Topic: Learning the Trade

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A story by Lial Bredin

Learning the Trade


Silver was an elderly pony.  From a pony's point of view she taught the boys how to ride.  Dick taught them the fundamentals of horse care.  Rub down your horse every time you have used it.  Groom it regularly.  Watch its shoes and feet.

 Silver finally was past it.  With the aid of a vet she was put down.

 Her place and paddock was taken by two other ponies.  "Podge" belonging to Philip and "Jean" to Malcolm.

 Dick showed and explained to the boys the secrets of droving.  To move a small mob of cattle from one lease to another was simple.  Dick and Carlo went ahead and blocked off driveways and side streets.  The boys on their ponies followed behind.  They now and then cracked their whips.  More for show than for anything else.  The cattle always traveled quietly.

 When cattle in a paddock had to drafted, sorting the fat animals from the thin, Philip's pony "Podge" was useful.  "Podge" could cut out animals.  He could nudge an animal with his chest towards the outside of the mob.  If the beast tried to dodge the pony would move quickly to block it.  After a little practice Dick could point out an animal.  Philip and his pony would cut it out of the mob.  It then could be driven through an open gate to start another mob of "fats."  All this was done under the eagle eye of Carlo, watching for any animals who went the wrong way.

 Dick did not have the time to always be in front of mobs of cattle, which had to be moved.  What was needed, were heading dogs.  They could restrain the cattle at the front of the mob.  They could also prevent animals going into driveways or down side roads.

 The boys looked around for a couple of dogs.  Philip was lucky.  He bought "Tut," who was a good heading dog.  Malcolm found "Scot" who was a little lazy.  He would follow a mob and give plaintiff barks.  This meant that Philip had to ride in front of the mob.  Finally Malcolm was able to buy a good heading dog, "Bruce," from the Waitui stud.  Tut and Bruce were able to keep the front in order and the two boys followed behind on their ponies.

 Not all the mobs could be driven along quietly.  Any mob picked up after a sale would be mixed.  These mobs had to be moved quickly so that no fights or scuffles could take place.  Animals strange to one another always had to sort out their pecking order.  There was no time for this to happen while a mob was being driven down the road.

 From time to time there would be a mob of sheep to move.  Dick often bought store lambs at the Awakino Lamb Fair.  They were usually delivered to one of the leases by truck.  They then had to be moved when the grass was eaten out.  That was a job for the boys.  Malcolm thought that with good heading dogs it was little different from moving cows.  Sheep could still break away.  It did not take a very big hole in a hedge for lambs to get into a paddock or a garden.

 Tom asked about payment for droving.  Malcolm replied "Payment, what was that?"  The boys did not get paid cash by Dick.  The ponies were grazed.  Health care and shoeing were provided.  The rest must have been the boys "War Effort".

 Sometimes Malcolm was asked to do jobs, which carried a cash reward.  Newton King's often called on him to help with grooming of cattle and horses when they had a bull fair.

 Grooming of cattle was along the same lines as the grooming of ponies.  It is a skill that he still finds useful.  These days he teaches grooming to the junior members of the local pony club.

 It sounded as if the boys were always working with cattle.  Malcolm mentioned that he did play a bit of tennis.  And there could be other sports.

 One afternoon the team had been moving stock on the Mangorei farm.  They had driven up by car and taken the dogs with them.  Squeezed into the Austin 12.  When it was time to go home the dogs were rather dirty.  They had been for a swim in the river and then rolled in all the smelly materials that they could find.  It was decided that all the dogs should walk home.

 The Austin 12 was driven along slowly and the dogs loped alongside.  Somebody wondered how fast the dogs could run.  Fifteen miles per hour the dogs had no trouble.  At 20 mph they all started to run, Twenty-five miles per hour and their tongues were hanging out.  They were still keeping up.  At 25 mph somebody wondered if they could touch thirty?  Before the speedometer needle went up to this figure the Austin 12 went past the speed limit sign.

 Dick slowed down.  He said that he did not want to be given a ticket for running farm dogs down the main street in breach of the speed limit.


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