Strong winds and narrow airstrips often limited the ability of the Tiger Moths to ﬂy, occasionally we would stay perhaps two or three nights at a farmhouse as happened in Porangahau, because of the limited ﬂying time owing to the gusty winds during the day there would be several hours ﬂying time in the morning then the aircraft would be tied to a fence as the strong winds arrived, ﬂying wouldn’t commence again ’till late in the afternoon.
Three extra people being there did not go down well with the home help who was also the cook as she had extra work to do catering for us, we sometimes lazed around the farm or helped with whatever we could , one day we decided to go to the Porangahau township and to sweeten up the scowling old lady cook, Basil asked her if there was anything she wanted, “All I want is a large cake of chocolate” she stormed, “I haven’t had any for years.”
Even though it was windy it was one of those hot days, the ﬁrst thing Basil did when we arrived in Porangahau was to buy the cook the chocolate she wanted, throw it on the back window ledge of the car and we spent the next couple of hours in the pub, getting back in the car I noticed the chocolate had melted and lost its shape, by then we had started off back to the farmhouse and Basil wasn’t inclined to turn back to get a replacement, it’s a laugh now but it was a pretty scary scene when the cook berated Basil when he passed over the deformed half melted chocolate. Time passed and the company changed, Basil and Glenn had left to form their own company “Airswathe” and gone also were the closeness that l had with these two pilots, they were great men doing a dangerous job in small fragile aircraft working long hours in ﬁckle weather.
Bill Reeves, a local transport operator also had a topdressing company using a Cessna, one day his loader driver asked me to stand in for him as he wanted a weekend off, this l did and at last got to sit with the pilot on the ﬂight out to Mangelton [Mangleton], it was a challenge to work a different type of aircraft and loader and something I enjoyed.
One of my more memorable moments occurred when l was taking the loader truck to Haliburtons, over the Devils Elbow , down Willow ﬂat road, turning off passed the Tutira store, l hadn’t been to this strip before and directions were hazy, ”just go down Willow ﬂat road and theres a turning on the left, no there are no signposts but if you get to the timber mill you have gone too far” my new pilot manager said “it’s not a proper road but you’ll ﬁnd it” Yeah right, I didn’t ﬁnd it and ﬁnished up arriving at the mill, “Can you tell me where Haliburtons farm is” I said to a man at the mill..he replied “You go on down this road passing the mill and bear left” I replied that l was told not to go past the mill “Well you won”t get to Haliburtons if you don’t go this way” he said, It was getting well past the time I was expected at the airstrip but decided to take his advice anyway, I drove on for some time with no sighting of a farm, I resolved to turn back at the top of the next hill and backtrack, alas halfway up the hill the fan broke off the generator, clawed its way through the radiator with a dreadful metal to metal clatter and I came to a stop, not only was I running late but now realised l was probably lost as well.
I placed the broken fan on top of the trucks cab where the pilot could see it if he came looking for me and started walking to the top of the hill, I hadn’t gone far when I heard the sound of a car, it was the farmer and pilot who were waiting just over the top of the hill they could hear the truck approaching then they heard nothing so they decided to investigate, it was my lucky day.
A tow by tractor to the airstrip, the radiator and broken parts were given to the pilot who took off to get replacements as I continued assembling the hopper and ﬁttings, looking up I saw a pig on the airstrip not too far away, l sat in the cab as the pig neared and worked out just how far l could travel with no fan or radiator, both my brothers are pig hunters and did it the hard way.. I’ll show them how it’s done. I lowered the hopper parallel to the ground and waited, GO NOW!, I started the motor and charged towards the pig who heard me coming and quickly jumped through the fence, blast! I’ve missed him.
Later that evening over dinner I mentioned that I had nearly caught a wild pig in the Hopper “Hope it wasn’t our family pet” said the farmer, l changed the subject, that was a lucky escape for both the pig and me.