving stock from one block to another?  It would only be in the holidays and in the week ends."  Their father thought that a light job, like riding a pony would be good experience for the boys.

 He bought a pony "Podge" for Philip to ride.

 Malcolm felt a bit left out as Silver could not walk long distances and he could only help with close grazing blocks.  His grandmother came to the rescue.  She bought Malcolm his own pony.  He called it "Jean".  His mother's name.

 For the next few years, until they left High School they were Dick's drovers.  They moved stock for Dick most weekends and on two or three times a week during holidays.  Sometimes if a close block became grazed out they would move stock after school.

 Dick had a series of grazing blocks which were situated in districts within a ten mile radius of New Plymouth.

 The boys on their ponies could handle this distance.

 They had become drovers for a professional stock dealer.


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