An­other Man’s Trea­sure

It damn near broke my heart. Down in the big metal skip, a few heads stuck out and some sepia-coloured pa­pers slid to one side as the whole lot dis­ap­peared. One glimpse was all it took to see the whole story … down there, part of some­one’s life was go­ing

Field and Game - - ACROSS THE DITCH -

But prob­a­bly not. He wouldn’t have cared, any more than the fam­ily who threw it all out cared. I’ve won­dered since whose lit­tle trea­sures they were, and what his name might have been. I set­tled on Bruce, sim­ply be­cause I’ve known so many hunters and all-round good bug­gers by that name. And I reckon Bruce would have shed a tear, if he were still around, to see his old de­coys and shooting cat­a­logues and Eley car­tridge boxes and duck calls go down a hole.

Why? For the same rea­son that men keep old jack­ets long af­ter the zip has gone. For the same rea­son we keep dogs when they’ve grown deaf and can’t hunt any more. And for the same rea­son we catch up with old mates and talk about Open­ing Days that came and went 30 years ago. Be­cause we like to re­mem­ber.

To be fair, it’s likely that Bruce’s kids, prob­a­bly in their for­ties now and busy with work and fam­ily, didn’t have the time to fig­ure it all out. They saw some old junk and they took ac­tion. It prob­a­bly never oc­curred to them what this stuff would have been worth to their dad, or that it might have been worth some­thing to oth­ers.

Many of us don’t see it yet, per­haps be­cause our coun­try is so young. Over­seas it’s a dif­fer­ent story. In the USA, de­coys from known carvers have sold for hun­dreds of thou­sands. They’re folk art and nos­tal­gia — they can­not be re­placed. The time and places and peo­ple that made them pos­si­ble have gone for­ever.

Likely as not, those black­ened old cork de­coys saw ac­tion on flights of the black duck, known in New Zealand as the grey,

back in the days be­fore Mallard re­ally took hold here. It’s pos­si­ble, likely even, that they were passed to old Bruce by his fa­ther. The same goes for the old­school Fisher-type duck call — the ‘tongue pincher’ as they used to be known. With ev­ery year that passes, these things dis­ap­pear a lit­tle more, and when they do, it isn’t just mem­o­ries that pass with them — the his­tory goes too.

There are, of course, col­lec­tors out there who wor­ship this stuff, but you can’t just look them up in the phone book. Most peo­ple don’t know who they are and to be fair, some are pretty care­ful about putting them­selves out there. In this day and age, it pays to be wary about per­sonal in­for­ma­tion, but the re­sult is that or­di­nary peo­ple don’t know what to do with the old gear when a fam­ily mem­ber passes on, and so it dis­ap­pears for­ever.

If you see some­thing old, it may not be valu­able in dollar terms, but that doesn’t mean it’s worth­less. Some­body out there will trea­sure it, so let the owner know that. The golden rule is sim­ple — ask be­fore you chuck it out, and let peo­ple know they have some­thing worth keep­ing. One man’s trash is an­other man’s trea­sure.

Why is any of it im­por­tant? You ei­ther know the an­swer to that straight­away or you never will. It makes a dif­fer­ence to know where you come from, to know what you stand for, to know who you are. Aussies and New Zealan­ders have al­ways been good at that, and the sport­ing life that we — bird hunters and an­glers — stand for is no dif­fer­ent. Some­where deep in all that stuff that went to the dump is who we are and where we came from.

That’s what makes it worth keep­ing.

NZ Bird hunters 1914 Leather cases, side by sides, can­vas vests and paper car­tridges. Wan­ganui, 1914. Photo cour­tesy; Alexan­der Turn­bull Li­brary

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