Those Moments

by Will Rickerby
(Published New Zealand Hunting & Wildlife,158, October/December 2007)

I used to take the odd keen apprentice with me out on a hunt now and then. They were mostly good lads, liked skiving around, sleeping in, girls and recovering from weekends. One young chap always seemed to be late for work no matter how I threatened him. One morning he turned up about half an hour late, so this was it! But before I could open my mouth, he hastily explained that his bike had broken down. “Well, where is it?” I demanded. “In the ditch” he said.  I couldn’t help but smile as I thought back to the time when my mate’s motor bike conked out. He pushed it over a bank into some bushes, unshouldered his rifle and put a shot into it. That didn’t improve the situation but it made him feel a lot better!

Still grinning at those thoughts, I asked the young chap if he would like to come hunting with me the next weekend. Well, bike or no bike, he turned up on time for the rest of the week even though, if I recall correctly, someone had stolen his bike when he went to get it out from the ditch on his way home from work later that day.

This sure beats walking!On Friday, the apprentice, a mate and I left for Lake Tarawera. We used to leave after work on Friday and skim across the lake in the dark. The wake from the boat seemed to glisten in the night light and as long as the wake was in a straight line behind us, we were heading in the right direction. It was sort of steering in reverse. It was like a sheet of glass that night but fresh water can get rough and I remember one time when the waves started to come over the bow of my 13 foot 6 inch boat, making me sit back on the stern to bring the bow up a little. That night I couldn’t find the bed of reeds that I ran the boat onto by the shore near my camp spot. We had a rough night with the rain, wind and waves bouncing the boat about so much that the petrol tank up-turned. I had quite a job cleaning up the oil-petrol mix on the floorboards later back home. There is something mysterious about the lake too, especially during the night. Stories of the large waka being paddled by chanting warriors, across the lake through the mist, or whirlpools suddenly appearing.

Earthquakes occur on occasions too. With a lake on one side and a mountain on the other, lying in the sleeping bag on the ground, when an earthquake rolls by, makes one feel more than vulnerable.  Once I was wandering around the mountain’s lower slopes, and selected a spot between two rocks to hunker down for the night out of the wind. However, a couple of hours later a small earthquake passed by and with visions of the two rocks moving together and me jammed between, I did a fast “sleep walk” out into the open while still in my sleeping bag and cover!

This night the lake was dead flat and we skimmed across and found my campsite inI'll Watch, he said the dark in no time. A fly up, sleeping bags spread out and after a quick brew we all settled down for the night. Well before daylight the next morning we were up. The apprentice didn’t want any breakfast, but he did have some after I said I would pick on him at work all Monday morning if he didn’t. We walked along a track in the dark, no torches, cold, no talking, a few stumbles, and with no idea where he was going, the apprentice soon caught on. A couple of hours later, with enough morning light to see ahead 200 metres or so, we came across two deer, and I took the young stag.

The apprentice declined an invitation to help gut the stag. “I’ll watch,” he said. He then held his nose while I did the dressing out, although he did offer to hold a leg out of the way once. My mate and I had turns carrying it back to our camp while the apprentice didn’t mind carrying the rifles. The sun came up over the mountain and we stopped for a spell.

It is the simplest of things that seem to have the greatest satisfaction. Sitting in the warmth of the morning sun, drinking the water from a mountain stream, stretching out tired muscles…

I said to the apprentice, “Remember this moment – right now” as I jabbed a small stick into the ground. “It’s these moments that we live for. These are the moments to remember”, I said, twisting the stick in the ground for emphasis. It was too. It had been freezing earlier so it felt great to absorb the warmth from the sun, have a little chocolate, a drink of water, a yarn and a rest.

Cooking Tea At The Hot SpringsWhen we got back to camp, we packed up the boat and headed over to some small hot springs by the edge of the lake. After tossing in a couple of cans of baked beans and sausages into the hot springs, we had a beer while we waited for the food to cook. They would’ve cooked a lot quicker if the apprentice had left them alone, but we didn’t care – although he was very tired, he was enjoying himself and it had been a successful hunt.

Back at work on Monday morning I was doing something and stood up. A saw was whining, there was banging, a concrete vibrator rattled away. A voice at my side said, “Remember that moment?”  I turned and saw the apprentice gazing at the horizon.  I turned and looked too, and after a moment I turned back, but he had gone. He was standing by some framework, so I gave him a thumbs-up. He grinned in reply. Nothing needed to be said. We both knew where we were.

I don’t think he was ever late for work again either.

(Won the Tony Orman Trophy, NZDA National Competitions, 2007)