The day farming fired me

I have absolutely no qualms in declaring my huge and selfless contribution to the agricultural industry in New Zealand. It’s the stuff of New Year Honours.

And I did it simply by staying away from anything that involved, dirt, animals, crops, gumboots, tractors, hay bales, farm fences and gates, irrigation ditches, offal pits and viyella shirts for much of my life.

No, farms and I were not meant to be. And for that, the industry should be grateful.

The signs were there when, as a teenager on my first RE (rural experience), I did a tight u-turn on a Massey Ferguson while tedding a field of lucerne and got dreadfully tangled. I tore down a chain of new fencing. Taut number 8 wire makes a distinctive, expensive and quite melodic “sproing” sound when it snaps. It also makes farmers very unhappy.

I also learned on that first farm experience not to be deceived by flash culinary names like sweetbreads. They’re glands, and it doesn’t matter if they’re disguised in panko breadcrumbs for lunch, they’re still just glands, offal. Thymus in the throat or pancreas near the stomach. The farmer called it fine dining. I left my ‘fine dining’ in a steaming, regurgitated pool on the driveway. Some things aren’t meant to be eaten.

I was given a brand new .22 rifle to scare off some magpies that were swooping on the chooks and scaring them off laying. I set an ambush by the chookhouse and winged a maggie. To administer the coup de grace I whacked it with the butt of the rifle, hit something hard in the ground and broke the weapon in two. Add it to the bill.

I was also there when ‘farmer’ collared a ropey old hogget for some home kill. I had never witnessed the messy process of putting meat on the table. With a ‘rollie’ in one corner of his mouth and talking weather out the other corner, he calmly dispatched the sheep by severing the carotid artery and jugular vein with one swift, masterful stroke. Then twisting it’s head to break the neck.

I can distinctly remember a “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” type fountain of blood just before I hit the floor and passed out.

A couple of days later the farmer took me into Ashburton and put me on the train home. He obviously thought it was worth a morning’s work just to get me off his property and out of his life. You did us both a favour Hamish.



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