Thursday, July 05, 2007

The Run (11)

Previous Chapter

In 2005 David Paton, good friend, mentor, example, and inspiration died after experiencing an aggressive cancer. I flew to New Zealand to attend his funeral. On the flight back I started writing some notes that were intended to capture something of what David meant to me. Taking a deep breath I thought I would share them more widely here on this blog. They are less coherent than I would like but they tell a story of what a difference one life, honestly lived, can make to those around them. These notes are offered up in 15 chapters which I will post out over the next few weeks. And in order that you can put a face to a name, here he is, on the Stewart Island ferry, catching some "zeds". Or "zees" depending on what part of the world you hail from.

The Run was a wild place. Probably still is. Country like it has become well known around the world thanks to The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Despite what I recount above, my most precarious driving experiences were up on that place with David edging his truck over steep edges with no view over the bonnet of the descent or the destination. Here were wild horses which we occasionally went up to shoot for “dog tucker”. David’s favourite rifle was a .22Hornet – a .22 on steroids. I watched him one day, truck still rolling, open the door, and with rifle poised, vehicle moving, fire a round over a distance of about 50 yards at a running horse. To bring a horse down with a .22 is quite something and only a shot that reaches the brain will do it.
The round entered the head just below and behind the ear and I watched with amazement as the animal slowly folded up and collapsed to the ground. David had put the round where he wanted, and expected to and was matter of fact and businesslike in his response to our applause. His dogs were another matter. They leapt off the back in a cacophony of barks and yelps and raced to the horse, know that that quartering and butchering was going to yield titbits. And so it did although an enduring image of that poor animal was to discover how riddled with parasites it was. We pulled open intestines to observe closely packed worms and carefully examined its stomach to discover other parasites clinging to the stomach walls. David was always intrigued with the internal workings of an animal, and offal seemed to have special fascination. Not morbid but forensic. We dissected and poked and probed and found all sorts of interesting things in a kill.

Up on “The Run” – scoping with the Hornet for pigs. I was always intrigued by the dogs which always knew to look in the direction David pointed his rifle.

One memorable kill was my first slaughtering of a sheep. Two in fact. Appropriately it happened at David’s. Although I had seen countless numbers killed and dressed for our table I had a lot of theory and no practise. David took Steve, his brother Ken, and I down to the woolshed where he had three rams held in a pen. Standing there quietly in the dim, dusty light of the place, backing up together against the far wall and watching us warily. We had no idea what was coming next. But I always reckon the sheep knew what was coming - there is another truth in the words “As a sheep stands before its slaughterer is dumb”. They stand there in silence but they know what is up. David pulled a knife from somewhere, handed it to me and declared that he wanted these things not simply killed but dressed and it all to be done by the time he got back from town. Then he walked out. We talked about the theory for maybe fifteen minutes or so – the best way to cut, the need to break the neck at the same time, and so on. All along plucking up the courage to do the deed. Eventually I entered the pen, drafted one of the rams into a neighbouring pen, tucked him between my knees and started sawing. Steve did the same. Poor Ken, he started but at the first spray of blood, dropped the knife and said he could not go through with it. If you have ever seen this sort of thing done you will understand the dramatic and copious expression of blood that comes from the jugular. With a nicked artery, blood was spraying all over the place and I had to jump in and finish the throat cutting as quickly as possible. Dressed and hanging, David’s only quip when he saw our efforts was that it was a shame one of them was hamstrung!! But that was always David’s teaching style - that he would show us once, or understand that we had seen how a thing was to be done, perhaps seen somewhere else, so he would trust us with the job without any further instruction. We did not always get the task right but there is real potency in that trust. He was a clever trainer and sharp psychologist in that regard.

Next Chapter

No comments: