Hesperus the Pack-Cow
Updated 20 February 2019
My Uncle Charlie was a stockman on a farm at Clarence River near Kaikoura in the South Island of New Zealand. I never met him but in the 1950s he sent me some photo enlargements of his activities around the Seaward Kaikoura Mountains near the Clarence river. This document is a start at finding out more about Charlie and to assist my sister Diane and cousin Jenny who are both interested in Charlie's activities. Uncle Charlie's farm was the same one where three cows were stranded on a small patch of elevated grass created after destruction of the Kaikoura earthquake.
The farm Charlie worked on was large and the terrain difficult. The weight of a tent and provisions for several days was heavy to carry. Charlie enlisted the help of Hesperus the cow to carry what he needed and, at times, fresh milk might have been available for his breakfast and tea. The cow may well have been more sure-footed in the difficult terrain than a packhorse plus the feed available may have suited Hesperus better.
On the back of the serene picture above Charlie has written:
"This is next day. My tent is pitched down in the Valley below. We have climbed some distance up the mountain side. A nice patch of grass has been found. Why go any further. There we both are. I, stretched out full length on the tussock and Hesperus sound asleep (after a feed). Aloft the bell birds are singing. So are the cicadas. Our heavy burdens of yesterday forgotten. Life is very pleasant lying there watching the clouds sail by.
I nearly forgot about the cow-bell. Because Hesperus can smell where I have gone she therefore thinks that I can smell where she has gone. She forgets that many generations of civilisation has caused me to lose much of the sense of smell my ancestors once had. So if she wanders off (and I can't smell where she has gone) then it does not matter much, for the cow bell sends out its pleasant chime to tell me her whereabouts."
Hesperus the Pack-Cow
On the back of this photo Charlie has written:
"Laden with full packs that great cow Hesperus makes her own way steadily forward over the stony rubble which is washed down from the mountains when the snows thaw in their season. My tent is slung over the top of the other dunnage which consists of my tea, bed and breakfast, so to speak.
I would ask the reader to observe the rather glum expression on the face of Hesperus as compared to the photo above the introduction. As I well know myself (in pre-Hesperus days) a weeks' tea, bed and breakfast really CAN be heavy when carried on one's back."
The stick on top of the tent is probably a soft Hesperus-persuader, for use at times when she refused to move. Canvas sacking was the material of choice for packing things in. It tended to hold water out, by surface tension, as long as the surface was not disturbed too much. We used to have a canvas bag, which was used to carry fresh water from a water source to the camp-site.
Cow and Charlie self portrait
In this photo Charlie posed a cow, set the folding camera time exposure of 10 seconds, triggered the shutter, ran over to the cow, removed his untied boots which are seen in front, stood on the canvas in his socks, got on her back, stood up, turned, removed his hat, posed, all within 10 seconds, and without disturbing the cow. Maybe the smell of freshly removed boots lulled the cow into a false sense of security.
I don't think this cow is Hesperus as the markings are different and this cow does not have horns. I don't think there was a second person taking the photo, as myself, my father, my uncles Ian and Charlie would all have regarded it as a problem to be solved, in stages, until a successful result was obtained. There is some hay or collected grass in front of the cow. There were probably a few photographic failures I haven't seen. From the shadows it was taken near the middle of the day. Note the limestone country in the background, which may now be part of the massive slip caused by the recent earthquake.
Below are some other photos of the surroundings where Charlie worked. He probably made some of these trips in his spare time, others may have been related to farm work.
The caption written on the back of this photo is:
"This is the beautiful Coral Shrub which is only to be found in Marlborough. As its name indicates it resembles coral.
The ridges on the left are composed of extremely dark coloured rock in contrast to the lighter coloured rock of the mountain slope in the foreground. There are patches of blue coloured rock as well.
In the running shingle a great variety of interesting plants are to be found. One such plant, in order to adjust itself to the unusual surroundings, has adopted a form which resembles a cushion while others again may grow leaves and stems of a rubber-like form and upon which the rain of falling shingle from above has little effect. Up here it is the survival of the fittest!
NOTE: I will send you 2 further enlargements when they come."
"This picture was taken some 4,000 feet up in the Seaward Kaikouras. I think it is mostly owing to the heavy snow, which these high levels are subject to, which is the cause of such an intense deep green in the foliage of everything which grows at this height. The Alpine Totara in this instance is of such an intense deep green as to appear almost black in colour. Owing to the fact that these levels extend up into the Mist Belt also causes extensive growths of the Bearded Lichen to flourish; several "beards" of which can be observed dangling from the branches, giving the forest a weird appearance. The trees themselves have a peculiar bunched appearance. The mountain in the centre is Tarahaka between 7,000 and 8,000 feet in altitude."
This balanced rock probably fell to the valley floor in the recent earthquake, or an earlier one.
Native Kea Holding a Rock
Native Kea with Shaving Mirror
Log Hut Construction
When I was 9 or 10 I very delicately coloured some of the photos above with some pencils, as I was developing an interest in colour photography.
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