They said it couldn't be done, but we did it. I admit it was hard, damned hard, but that's why we do it. That compulsion, innate and animal that forces the intrepid few, the minute handful of an affluent society, to do battle with the unrelenting, overwhelming forces of nature in the depths of a frozen winter that had already claimed the lives of many, must be satisified. Yes, the rumours you heard were true, I must confess, we piked at Holdsworth Lodge!!!
It was hellish, we'd been ambushed by a pub full of liquor at a small outpost called Featherston and for several hours the party had battled desperately, armed only with half a dozen jugs, assorted spirits and a handful of darts. Finally we broke out and retreated to the van. However it had been a costly fight and only one of the party was fit to drive. Because of the high casualties and probing attacks by General Hughey, who seemed determined to thwart us, the objective of Blue Range and Cow Creek was modified to Sayers Hut and Holdsworth Lodge. C'est la guerre.
We arrived safely and barricaded ourselves into a corner to fend off incursions by sundry Tongue and Meats. But the real threat lay within. 'Tis true, we had a traitor in our midst. I first suspected when my pillow mysteriously disappeared. My suspicions were confirmed by a savage attack upon my person by that master agent and human impersonator Major 'Ash' Morton K.G.B. and bar, and his cohort Bill-call-me-Philby-Foster. Order was restored with the judicious use of force and peace prevailed until day broke and fresh trouble brewed. Initially it was the tea, but when the party saw the state of the weather I knew trouble wasn't far away.
"It's madness" muttered a mutinous Mitchell,
"Suicidally stupid" screamed a subersive Suffolk,
"Amoebic alliteration" mumbled Marilyn,
"Balls" yawned Olly and went back to sleep.
However the crisis passed and mutineers succumbed when faced with a walk to the main road. 'To err is human, to forgive divine', and so we all piled into the van and without further ado drove to Mangatinoka to be greeted by a swollen stream which fell to a frontal assault. After that it was all hard work and has been told before. Who will forget the hellish struggle up the ridge, pathetically pitting our strength against the sea of mud and the clinging, tangled mass of sodden scrub. And then it was into the trees and up to the snow with the biting cold, the cutting wind and a new assault by Morton. Cunningly disguised as a tramper he insinuated his way into our midst and then deep in the snow covered forest he struck. Olly saw the snow ball coming and screamed out a warning. Everyone scattered for cover. Olly was hit, it was not a pretty sight. We fought back inch by agonising inch up that hill, hindered by heavy packs and deep snow. But at last he was cornered, we all moved in for the coup de grace and the battle was over. After the noise of combat the silence was crushing.
And so it went on, like this article, until at last we reached our frail refuge, Sayers, where we dug ourselves in and laid siege to the fireplace. Many hours passed in the playing of cards, imbibing of medicinal alchol and other strenuous activities. After the usual frugal, 3 course double helping meal the evening passed in idle speculation upon politics, abortion, the ubiquitous class struggle and unionism. Such are the joys of tramping with intellectuals. The next day saw little change in the weather and so the party prepared for a tactical withdrawal, back page 6to the van. which was executed without further mishap. Again it was an epic struggle against which Homer pales. Who could understand what it was really like if they have not experienced it? And so ended another typical weekend in the lives of that small group of ordinary people whom you might pass in the street without ever knowing what they risk in their weekends. If you were to ask them why they do it they would probably just smile philosophically and perhaps quietly reply
"The fault is not in ourselves, dear Brutus,
But in our stars."
The paradox remains, such is the complexity of human nature.
Condensed and reprinted for the Readers Digest from "The Hard Men"
(Methuen and Blackpool, Otaki,1974.)
($NZl.10, or 2 Jugs and a Paua Fritter)
Not for sale in the U.S.A. or Canada.
Editors Note: it is believed that this hard man is none other than Kenneth "Tin Gut" Sullivan, perhaps better known as overall winner of the 1974 Tuatapere Memorial Manure Manufacturing Championships (Open).