For the last couple of years Janet Pates, winner of the National Flash Fiction Day competition in 2012 has been working on her memoir between other writing projects; a children’s novel and various local history articles. She has made a resolution to finish her memoir in the next twelve months.
When I was a year old (1936) my parents took up a 21-year lease on a property in Te Kohanga and built a rudimentary dwelling. It hardly qualified as a farm, being largely gorse covered and milking only fifteen cows. To keep the family Dad worked as a drover, at the same time establishing the farm with hours of backbreaking manual work as was normal in those days.
The property was situated on the side of what I now know as ‘Puke O Tahinga’ the highest point of the hills between Onewhero and Port Waikato. We called it simply, ‘our hill.’ The summit of the hill belonged to the Hira family but we roamed it on foot and on our ponies and likewise, old Jack Hira and other horsemen used our farm as a short cut through to Te Kohanga.
The upper slopes of the hill were bush covered and we commonly explored and picnicked there, especially if we had visitors to entertain. Early on, we were educated about things that were edible and those which were poisonous. Everything edible, we ate, simply because we could.
There were blackberries in season but also less conventional treats like chewing gum, made from the well chewed resin of pine trees - mouth puckering stuff and I wonder now, why we chewed it as it was far from pleasant. The nub at the base of the thistle flower had a nutty taste. In the bush, our favourite treat was the taraire berry, a layer of purple flesh over a large stone. They were an acquired taste, sweet, but resinous.
One year the son of city friends had been unwell and came to holiday on the farm. He was aged, I guess about nine, my sister Doreen and I a little older. Naturally, we took him riding and introduced him to the bush. Ripe taraire berries were not plentiful at the time but in the interests of hospitality we offered him the few we found. He pronounced them utterly disgusting.
Later, we got our revenge when Dad handed him a banana passion fruit from the vine that grew near the cowshed. Dad asked the lad if he knew what it was. He held the elongated, soft and golden fruit in his hand, considered it, squeezed it then said, “Well, it might be a cow’s egg.” Doreen and I fell about laughing with cruel hilarity.
Kathryn has attended Gifting Your Stories courses taught by Grant Hindin-Miller at the Centre for Continuing Education at Canterbury University. This story was written at one of his sessions.
Some years ago my sister and I chanced to hear of a gypsy woman who claimed to be clairvoyant. We just had to visit. The house was an ordinary bungalow almost obliterated by trees, bushes and rampant climbers.
'Oh no,' I said, 'I think we should go home. Too scary Pam.'
Pam looked at me in disbelief, 'Where is your sense of adventure?'
The gypsy was tiny. The room was gloomy, lit by candles. A black cat sat in a corner and glared at us. Its eyes were green and malevolent. Adorned with bangles the gypsy’s appearance was heralded by a jangling, rhythm synergistic with the chattering of my own teeth.
I was about to bolt but Pam was clutching my poor arm. The gypsy spoke accurately of many things that had happened in my life.
'On your front porch, ' she croaked, 'You have a purple stand and resting on it is a pot plant with purple under-leaves.' Now I was a believer.
Finally it was Pam's turn and once again the gypsy mentioned family events.
‘You my dear are about to receive a gift of a brown paper bag with two cauliflowers.'
Pam laughed when we reached the car and promptly dismissed the gypsy's odd prophecy.
The following weekend there was a knock on Pam’s door. Her sister-in-law Jan, on her way back from her mother's home in Huntly, was standing there bearing a brown paper bag. Inside was one cauliflower.
Stunned, Pam spluttered, 'And where is the other one?’
Jan, looking uncomfortable replied, 'I didn't think you could use two so I dropped the other one at my place on the way.'
How on earth did she know?
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