Settler Kaponga 1881–1914 — A Frontier Fragment of the Western World
Despite their primitive facilities and limited leisure the ‘Kaupokonui’ settlers were by the mid-1880s arranging a variety of social occasions, mainly simple home parties and dances and the occasional picnic. In the Star of 11 August 1887 a correspondent supplying ‘Notes from the Bush’ reported how a successful concert and dance held at the Te Roti school
… acted as a stimulus to more of the same sort, and nearly every week since parties of the same sort are held at the houses of some of the settlers. An evening is fixed upon and a few of the young ladies and their ‘mashers’—for the bush is not without the latter commodity—assemble and to the strain of the violin, handled by a local fiddler, they amuse themselves for a few hours.46
This cycle of get-togethers around Te Roti was probably out of the reach of our district's settlers, but some of them must have been among the ‘large number’ present at the party given by pioneer Mangatoki settlers James and Elizabeth Linn of Eltham Road in mid-November 1886 (probably near full moon, which was on the 12th).47 Such occasions gave way in the busy summer and autumn months to the occasional picnic. Thus on 4 January 1886 the ‘Kaupokonui’ ‘Our Own’ reported a monster Christmas Day picnic held at the mouth of the Inaha. On 8 November 1886 he had news of a picnic being organised in the bush and commented on the matrimonial implications of such occasions. Concerts, dances and picnics provided the main opportunities for bush folk to mix socially with the opposite sex in the early years. But most men in this predominantly male society would have spent most of their spare time on masculine sports. While the rough bush clearings were as yet quite unsuitable for team sports they did see a little activity. Of bush Sundays the ‘Kaupokonui’ ‘Our Own’ wrote on 27 August 1885:
… it is not an unusual sight to see a number of young fellows congregated from various sections engaged (not in singing psalms) but in a good soul-stirring tug of war, jumping and other athletic pastimes.
Hunting was a widespread sport and the bush provided ample rewards. page 69 Pigeons were plentiful in the early years and were regularly shot for the larder. The colony's game laws were democratic, rather than, as in Britain, in the interests of the privileged. A Star editorial of 10 May 1887 on ‘Game and Game Laws' pointed out that it was ‘the occupier of any land or his appointee, not the landlord’ who was declared the owner of all game on the land, and that the sole purpose of the act's restrictions was that ‘certain birds and animals both native and imported shall be protected during an annual closed season, generally speaking during those months when the birds or animals are breeding’. When this restricted season ended each autumn, outside sportsmen joined those from the bush, hunting particularly for pheasants and native pigeons.48 From time to time there were expeditions for the larger game of ‘bush beef’. As we have seen, mountaineering was another activity in which outsiders joined with bush settler enthusiasts. And both outsiders and bush settlers went on Sunday afternoon rides exploring the bush roads when a good summer dried them out.49 In their turn bush folk travelled outside the bush in search of recreation.