I remember when I was about three years old. While my real dad was alive we lived in the sheep station that he owned. We drove down to the river in the old land rover. There was a zigzag of tracks that led down to the bottom paddock. I was with my parents, Beth and Robyn Wagnon, and my older siblings, Sandy, Paul and Diana. They were all in their teens then.
We went through another paddock, through a shallow dip and we parked next to the river. I remember my siblings jumping into the river as my father waded into the water and mum led me into the river. I was scared of the river then. I'm still scared of the deep. Have been my entire life. Scared of drowning, going under the water, struggling, never seeing daylight again.
My mother taught me how to swim in the nice cool water. Me and mum stayed in the shallow pool while dad went into the deep part with my siblings. I remember the sound of the water running over the rapids. That's all I remember about swimming in the river.
* * *
Back in 1982 when I was 7 years old. My names John Wagnon. It was two years after my dad died and we had moved to Gisborne because they wouldn't let mum operate the farm based on her gender. All my siblings had moved out by then.
The passenger train used to come to Gisborne in those days when the railways were owned by the Government. Me and mum were at the train station and we got on the train, waited for it to move. Watched as the people got on the train. After a few minutes the train took off and I could remember looking into the peoples backyards as we flitted past their houses. The train went over the Waipaoa River and alongside the beach. We went through Mahia, Napier, Hastings, along side the road between the hills. We went over this amazing bridge that went over the raven below.
What I remember is us going through Upper Hutt, Lower Hutt.
“This is Petone” said mum as the train slowed to a halt to let passengers on and off.
All I knew was that Upper Hutt, Lower Hutt, and Petone were in Wellington. We eventually arrived at the Wellington Central Train Station where there were multiple terminals and trains from all over the country were parked. We got off the train and meet up with my sister and her boyfriend, Brian. There were ticket booths at the terminals. We went through the alleyway onto the street. Turned out the railway station was on the first floor of the sky scraper.
* * *
Back in 1985 my mum took me to a restaurant on Wainui Beach with my eldest brother and his wife who was in a wheelchair cause she had multiple sclerosis which is the wasting of the nerve cells.
My mum and relatives went and got the alcohol while I only got to drink coke because I was too young to drink alcohol. I didn't know about the legal drinking age then. After my mum and sister in law had relaxed and drank a few drinks we were shown to the table and were giving menus to read.
First off I had the steamed mussels which tasted sweet and juicy followed by the spaghetti bolognaise and for pudding I had steam pudding with custard. The adults had their coffee and I had hot chocolate with a marshmallow in it. I enjoyed that night and we left, saying goodbye to each other before we headed to our cars.
* * *
In 1990 my mum had been remarried for three years now to a Tony Gron. We went to visit his parents at the Awapuni Retirement Village. They had retired from sheep farming and my step cousin had visited them with her husband and baby.
My grandparents used to watch Praise Be on channel 1. Back then there were only three channels. After that, my grandfather would watch the rugby. It wasn't until my uni years that I became interested in rugby. We watched as the baby climbed down the stairs, backwards, cause it was the only way he knew how. Man, he'd be about twenty one years now. He'd be a full grown man by now. Wonder where he is now?
I remember how my step granddad threatened the baby with the cane if it got too close to the lollies. His wife would stop him. I didn't think anything of it back then but now I know he had Alzheimer’s due to a heart complication.
Grandma would cook us some meat and veggies for lunch. We had roast beef with cauliflower, broccoli, potatoes and gravy. I know they had a dishwasher yet they washed the dishes by hand.
After we had finished our lunch granddad would say “Thanks for the dinner, ma'am”.
He would say “Full the noo” which I think means my stomach is full.
We left the retirement village and said our goodbyes having had a nice visit. I think they died during the 1990's somewhere. Now all my grandparents are dead. Sad isn't it?
* * *
It was 1995 and I was in my second year at Waikato University doing my bachelor of arts in religion. I did my first year at Tairawhiti Polytechnic back in Gisborne and decided I was interested in the different religions.
It was raining and I was playing a spot of rugby with my clan mates at University House which was a part of the halls of residence. Uni House was divided into clans and we were the Spruce, Silver birch, Kowhai clan or SKS for short. Greg Watson passed the rugby ball to me; I grabbed it and made a run for it. The opposing players tried to grab me but I was too fast for them and I scored a try. I scored several tries. I even ran over the try line with three people clamped to my waist and legs.
After the game a few of my clan mates picked me up and threw me into the puddle. We were soaking wet and we got into the building and took photos of us covered in mud.
Every Friday night we would sit around the TV watching the live Rugby on TV3. We were drinking beer and each of us scowled a beer when our designated rugby player scored a try. It was the All Blacks verses Australia and the All Blacks won. We all left for the Hillcrest Tavern.
* * *
It was in the summer holidays of 1999 when me and my parents went to the annual rodeo, across the railway tracks from the A & P Showground’s. The rodeo used to be located at the A & P Showground’s arena but was moved across the railway tracks for some reason. We climbed out the car, slamming the doors one by one before walking down the gravel road towards the rodeo arena. It was a hot sunny day.
There were stalls selling candy floss, hotdogs, ice cones, and a miniature Ferris wheel and hand powered gyroscope.
“Here's a nice spot over there, hun” said step dad.
We climbed up the bank and sat in the shade under the tree and watched the rodeo. First up we watched the women riding their ponies round the barrels, the crowd cheering them on. They had to go around each barrel before heading back to the finish line. The crowd cheered later and eventually a blonde woman won.
Then they had the wild bronco riding. Cowboys climbed onto the backs of the wild broncos and once the gates were open they had to hold on with one hand for ten seconds. The broncos bucked and kicked and some were wild. Some of the cowboys got bucked off before the ten seconds was up. The other cowboys went to grab the horse and take it back to the pen. The cowboy would slowly get up and slam his hat to the ground in frustration. Other cowboys would hang on for the full ten seconds. Eventually Scot Dixon won the bronco riding competition and the crowd roared.
Me and mum went and bought the hot dogs and chips while step dad stayed and watched the rodeo. She got lemonade for her and step dad while I had fanta. As I watched the calf roping competition I noticed the young children aged six and seven climbing on one of the stands. The cowboys would ride their horses at a fast speed, throwing the lassoes and lassoing the calves. Some of them missed and the calf got away. Others caught the calf around the neck and pulled it to the ground. Then they jumped off their horses and tied the rope around the calf's legs. The crowd cheered.
Last and not least was the bull riding competition and were the bulls wild. The cowboys climbed onto the back of the bulls. Once they had one hand wrapped tightly round the reign, the shoot would open and the bull would come out, the cowboy holding on tightly as the bull tried to buck him off. Sometimes a cowboy would get bucked off before the ten seconds were up. Men dressed as clowns would run into the arena to distract the bull while the cowboy climbed out of the ring as the bulls could easily trample and kill a person. I'm being serious. Some cowboys had to go to hospital with broken ribs or a broken leg or broken arm because of that. Others would get bucked off after the ten second buzzer went off. The cowboy getting up all triumphant while the crowd applauded. A few of them would stay on even after the buzzer went off. Then dismount and run out of the arena.
Jeremy Watson won the bull riding competition in the end and he gave a speech. Can't remember the exact speech though. But the crowd cheered.
After the rodeo had finished we all got up and headed back to our cars.
“Was a bloody good rodeo” said step dad “Some of the bulls were wild”.
“Yeah” replied mum “Mighty feisty they were. Wouldn't want to get on those ones”.
As you have just figured out in the two lines of dialogue I am an extremely quite person. I don't talk much. We got back in the car and headed home.
* * *
In the following year my brother and his new girlfriend took me home to my parents after I had finished my thesis on Mesopotamian religion. I spent that year looking for work.
Me and my parents travelled up the east coast that summer’s day. We were walking along the beach when we came along what looked like some ruins of an old house. We had been in Tokomaru Bay at the time and we climbed up the rocks onto some long grass where the old house had been. The roof was red and gray and had patches of rust on it.
“There must've been a garden here” said step dad.
The wind had picked up but it was nice and sunny. All the windows appeared to have been smashed. We carefully entered the ruined house. In what was once a living room was a hole in the middle of the wooden floor, the timber had rotted. Vines were growing in the middle of the room. There were spider webs everywhere. The ceiling had collapsed. As we walked through the corridor there was mould and fungi growing on the walls. One of the bedrooms had a small tree growing in the middle. There were vines climbing up the outside of the house. There were gaps in the wall. Nature had taken over.
Once we had toured the ruins of the old house we headed down to the beach and went back to our tent.
* * *
It was when I was working at the New Lynn Recycling Centre in west Auckland that I met my girlfriend back in 2006. Her name was Miranda Macgregor. She was an Afrikaans woman with long red wavy hair and a medium build with a nice ass. Her dad was one of the bosses at the recycling plant. She went up to me and asked “Hey, John, would you like to go to the concert this weekend? I've got tickets”.
“Man. I love tool. Woo hook”.
It was in that August 2006 that me and Marinda went to the Tool concert and it was totally awesome. Marinda wasn't into dresses. She looked amazing in her white T-shirt, jeans and white shoes. We entered Mt Smart Stadium where the Tool concert was being held. The stadium was packed to capacity, it was like being in a can of sardines. Everybody jumped up and down to the music, head banging. Some of the fans had long hair. Others were dressed in emo or punk. It was in that year that they released their last album 10,000 Days. That was five years ago.
Tool played a lot of my favourite songs. Like The Grudge, the Patent, Lateralis, Stink fist, Hooker with a Penis, Anima, Third Eye, Vicarious, Rosetta Stone, 10,000 Days, Jumbii, The Pot, and Right In Two.
The crowd loved it and the songs were totally awesome. After they had performed all the songs the band waved out to us and thanked us for coming and have a great night. They walked off the stage and we all piled out of the stadium, chattering about how great the music was.
“That was awesome music don't you think?” said Marinda.
“That was totally amazing” I replied “I love them”.
* * *
Me and Marinda have arrived at the Ellerslie Racecourse. They are having a special racing day today. Me and Marinda are sitting in the grandstand drinking our beer. We have made a bet at the ticket after inspecting all the horses. We have decided to bet on Harry Potter.
It is a nice sunny day and the horses have all lined up at the starting gate. The shoot opens and they're off! Everybody gets up and cheers as the horses race around the south end of the track. The starting gates are towed out of the way to make way for the horses. The horses race to the other end of the race course and shoot around the north end of the track. The race caller is calling out enthusiastically. Harry Potter is fourth. Now he's third, and then second as he catches up to Winston Churchill. We cheer louder as Harry Potter overtakes Winston Churchill. Now Harry Potter is way ahead and as he crosses the finish line first we jump up and down and hug each other triumphantly. We have just won $2,500. Marinda stands up on her tippy toes as she kisses me on the lips.