What is it that has made and still makes New Zealand’s back country – and in particular the South Island high country – so indelibly endearing to so many?
Tony Orman asks that question in the introduction of his collection of stories about some colourful personalities who have made the remote back country of the South Island their home.
He says ‘a couple of decades ago I set out to collect stories from rural New Zealand with a view to publishing a book. I got leads from friends and fellow journalists while others I just stumbled across while deerstalking and trout fishing.’
Down a Country Road includes twenty four stories of men and women whose lives are entwined in rural New Zealand from the swagmen of the 1930s to a third generation champion dog trialist.
Orman has included an interesting collection of photographs, some old black and white, as well as coloured, which add great interest to his stories and I love the ink drawings by Jim Ayers.
Having been in the farming industry for over forty years I have known a number of people who were very clever at putting pen to paper with a rhyme or verse to express their thoughts, so I enjoyed the inclusion of the appropriate poetry in this publication. Jim Morris farmed in the Ahuriri Valley and has seen big changes in farming over his career, as he suggests in this verse,
‘They mutter of erosion
In their offices of glass,
And say this block should be retired
Before another season’s past.
They speak of soil and water
And the values they hold grand,
Then go and build another suburb
On some market garden land!’
Tony Orman lives in Marlborough and regularly writes for the Nelson-Marlborough Farming and other agricultural and outdoor publications. A life time interest in trout fishing and deerstalking has seen him publish a number of books on recreational fishing, deerstalking and the wilderness. His latest work will be of interest to anyone who spends time outdoors, it is an easy read, the stories are a good length and can be read individually as the mood takes one.
His final yarn about ghosts is fascinating, I don’t claim any connection with James MacIntosh but it is an interesting tale, and I have been in the Vulcan hotel but not seen the ghostly apparition in room one.
Reviewed by Lesley McIntosh
Down a Country Road
by Tony Orman
Published by New Holland Publishers