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Diamond Jubilee of the Ohinemuri County 1885 - 1945

YELLOW PERIL

THE LAMENT OF AN ABSENTEE

Life holds many a lurking peril, but a menace to the farm -

A wicked, dogged, thousand-seeded weed - has come in to curse the country,

Despoiling usefulness and charm, fugitive fertility its creed.

We've a fifty acre heirloom near the borders of the wild,

Where native bush bears witness for its land;

But grass was needed for the cattle, so man cut, and burned, and toiled,

Where now are bracken hills on every hand.

The cultivation of the valley, where forest giants fell,

Was a project dear to pioneering heart;

But the toll of what came after makes a mournful tale to tell,

For the ferny covered hills are only part.

First appeared the blackberry with trailing wreaths of thorn,

Now one ridge boasts a coronet of gorse,

And all among the other pests, more than poppies in the corn,

Ragwort's yellow head is seen to force.

We had planted future forests, when the hills were swept by fire;

Three thousand lovely trees flared and were gone,

Then ragwort came in regiments across the boundary wire,

Came and multiplied to break the heart of one.

Now neighbours look with anxious eyes for the flying of the seed,

Poor victims, they have plenty of their own,

So every year I gird my loins to tackle this foul weed,

Though my spirit with my body grimly groan.

With a slasher in your hands or a spray-pump on your back,

And water in the creek a league below,

You may think that perseverance will help you find the knack

Of dealing with this many-seeded foe

But though you cut and spray it or pull it by the root,

Its relatives just laugh and seem to say,

"Poor frail human, why so earnest? we have millions more to boot!

Can't you see that we are winning all the way?"

Must I thus learn submission and pay the family debt,

For the rimu and the rata and the lordly kauri pine?

Yet, the Homestead brings a heart-throb and I still cannot regret

Doing battle for the one spot that is mine.

There are bird and bush filled gullies, there's a creek that speaks to me,

As it sings its way o'er rough and stony track,

There are memories that I cherish, besides the beauty that I see,

And in spite of all the "Peril," I'll go back.

- Mrs. Nellie Scott Donaldson.


Turner's Hill, Paeroa

(By Mrs. Nellie Scott Donaldson)

Up Turner's Hill the strong teams labour,

The wagon wheels creak as they turn,

Each horse pulls nobly with his neighbour,

With ears a-twitch for orders stern.

'Twas long before the way was graded,

Rough metal sparked on iron shoe,

Or mud in mane and tail was braided,

As sweat poured down and nostrils blew.

Gigantic plant the mines were needing,

No railway then to bear the load,

So pumps and crushers, weight impeding,

Were all conveyed by arduous road.

In highland country wild and broken,

By towering cliffs and gorges deep,

Prospectors found the golden token,

Where gleamed the quartz in mountain keep.

Then rider, tramp and teamster travelled

The winding trail to Mackaytown,

Or pitched their tents at Karangahake,

Near "Woodstock," "Talisman" and "Crown."

Soon houses clustered on the mountain,

Though miners oft found early graves,

Cyanide spoiled the river's fountain,

And men worked underground like slaves.

But warm of heart their friendships rounded,

And generously they lived their day,

Till sudden final note was sounded —

The great machinery idle lay.

The mining population dwindled,

The busy township now is gone,

And chimneys where the fires were kindled,

Have crumbled down like cairns of stone.

But some still love Ohinemuri,

Are faithful to the wild haunt's code,

Waitawheta in flooding fury,

Or peaceful, gracious Rahu Road.

The labouring horses toil no longer,

To haul the loads up Turner's Hill;

But pride in pioneers grows stronger,

As phantom teams turn wheels at will.


In Memoriam

{James Turner, grandfather of the authoress of this poem, lived in the house on the left of the road about half way up Turner's Hill near the Abattoirs, Paeroa; that is how that hill received its name. This poem is no doubt typical of many old identities. — Editor.}

James Turner, with his flowing beard and massive head of grizzled hair,

Was tall and straight and dignified; we youngsters would not dare

To take an undue liberty when Grandfather was there.

To his wise kingship we paid court; approval was a flag to fly,

But only best was good enough, be task a lowly one or high,

And though he never was unkind, we bowed, not knowing why.

Adversity, with cruel touch, when he had reached three score and ten,

Had failed to daunt his willing heart; courageously he worked again,

With vision of a dawning day, and faith beyond our ken.

A pioneer with poet's mind, a man who used his strength and hands,

Yet read to us by candlelight, and spoke of ships and other lands,

Of Life's abundance, given one who works and understands.

He'd sailed the seas and tilled the soil, built homes and roads and knew the mine,

It always gave us great delight to hear him spin exciting rhyme

About the days when he was young, with health and strength at prime.

When grievous cross bereaved our home, we thought the spacious days were done,

But God, he said, would give us food, for we had land and rain and sun,

And youthful hands to do the work that others had begun.

In memory I hear him say, "Aye, as you sow, ye'll reap;

And riches, they be in you, child, if only you'll dig deep;

For they who seek shall surely find, though ways be long and steep."

His way was steep, but every grade was shared by one as tried and true.

Sleep well, great hearts, still burns the torch, once lit by gallants such as you,

Foundation builders, whose long thoughts reached out to selfless future view.

- By Nellie Scott Donaldson