I can’t sleep, I get up and look outside, it’s a beautiful starry night. All is well.
My mind, for the last hour has been racing with a new story.
It is rabbits, rabbits, & more rabbits, which have been a big chunk of my life, and I still live amongst them.
In 1932, when I was born, after Mary my two years older sister, dad bought an acre and a half of land in a gully at 46 Corstorphine Rd, Caversham, Dunedin, NZ. and had built a lovely brick bungalow thereon.
What a lovely thing for a boys dad to do, and this was the start of an interesting life for me.
My mother, ( amazing, vibrant and all ) was of basically English stock, whereas my
dad Irish and , near the twain will meet so, after a few good years, and more babies,
mum pushed dad out of the nest. She managed to influence all the rest against hm
As I hadn’t thrived on cows milk, dad was intelligent enough to buy goats on whose
milk I did wel
Dad had recently bought some
One day, when I guess they were having one of their rows, thunder and lightening
arose and, as the goats had just been shorn, dad rushed out to put them under
I would have been about three or four, when mum sadly used the occasion to say to
us all, “are you with him or me?”. The two girls, Mary and Virginia by then, rushed up
to her skirts like chickens to the hen, but I just stood there thinking, my dad wasn’t a
bad man and was good to me, just these two people didn’t get on so, not my
problem. I couldn’t disown him so walked over to the corner and stood there. One of
the biggest decisions of my life, which also started my lifelong philosophy of always
looking at both sides. ( The best example of this was back in the seventies, as the then current North Otago Meat & Wool President, among many other actions, and during the time of big disruptions in the freezing industry,I set up monthly meetings at NZ Refrig. at Pukarui between industry workers, management and farmers, bash their heads together, and make them talk to each other. I’ve often been called, “The greenie with dirty hands” and guess was good at this because I had been in all facets of the industry including starting wit a knife i my hands, being a director of an attempt to build a corporative works in Otago, and, eventually growing the sheep. The accolades for this, as well as ORGANIC FARMING only came after I left the industry. ) I believed I understood both of my parents and wouldn’t take sides.
I have often been told “I have been born an old soul”, I believe It’s my massive
reading, almost from the cot. I also realised, later in life, that I am a survivor.
Though I always admired mum I had never been close to her (I think my maleness
for her alined me with my father,) she favoured girls. This rejection also encouraged
a lot of naughtiness in me I guess. An aside, as is in my book. My mum and me,
(takes two) made friends when I was 53. I call it the biggest achievement of my life.
Dad, having his own hairdressing business, had been a NZ champion cycle rider,
gregarious, and people liked him a lot. He had the contract at The Public Hospital
and mostly would leave home at five in the morning to get his work done before nine am
and the doctors rounds. I On Friday nights at about ten yrs. old I worked for dad out front taking the money and selling cigarettes, sweeping the floor etc. I also worked with him in the hospital.
I well remember how upset he was on a certain morning of the week when he would shave the heads of patents from Sea Cliff Mental Hospital in preparation for a lobotomy. He hated doing it but knew the mess a nurse would make of it with a safety razor. I also remember the consequent stitched around scalps the next day. ( Shades of Janet Frame ) Scary for a ten yrs. boy.
He would then open his shop across the road on the corner of Cumberland and Fredrick
Sts. for the day.
On a Sunday he would arrive home at around ten in the morning after work, and lie
down on my bed in the sunroom for a rest.
I would snuggle in behind his back and well remember his male smells and
After the early start and a big week, still mum would harangue him to get up and
work around the place. Unfair I felt.
Otherwise our mum was an amazing woman, a talented seamstress, making all of
our clothes,, a great organic gardener, and with our help grew all our veggies and
most of our food but never reaching her potential, marrying so young and
proceeding to have five children. She was very intelligent and could have mastered
anything outside the home.
I have a comment on that. “ Alma my mum, should have married someone like
Gengus Kan, and The Steppes would have been covered in blood “ am proud of that
amazing woman, and am grateful to to have those two opposite genes in my veins
So it was easy to bond with Tom My Lovely Dad.He loved guns, you name it and
we had it, among them many mussel loading muskets, for which we melted lead
down (which I mined for him in the adjacent tip in the slag from the foundry ), and
even made our own gunpowder (saltpetre and sulphur I think ) During WW2 during
the threat of the Japanese invasion he had them buried ( to protect his women !!!!!! ) and I was the only other person who knew the spot
Most of us homo sapiens origins have roots in the land, dad no exception, and
underneath we hanker to somehow get back there. hence our family’s now three
acres, goats, a cow, and horses. Later in life he got involved with draft horses and
worked his other bits of land with them.
So, back to our early bonding.His transport was a tiny James two stroke motor bike
and as soon as I was able to hang on the back, with rifle on his back and fishing rod
tied on, he took me took me every which way in the countryside and sea, shooting
rabbits , birds and fishing. See my website,<semiarid agriculture.com> “ The Pond “
Wether it was rabbit shooting, or ducks, at Green Island, but our main playground
was The Otago Peninsular. Dad’s first job was “ the boy “ in Harry Paul’s bike shop
across the road from The Tram Sheds in town. Harry sponsored dads bike
racing.Harry had a crib on the harbour side at Harwood’s where I still hold some of
the best memories of my life, fishing with a circle net out the front of the crib.
a dingy with a net piled on the back, would be rowed off shore, then a circle was created, then joined into a small pond, it was just a maelstrom of all kinds of threshing fish. Today you may see one flounder !
Also, at night in a tiny dingy’ with a glass bottom box in the water or wading with an
old carbide light, spearing flatties.
Or over the hill on the ocean side at Puddingstone Rock while rod fishing for green
bone and blue cod, and as many a man had been washed of this dangerous flat
shelf, dad would lash this little guy to a rock on the cliff face by rope. Exciting life for,
I guess a six yr. old !
Shooting rabbits was dad’s other bent “ Down The Bay “ Guns were not my thing, but
loved to creep behind dad, not daring to stand on a twig.
Already I had done a lot of reading and knew I didn’t want to be “work fodder
“ for the few, and would work towards owning my own business.
So, at seven I started on a paper run earning six shillings a week, but had to give
mum three for board. This was accepted esp. as dad was gone from the house by
then and mum needed the money.
The next year I changed to a milk run, seven mornings a week, up at five, late for
school getting the strap, getting fifteen shillings a week, ten for mum. In the winter
out in the frost handling steel cans I got a pound a week, mum letting me have the
At about six our beautiful Auntie Vall, mum’s younger sister, a matron at Queen Mary
Maternity Hospital. whom we loved, started us all with a Post Office Saving’s Book in
which I started to save about half of my income though still buying my own bike, tent,
and home made canoe etc.
My business life was on the way.
At eight, dad bought me two ferrets, female and male, which really started my
business adventures RABBITS, HERE COME.
I both bred the ferrets selling for fifteen shillings all over Central Otago, but more
importantly ferreting within thirty miles around Dunedin. Mostly again “ Down The
Early morning Sundays with “Minnie” a favourite female ferret in a tiny box slung on
my back, nets stowed I would bike up to twenty miles down as far as Harrington
Point ( Albatross country ) ferret all day ( I made my nets with a draw string attached
to a steel peg. The net would cover a likely hole with the peg rammed in above.
There might be around ten holes all covered. After a few welcome pats Minnie would
be sent into one of the holes and she would got to work. You would wait a few
minutes and there would be a loud rumble below. and out into the net would rush a
RABBITS AND ME !4
boney rabbit . So. boot firmly into hole to stop the next one, kicking rabbit out of net,
neck stretched and net replaced. Wow, another one from a different hole, must move
The reason for using a “Minnie “ was the much larger male could kill a
rabbit in there and go to sleep for an afternoon nap which would spoil the day in
With dusk pending, its up sticks, just gut rabbits, tie onto handle bars ,and cycle all
the way home to the South side of Dunedin, hoping for a tail wind.
Home, skin and dress the catch, fat and wire the skins hanging to dry on fence and
In the morning it was bike with the box of carcases on the back, to Johnston’s fish
shop on the other side of Dunedin on George St, Nr. Fredrick St. to sell them, can’t
remember for how much, was it nine pence ea. ?? Would sell the skins when dry.
My dad’s love and coaching had done me well.
Later I had many adventures while often “poaching”rabbits Once while poaching on” Mt
Charles “ the notorious owners, The Clearwater’s commenced to shoot at me from a
distance. The skins were worth a bit then, so this was not uncommon.
If it was a bit far to bike, I would hop on a train, sometime South, where I got off at
Milburn. Siting a dry rabbi tie hillside inland just South of the old phosphate building, I
hightailed up there and was doing well when the irate farmer strode over and
evicted me in a most impolite manner.
Another time I was on the train North to Pukertaki the station before Karatane where I had
put Minnie in her box inside a box seat where the top lifted up. Then Lo ! a big fat
woman got on and, would you believe, sat on offending seat. Minnie would sleep
most of the day when not working but, “the big fat lady somehow woke her and, as is
their wont, Minnie started scratching. Well, said lady got in a hell of a state then,
fearing the devil I guess, luckily without investigating rushed to another cabin, never
to be seen again, Fearing a a visit from the guard, I put Minnie inside my shirt but no
guard. ( I do get looked after !)
RABBITS AND ME !5
I hated school, and after intermediate I found Taieri High School at Mosgiel , a
supposed farming course, which was worse, and a waste of time. I would wag every
second day and go ferreting but was still second top in the class. That’s how easy
and stupid it all was
I was fourteen by now so on November 26th 1946 answered an add in The Star for a
rousey in a woodshed on Traquair Stn above The Taieri Plain.
Duly I walked down the road from home with my little case and caught the bus out to
Woodside jumping off at this big old two storied house.
Now, to go back a bit, at high school the boys were all proudly wearing long
pants and smoking l said to a then friend Ernie Prattley ( died several years later
after his wedding in a car crash driving to the reception near Invercargill ) “These
kids think they are great smoking, I started at seven, ( Dad never paid me, so on a
Friday night after work, I would steal a packet of faggs and sixpence and while biking
home to the other side of town I would buy a pie and a Boston bun ) so let’s knock
of, and we don’t need to wear long pants to make out we are grown up, let’s stay
with shorts” We did and I have never smoked since, but back to Woodside !
I strode up to the front door knocking to meet grumpy old Bill Reid who when he saw
this little boy in SHORT PANTS rushed to the phone to ring the Wright Stephenson’s
agent , who gave me the job, to try and get rid of me. The agent was a good guy and
I could tell he was saying, “give him a go I think he may be ok. Bill let me in and
gave me a so romantic garret room at the top of the house looking over The Taeri
Plain. THE BEGINNING OF A FARMING LIFE. Short pants had nearly undone me,
the power of the visual !
Next morning Old Bill drove me up the Mungatua Mountain to “Traquir Stn “ where
the shearing was in full swing.
I was immediately thrown in the deep end and to Old Bills surprise, picked up and
rolled for the four not so fast shearers, even helping the pressor at times. Forget
names but Pat Roughan and Kovoloski were two. At smoko the shearers, who
weren’t very keen on Old Bill’ bullied me into stirring a dag into his tea which he
drank. The musters, his sons Ron, Ken and Archie also dribbled in to the shed after
the morning muster. I was in my element until Old Bill, my best friend by now, said in
RABBITS AND ME !6
front of all these hardened farming types, “ this boy will own his own farm one day” I
could have crawled under a bale that smoko, but he was right ay.
the boys tried to get back at Old Bill’s protege and as I had never seen a beer drunk
before they held me down on the woodshed floor and as I wouldn’t open my mouth
poured the evil smelling stuff all over me.I was forgiven when in the evenings I
would walk with them down the hill to The Lee Stream Hotel, sit on a barrel in the corner
and watch in wonder as these hearty lads proceeded to get quite drunk, then bodily
support and help them back up the hill to the digs
I was a cocky little bugger and remember leaving some of the food the woman cook who
came from just down the road from home served up. She played merry hell with that,
and as I didn’t respect her anyway I said “ I was working for four pounds and
seventeen shillings plus full board a week and could please myself how much of that
I eat “ She left me alone then as too much trouble!
I have too many stories to tell but, we must get back to rabbits as this is what this
story ( a big part of my life ) is about.
First a little story plagiarised from my part written book and website.
THE PONEY RIDE
About the second evening at “ Traquir “I asked the loan of a horse. Expecting to see
this little townie tossed off, they humoured me and lent me one, a lovely, spunky
I jumped on, turned her head to the mountain and away. We rode and rode up that
mountain slope till (as Banjo Patterson would say) “her sides where white as snow”.
I knew it was wrong to push a borrowed horse like that, but she didn’t want to stop.
So I reigned her in and, while she nuzzled me, sat in the snow tussocks in an
absolute dream,’ in love with this world
RABBITS AND ME !7
This turned out to be one of the most important moments in my life. The horse,
sheep, wind in the tussocks, smells of the earth, rocky outcrops, the view past the
mountain to the plains, and the distant sea. THIS WAS TO BE MY LIFE. I had
worked out what I wanted to be. A Mountain Man, a man of the earth.
After my success at “Traquir “ I was sent on to the much bigger “ Rocklands Stn
where there were twelve shearers and I won’t repeat the exciting times there as is in
my book, except that the older rouseys talked about their supposed exploits with
girls, which I knew nothing about, how exciting. Needing more to do on nights and wet sheep days, I hitched a ride back home to Dunedin, on Brensel’s wool truck and
collected two ferrets and decided to bike back all the way to Rocklands. I was lucky
to stop Brensil’s truck as I started up the mountain and hitch another ride. The
Brensils are a great family.(Rodney Brensel was one of the musteres and when
another musterer McDonald, tried to bully this fourteen yr old, Roddey would protect
me. ( Several yrs later after a successful career amateur boxing, I was back at
Rocklands shearing the rams and while having a quiet drink out at The Clarks Jun.
Pub who walks in but McDonald, who I believe had since got onto his own farm. I
accidentally had two pairs of boxing gloves in my car, so asked Mc. outside and gave
him a thrashing. ) So, nights and wet sheep days I spent fruitful hours catching more
rabbits and keeping the skins.
Home after two exciting months of this, I proceeded to connive a wicked plan against
my mother’s expectations for me.
I hated school, and after intermediate I found Taieri High School at Mosgiel , a
supposed farming course which was worse. I would wag every second day and go
ferreting but was still second top in the class. That’s how easy and stupid it was.
At fourteen by then I devised a plan to get out of this childish cage.
Having learnt wool classing at school, the year before this, I had entered The Winter
Show in Dunedin and to my surprise won the open class. At last I had caught the ear
of my strict mother, I proved I could do something.and I would put this to my
advantage. I researched jobs and found I could get an apprenticeship for wool and
skin classing at this wool store so I told mum “ I want to be a wool classer “ After some
deliberation, and if I could nail the job, she relented, and I escaped “ the cage “ @
RABBITS AND ME !8
Whilst waiting to get into wool I took a temporary job at Burnside Freezing Works
and to my mother’s distain received Four four pounds seventeen shillings a week.
She said, “that much money would ruin me “
I duly visited Fairburn & Co, talked to Russell Fairburn, the son in the business and
in January of 1947 he took me on @ Two pounds and a penny a week. Mother was
happy now as, after taking thirty shillings for board, there not enough to spoil me!
Now, this all was just a ploy to escape “the cage .“ ( Ishmael by Daniel Quinn. “Homo Sapien in a cage, but can’t see the bars” !! ) I knew I was destined for more.
I had read more books than all the teachers put together. By age twelve I had red all the classic Russian authors including “War & Peace, Huxley, Orwell, Bertrand Russell Kafka, Stienbeck etc etc,and in a way was highly
educated, and then they told me at what they called “school” that “two & two was
four !!!!” ( Pink Floyd “ Another brick in the Wall ) That track meant so much to me
when I first heard it whilst climbing in The Lakes District in England in 1974, and was taken thru it by my friend’s son Thomas.
I still play it, so educational
Now, I must say, at this stage and must point out I am not against education, in fact the complete opposite. As I oft say, “the day I left school @ still fourteen, was the day I started school, and have been going ever since, it is my life and I love it, and I don’t discourage others to partake thereof , as most people need the little piece of paper, to get a JOB.
I did well with the wool and went on learning rabbit and possum skin classing at
Irvine & Co. in Willis St. down by the wharf. Within six months in the summer off season, I was given the job out front buying wool and skins.
Another pleasant job was following Russell once a month around the skin auction
buildings where he would assertion the value of skins at auction, and I would deal
with the mess behind him.
I am now sixteen, I think I am old enough to define my own destiny. It’s time to
escape from the confines of the city. (another cage )
By now I owned a 1932 side valve Ariel motor bike, so I hightailed up to Patearoa on
The Manatoto Plain, getting a job on up at The Styx rabbiting on “Squeaky” Smith’s
“Loganburn Farm” then went on to rouseing for shearing on John and Margaret Aitken’s farm next door.
When the shearing run finished at The Styx, I got a job on the recently formed Rabbit
Board on Charley Hore’s Stoneburn Stn.
I joined an experienced rabbiter Jim Stuart from Ida Valley. We lived (wintered) in two
tiny unlined army huts, on the banks of The Linburn Stream which ran, through the
RABBITS AND ME !9
boundary fence on Linburn Stn. can’t remember how we cooked ! ( Ref : Website
<semiaridagriculture.com> “ The Hut “
Jim, older than me was a bit dour, but good to learn from and we got on pretty well.
I owned the ideal horse, a short legged pony draft cross and the classic army saddle.
We were poisoning with carrots all by hand (no planes those days ) We would make
saddle bags by sewing two sacks together and throw them over the saddle, fill up
with carrots then while walking along a previously ploughed line to attract the rabbits,
cutting carrots. This would be done twice and the third time The strychnine was
So, that winter Jim and I poisoned, skinned and wired 43,000 rabbits.
I was unlucky enough to miss the halcean days when people like my uncle Tim
Butcher, (mum’s brother back from the war) bought their farms through rabbiting, his
That year The Boards had just been formed so we kept the skins for sale, but I think
by the next year The Govt. devalued rabbits and you couldn’t sell any of it. The idea
was, as many actually farmed the rabbit as more profitable than sheep, there would
be more incentive to try and eradicate them, which was the aim back then, to no
avail up until this day.
So, I had to find other ways to get into my own business as, I had always vowed not
to end up “ Work Fodder’.
This was a good time in my life. I played rugby for The Patearora Juniors, in fact was
the captain at one stage. I would bike out to the main road, meet Tony and Peter
O’Malley, plus Brian Mulholland in their flash modern 1938 Nash and whip off to play
all over the Maniatoto, After the game, Tony and I would have our ritual friendly fight,
taking turns to win,then a few beers, and off to wherever the local dance was.
Then I worked for Jim Patterson on “Red bank “ at Gimmerburn who became one of
RABBITS AND ME !10
I had just finished a stint shearing at Wanaka for Arthur Scafe and others. Calling
into Wright Stephenson’s in Ranfurly on the way home looking for a job I was sent
out to Jim Patterson’s “Redbank “ property at Gimmerburn. Jim, in bed with a back
problem, grinned up at me and “ have you done any lambing “ : No I said, but would
like to try “ “ Well I have bought 500 Tekapo merino ewes and put a Lincolin ram over
them, would you like to have a go at lambing them “ As usual, I jumped in and said “
Yes please “
He lent me an old dog and a Super Snipe car for a horse! and said “ Set too “
If you know anything about sheep!! Fine Merino is a relatively light animal, whereas
The Lincoln is massive, so most of the ewes had to be assisted at birth. A big job, but
I seemed to manage. Consequently we were friends till he died, too young, in fact he
became one of my mentors.
Several years later, while working in the area I heard the locals were to have a rabbit
drive on Jim’s place. ( Where many people walk in a line beating bushes and yelling
to drive most of the rabbits into a netting pen to have their necks wrung.They would
have just buried the carcasses, but I said if I could skin them I would pay them
something to the Hall Committee. I did this and when back in Dunedin I sent a PO
money oder to The Committee. Years later while talking to Jim he said they didn’t
receive the money and I felt he didn’t believe I sent it. Sad for me.
( Another rabbit story ) We had a party on property at one of the rugby boys farm in
Gimmerburn and, ran out of beer. The hat went round and came to Frank Hore. He
put his hand deep down into his pocket and couldn’t find any money. This was the
time of the 1952 massive wool spike due to the Korean war He had just bought
“Nokami Stn” and it was rumoured he paid for it with his first wool cheque.
( The next foray) Now we are in the fifties I got a rabbiting block on Len & Marie
Dillon’s big farm at Clarendon Nr. Milton, St Otago. Len was from Blackstone Hill in
The Ida Valley up central, while Marie was a town girl from Dunedin, like me.
I must have been eighteen.
The block ran from Lake Waihola up to and thru the main highway, then right up to
the top and over to meet up withThe Akaroa Block which I possumed the next
winter. I rabbited the farm by foot plus with the aid of a lovely borrowed horse
called Lofty with three hundred and fifty traps.
This was the time of the famous 1952 wharf strike and as Len was very right wing, we
had lots of arguments, me sticking up for the wharfie, him for the government and
farmers. Lovely Marie would often stick up for this stroppy little boy as she was a lot
more rational than the loud ebullient Len and would see both sides.
RABBITS AND ME !11
They lived in the grand old stone house off the main Rd. and I the very decrepit old
house way down by The Lake : Website : “ The House by the Lake “
So, I would arise at five, walk Lofty with my 350 traps aboard, up the little farm road
and around to the main road to the bottom of the hill and set them.. Next morning I
would release and dispatch the rabbits, mostly beating the hawks, then gather on
the way back to the main Rd, skin and box around one hundred carcases in time to
get them onto the 9-30 bus to have them into Dunedin to the same Johnston’s Fish
Shop by 10-30 for sale.
Back to the whare buying some fresh milk from Charlie Andrew’s little farm on the
way, breakfast of rice and sultanas boiled in said milk the night before and left to soak.
Then, back up the hill resetting half the traps and newly setting the other half.
After lunch, it was, fatting and wiring skins and on the fence to dry.
On the way to the traps just up before my little road joined onto the highway, next to
the railway line a lovely young damsel , Linda Bichan, would be waiting for a ride to
her job in Milton. Unbeknown to her, I decided I was in love with her, too shy to show.
She married a good friend of The Dillon’s, Peter Macdonald who, with his
brother farmed up The Waihola Taieri Mouth Road. I would meet the two couples at
times as they were leaving for the races.. Some time later Peter rolled his truck on
the steep farm and died. Linda later remarried The Draper in Milton.
I did quite well there, my only time off, after resetting was, on Saturday afternoon I
would hightail it to town, and at about seven, meet my mates at The Rugby Pub,
then well before midnight, while my mates would stay drinking, I would hightail it of to
The Town Hall Dance hoping to meet a nice young lady. The boys would often arrive
about 11-45, too late ay.
One night I left the pub a bit later, driving down Carrol St. in my little Fordson truck,
with a full cab and a couple of the boys on the back. Down on the main street where
crossing I got hit on the side by another car, overturning me. I was on the bottom
under two burley lads, but worse a friend of the lads was thrown off the back and hit
his head on a power pole. I was carted of to spend my first ( and last ) night in jail
Dad could have got me out but wisely left me there to teach me a lesson. But it was
RABBITS AND ME !12
Maurice I was worried about as he could have died or at least sued me ( he was a
law student as well, who became one of Dunedin’s prominent lawyers. ) The Lord
looked after me AGAIN and Maurice was ok after a short time in hospital !
About this time I was back in town butchering at Burnside Freezing Works. The job, learning to use a knife was interesting, but the company, not so good, but it was the only good money at the time and my mind was on owning my own business. Then I was also very involved in boxing with a lovely trainer Harold Kindly who more taught us to dance and not get hit. He did me proud and the first two or three fights I won by knockouts,, which made it hard to get a fight, as a welterweight, so I had to go up to middleweight. So, it got harder, I won some and lost some consequently getting knocked about a bit. Two things here, I was also learning ballroom dancing and would go from training to the ball room. I had just returned from a particularly hard fight in Gore against the current Southland Middle weight champ. I lost, to the chagrin of my supporters. I was ok about that but regretted the loss of the large shiny silver sailing ship trophy!
The next evening I duly presented for my dancing lessons with not one, but two black eyes to the amazement but also delight of my attractive teacher who I fancied, the attraction was partly her great age, looking back about thirty five I guess !!! and guess her name, yes “ Mrs Robinson “ !!! She loved to tease me about my varied interests as we danced around her husband with another partner!
Secondly, that week I had to fly to Havelock in The Sounds to look at a fishing boat for sale. Dressed in my business clothes now I arrived in the evening at The Havelock Hotel to a gaggle of fisher types and again, the TWO black eyes caused great suppressed delight. They were too polite to ask, esp. as I was to have the money in my pocket. Many free beers I imbibed to no avail. I told the owner the next day.
Back in Dunedin and The freezer, and I was matched to box a Graham Brosnan in The Town Hall as a prelim to a big professional fight. Now there were just two Brosnan families in Dunedin. The hairdresser and his, were grocers. Graham had just left St Pauls College where he was the supreme champion never beaten.
At The Works one or two especially a Peter Graham who didn’t like me goaded me for days, saying this younger man would wipe the floor with me, ( only fight I wanted to win ) Well, this cocky lad came at me like a tornado, so I quietly fought him on the back move. I got thru one round, then he tore out again and I waited until he tired. Cocky enough he would win he gradually dropped his guard. I waited and hit him with a decent right. He went down like a log, and his seconds had to carry him out. I went out back to see him but he was still out ( Now most amateur fights aren’t like that, I blame the animosity at The Works and egging him on ) There were some subdued people next day at work. Straying again from rabbits, I spent a winter possuming on a five thousand acre block at
Akatoa, Taieri Mouth.( Again, I had been living in an even more lonely derelict house
right in the native bush while possuming I was a sitting duck!
There I made two break throughs. 1. I hired “Lofty” again, putting heels and toes on
him, and with his big heart, managed that whole block, jumping creeks, scaling
impossible looking heights, to gain access into this jungle. 2. I was a pioneer of the
use of Cyanide, dispensing with the weight and encumbrance of hundreds of steel
traps. I would poison right out to the boundary, sleep there and skin all the way back
the next day.
Eventually, I did get a bit lonely in that old house which made me a bit vulnerable for
a take over.
I met my Waterloo at the St Kilda Dance one Saturday night where I met the
beautiful Fleur who married me.
I had spent three years fishing out of Port Chalmers by then, was studying navigation
at nights ready to buy a cray fishing boat, was to sail one back from Britain where
they were cheaper, and, “Of all the plans of mice & Men” I didn’t want to be married
and away fishing so, @ 23 bought a little 80 acres ( another 80 later )dairy farm on
the slopes of Mt Cargill facing down to Dunedin town, starting with milking 22 cows !
After ten yrs., four children, building a new house, we sold and bought “Riverside” a
fifteen hundred acres dust bowl in The Haktaramea Valley. The property was running 1000
motley ewes and been totally raped by cropping ( in a 14 inch rainfall, if lucky ) and
Rabbits, rabbits & more rabbits!!
There was only thirty acres of lucerne. I had learnt about this amazing plant at Jim
Patterson’s Gimmerburn farm, which was all lucerne, so within three yrs. I had three
hundred acres of said plant and up to 3000 high quality Corriedale ewes. Enough to
have built a second beautiful house, (all designed by Fleur) and our four lovely
children. Fleur was very artistic, could design anything with no training. All our kids
have a lot of this.
RABBITS AND ME !13
Now the locals said “This townie “ who paid far too much for this piece of desert @
27,000 pounds. wouldn’t last a year. ( They didn’t know I had worked for Jim
Patterson ! ) and that was why I bought the place, I couldn’t afford to buy on The
Maneatoto but felt this sweet dry country might do lucerne well. I soon proved this.
Well, “over the first jump “ ok the next, and the other main one was RABBITS.
The rabbit board did quite a good job, but that wasn’t enough for this young buck,
( remember he was still only 33 yrs. young ) He had spent so much of this short life
among rabbits, and had noticed a lot . It seemed to him rabbits love short grass and
the babies die with a wet stomach. Ah, the key.
So, the journey was to keep cover on the land, for other reasons as well, quote from
my website : “People need clothes, so does the land”.
• Website : Click on Library : “ Myxomatosis for Rabbit Control “& “ Semi Arid land
use, and “Semi Arid Land use “
• Downloads: Working with Nature.
• Country Calendar, Brosnan Mike.
• Pictures (small icon in top left hand corner.).
I also tried The Biodynamic “Burning the testicals of a rabbit and spreading on the
land, however, while I believe in bio dynamics, I wasn’t dedicated enough to properly
follow this through.
The thing that did work, was keeping up the green cover, both to control rabbits,
for the land’s health, and of course, profit.
By around ten years and up until the thirty three years of my occupancy I was
running 5,000 merino sheep and sometimes up to 150 cattle.
Most of my lovely neighbours have died, and I am alive and was there longer than a
year, was lovely and I know I left a mark.
RABBITS AND ME !14
After I sold the farm in 1996 I invested the money, ( never being better off economically ! )
Travelled for four years, and during the last sixteen yrs. have lived on this dinky little
property, on the edge of Christchurch among one & a half acres of native bush which wwoofers and I planted, going right back to my roots. I usually have one or two
delightful furry little bunnies frolicking in the grass among the quail and bellbirds here.
I know PARADISE and feel SO lucky.
Thank You, whoever looks after me.
RABBITS AND ME !15