Lindsay Smith

Rookie (December 16,1939 / Mataura, Southland, New Zealand)

Stiff Wind - Poem by Lindsay Smith

We stumbled often on the stubble from sunrise until dusk
grabbing fescue sheaves under each arm
standing back to the wind
to thrust the stalk butts into the earth
six, eight, ten, even twelve together
to dry out for a few days.

Periodically we raised our heads
looking out for the farm truck
& Auntie May with the stacks of
buttered scones, tomato sandwiches
mugs of hot tea with many repeats
& as many spoonfuls of honey as you like
ducking off thru the fence afterward
for a leak or a bog.

Then long back breaking days
forking sheaves to the mill
a knotted handkerchief over mouth & nose
with chaff & fine dust flying,
‘just keep them coming along steady
young fellow, ' Ralph on the bagging shouted
Too quick & you'll run out of puff
or maybe jam the rollers up.

Back to the hut with dust in our ears, up the nose
to take turns soaking in the same hot water
rinsing clobber in the bathwater &
throwing over the barbed wire fence
to catch the drying Southland wind thru the night
a few beers & the evening feed
hitting the sack & snoring until morning
& another whack at it.

remembering Hamilton Burn 1956

I was 16 that year & got six shillings an hour.

Poet's Notes about The Poem

In Memory of Ralph & May Hennan.

'Paddy' worked for May & Ralph & he set up the eel & venison export trade to Europe out of Mossburn around that time, in the 1950s.

When I was in high school I went down for a couple of Xmas holidays to help Uncle Lex with the bees. Auntie Millie was mum's sister. His honeyhouse was just over the road from the Heenans. Ralph was my Uncle Stan Heenan's best man when he married Eva mum's sister.

They lived along the road a few miles closer to Nightcaps where mum was born & grew up. Mum's nephews, my cousins are still there running Donald Sinclair & sons - builders & funeral directors.

Before I went to Otago Uni - end of 1962 I drove tractor & forked to the mill for Ralph & over the years have kept in contact. Last time Matilda & I were in NZ 2006 we called in to see May with mum. Ralph was already gone & May was quite ill & frail.

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Poem Submitted: Thursday, August 2, 2012

Poem Edited: Thursday, August 2, 2012

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