MY DAD

I remember a beautiful gentle man who never once hit us as children, my memories of you, was taking us to the beach at the 'Rifle Range and carrying one of us on your back to go get pipis, we had to go past where the soldiers were practising shooting targets on the Rifle Range and us kids picking up the spent bullets all the way to the beach. When we gt to the beach we would get some pipis and look for firewood to make a fire and cook our lunch. You said we had to stay there the rest of the day until the soldiers finished their target practise before we could leave the beach. We had an old roof tin that we would put on a couple of stones over the fire and throw our pipis on to cook, back then there was millions of pipis at the beach and most were inshore of the ocean. We'd have a big kai and rest before setting off home with us kids all carrying our kits of pipis and on the way home we would collect the spent bullets on the Rifle Range and head off home with was then a half mile away. I can remember the springtime when we would all go down to the drain and get eels and whitebait for our tea or out at Karikari with the kerosene "rama" to catch flounder at night. I remember one night as we were walking past Karikari point near Titiko Lodge, the night was pitch black, warm and very calm, and the light went out for no reason, it was the first time I had seen you rattled and frightened, you never did explain why until many years had passed that, that was where you used to hear voices of lots of people talking Maori of ghosts of the past that seemed real to you, I can still remember you telling Mum, Hiri and myself at Karikari those stories. I remember when you had to milk cows at Waikite Road in Welcome Bay and us living at Maungarangi below Otawa Hill I had just left the primmer class it was a time just after WW2 when we we lived soley on rabbit meat, stewed, fried or roasted rabbit that you caught and bought home for our kai I didnt know then we had to because of the war we had to live on rations but you kept us fed. On the weekends you would take us to Mangatawa to get our kumara and potato gardens ready where Newa;s house stood, we would be planting and weeding and stay the 3 nights in Uncle Tommys house. You'd get up early in the morning and get the draught horses Rabbit, Duke Darkie and Hula ready, hitch up the sled and off we'd go down the hill to our garden, at those times we'd always take our kai which included rewena or fried bread I dont remember us ever haing pakeha bread then. Then you would go off to catch eels and get titiko while we would go and pick peaches, plums and blackberries for mum to make jam then off home to Maungarangi, where we stayed 3 years till you finished milking. during the dry cow times we'd come back to Mangatawa and stay. In between we would go to church or choir practice at all times before we left the house you'd make us all have church no matter what. I remember one evening at Maungarangi you and mum went over to the Milroy neighbours for a party, I was the only one awake when you cam home with a large split in your face like someone had taken an axe to you I could see the large opening from the middle of your forehead down youe nose to the right cheek it was awful, mum tried to block me from seeing that, I asked what happened and mum said you were hit by a truck backing into you (probably a drunkard) I knew that was the only answer I was going to get. I can still recall that every January we would get ready for the pa, my job was to help carry our luggage to the train at Te Maunga to go to Frankton to catch the trains heading to Turakina, it was always afternoon and you would go and look for seats for the seven of us and Id quickly dump the pillows and blankets on the seats so no one else would take them at the time trains were the only transport we had besides the horse and sledge. As soon as the train neared Taihape you were up and off towards the door to get our kai at the Taihape train station, it was always night and we travelled this way for years. At Turakina we caught the bus to Ratana and stayed with Uncle Toi and Aunty Ngawai at the pa. Following you around at the pa you'd explain everything, the "lights" near the Temple, the Manuao, Rangimarie Whare, Whare Maori etc I had endless questions and you never got tired of answering them. You used to tell me that the Ratana photo we had at home the pink one, I always talked .and laughed to it and mum and you used to look askance at me. I remember when you took me eeling with mum near Mangatawa bridge which was our swimming hole back then, I was wearing my black undies and some Maunagatapu boys stopped to look down at us in the water, you had just found a huge eel and asked me to bring you the spear, I didnt want to stand up out of the water because of those boys might see my underwear so I threw you the spear which went through your ankle and you yelled at me and I wanted to cry, mum went beserk but you didnt hit me instead your anger was enough, when we got home I cried buckets till you spoke to me again.