Friday, December 27, 2013

LIFE IN THE SHEARING SHEDS


One summer I was working the press for my uncle Chop... as part of the Robbie Cooper crew. We had a run inland from Uawa and up around Hikurangi. Shearing is a hard game full of hard men and our gang had our fair share of ‘salt-of-the-earth’ characters to make life interesting. In this gang there was my Uncle Chop on stand 1, two of the Lewis brothers (Hore and Victor)... my brother-in-law Joe Moeke... and my older cousins Rakai Tamihana and Percy Tehau. Uncle and the Lewis brothers were machines... with one speed setting... GO HARD. The other 3... Joe, Rakai and Percy were big drinkers... hard workers for sure... but breakfast, lunch and dinner type heavy drinkers. Actually it was like science... cos shearers sweat a lot of energy out and need to focus on replacing their fluids... fulla Joe Rakai and Perc were very focused... they’d have 2 bottles of brown at breakfast... 2 at smoko... 3-4 for lunch... 2 in the arvo... and the rest of the crate at the end of the day... That was normal... then there was after dinner.

One night I was sitting with Joe Moeke, Rakai and Percy... in typical Muriwai style... they start picking on me... being the youngest... Joe Moeke was a funny fulla and he’d ask me all the usual questions... all the boys from Muriwai know “Hey... got any hairs on your nuts eow?” “You had a woman bei or you like boys?” “Do your nuts shribble up in a fight bei... or do they stay hard?” always the same shit... ANYWAY Rakai reckons... tell them ‘Get F@%kd’ boy... (in his super fast reo) then heads off... leaving us to talk shit and drink LION BROWN... They had crates of the stuff delivered every few days. I was young so after a few bottles I wasn’t my usual sharp self. Joe and Percy were spinning yarns about the old man... apparently he taught them to shear sheep blah blah... and they’d been shearing blah blah blah for years. Uncle Wallace Smith had his run... Uncle Dave Ngarangione had his runs around Muriwai... Uncle Chop was working for Robbie Cooper in those days. Dollar Tehau was around and Nuku Smilers family... plus many other whanau too.


Soon... we ran out of beers... and Joey reckons... Atta Warren... go down and get 2 bottles from Rakai’s crate. He’s asleep I replied. Well just grab them then... I’ll tell him in the morning says Joe. Nah... I said... Rakai had a habit of knocking people out... before asking“who is it?” ...especially if he gets a fright. I wasn’t that drunk or that stupid. “Scared aye??? Should have known “says Joe... Reckon says Percy. Whatever... I yelled inside my head. Then Joe reckons... go on... be sweet... just be quiet... don’t wake him up. Joe and Percy went on and on and on and on and... Soon I was at the door of the Shearers quarters. I could see Rakai’s crate next to his bed. He was snoring hard... so was uncle Chop. I tip toed across the floor like a farm yard ninja. I reached down to grab 2 bottles... I carefully lifted them from the crate... making sure not to clink them together in case he woke up. I almost had them... SUDDENLY THE LIGHTS WENT ON... Joe and Percy were standing at the door... Joe yells out... WHAT THE HELL YOU UP TO WARREN... you thieving little bugger... HEY CUZZY... THIS YOUNG FULLAS PINCHING YOUR PISS... 

Everyone wakes up... uncle CHOP... cuzzy RAKAI... Then all hell breaks loose... I’m pissed with stolen beers in my hand... I get told off... twice... I get sent to f@%ken bed... twice... Joe and Percy are busy cracking up and making out they caught me... red handed... “Knew it” says Joe. From that point on... if any little thing went missing in our gang... toothpaste... soap... combs... biscuits... f%@ken jandals... I was number one suspect... BASTARDS

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