Just now I was wandering back across campus to my office after another thrilling meeting and had one of those flashback moments. It’s a beautiful clear blue winters day in Hamilton today. It wasn’t quite a frost early on but its cold and still even now at midday. The suns shining and warming just enough so you can only really feel the chill on your face and neck as you physically walk through it at pace.
What sprang to mind, especially being the first week of May, was memories of goin duck-shooting with my granddad Wilfred Stringer (or Willy as everyone knew him). When I was about ten years old I started shooting with him every season. A couple of years earlier I’d begun shooting with my Father and his brother on one of the swamps near Ohaupo but I think I turned out to be too much of a liability for them. It was a bloody dangerous access-way wading out across mud flats in the pitch black to get to their maimai, plus I’m a hopeless shot and having three guns in one posse just ain’t right.
So it was that after a year or so I was dispatched for subsequent seasons down the road a little to the convivial lake front spot that Willy shot from.
We could park the car and walk down a nice solid farm race to a paddock near the lake, duck under the electric fence and creep silently across the dry grass to the waters edge, and calmly and safely slip up the gangway and into the posse. There was no risk of falling into the water or being drowned in the mud by slipping off the make-shift death-trap manuka gang-plank down at the swamp that Dad shot at.
The thing I loved about shooting with Willy didn’t have anything to do with actually shooting ducks. It really didn’t matter too much to him or I exactly how many ducks we bagged during the day. Some days we’d shoot a few each, on others maybe none. The beauty of it was just sitting in the maimai, just me and my pop, him quietly telling me endless hard-case stories about shooting days gone by, things that happened on the farm, horses he was gonna bet on, birds and wildlife and plants we could see from the posse and me sitting there greedily taking it all in.
Some days the weather would be like it was today. Clear blue skies and a warm sun striking the cold early morning lake, steam lifting lazily off the surface of the water. Pukekos screeching at one another around the lakes edge, and the occasional plane in the distance taking off from Rukuhia airport.
On those days there wasn’t a hope in hell of shooting a Duck, but we simply didn’t care. The two of us would sit there in our warm dry socks and gumboots, sip away at the thermos of hot tea, eat the roast-beef and pickle sandwiches Nan had prepared the night before, and ponder the fortunes tomorrow’s shooting might bring.
Ahh..the simple life. Good memories