We are the bet­ter for them

NZ Grower - - Product Group Onions Nz -

It was an easy-go­ing day. The cold air, wind and hail of yes­ter­day had moved north. The frost had melted. The sun was bright and warm on my back. A sky­lark was singing his lit­tle heart out – a sure sign that spring was near.

It wasn’t an ur­gent job. Just to dig some cele­riac to get ahead for that or­der on Tues­day. I was think­ing about a sub­ject for the col­umn but the mind was blank. Never a hint of in­ter­est nor imag­i­na­tion. Then there was a change. An ir­ri­ta­tion which spoiled the morn­ing. A slight nor’west breeze brought an un­pleas­ant small to change the mood. Sheep. The farmer next door had planted oats as win­ter feed and as fast as they munched it in at the front end they de­posited the smelly residue from the other end. The smell of sheep and the smell of where they had been had de­cided me into grow­ing vegetables. Veges don’t need dagging or to have their toe­nails trimmed. They don’t run away from places where they are needed to be, or sneak through fence gaps to eat what they like. Amaz­ing isn’t it, how ran­dom thoughts can come to­gether and amal­ga­mate to be an an­swer. The smell of sheep took me back 60 years to an old farmer. Dave Blick was a World War veteran who had a few sheep but no dog to work them. The TV and news­pa­pers are on about the start of the orig­i­nal World War. That was some­thing I could write about. I was a fifth for­mer at col­lege. A no­tice said there was a sum­mer hol­i­day job go­ing. I thought I was strong enough and I could al­ways find a use for money. It was a five mile bike ride to his place and back, but a good decision. He was old and bent and was soon to pack it in and shift to town. In Flan­ders he had breathed in poi­sonous gas which re­duced his lungs to about half ef­fec­tive. If some­thing needed an ex­tra heave or a bit of speed then I was “it”. If sheep were needed in the yard then I was the “get­ter in­ner”. It was all con­fu­sion and noise. Through the dust of mul­ti­ple feet would come Dave’s high-pitched di­rec­tions and ad­vice. Add in my laboured breath­ing and low-level swear­ing and you un­der­stand why I still don’t like sheep. Dave never said any­thing about life in the trenches well within ri­fleshot of the en­emy, but after he re­cov­ered some of the use of his lungs he was sent to be a part of a rail­way company. Nar­row gauge tracks took es­sen­tials from the rear to­wards the front. He en­joyed that. He had good mates. He came home safe but would never be to­tally ac­tive. So this col­umn is a trib­ute to all the young men of our coun­try who did all that was re­quired of them in all the places and con­di­tions they en­coun­tered. Par­tic­u­larly those who came back hurt and dam­aged but con­tin­ued to bat­tle the dif­fi­cul­ties of prod­uct slumps and worked through the des­per­ate deeds of the De­pres­sion. With the gov­ern­ment gift of land that no-one else wanted, an axe, a shovel and a bag of flour, they con­tin­ued the task of mak­ing a coun­try.

We are the bet­ter for them.

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