Allan the MP

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Memoir  |  House: Footsteps, yarns and little fibs
Allan was new to the district but didn't sit on his hands.

Submitted: October 24, 2016

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Submitted: October 24, 2016



‘Gidday, I’m your local Member of Parliament!’ said the short, stocky man at my office door, ‘I want to borrow your bulldozer to do some work around the property I have just bought!’

I was a young forest manager acting in charge of the forest and I didn’t particularly care who he was, nobody was going to ‘borrow’ our bulldozer willy-nilly, it was busy enough making a road and anyway my Dad had always advised, ‘Never a borrower or lender be!’

‘The sawmill have a TD6, I’m sure they will hire it to you, probably with a driver.’ I told him, trying not to sound gruff but emphasising the hire bit, ‘Just ask for Bert.’ I added helpfully. The sawmill was just down the road a couple of hundred metres away.

‘Ok, thanks.’ Allan replied, apparently not put out by my put-off.

Allan and his wife had bought old Mrs. Thorpe’s place, on the boundary of the forest. Poor old Mrs. Thorpe had died after living there alone for a number of years. I knew her although I too was a newcomer but I had visited her with Albert, my office clerk, who used to do her gardens and help her out from time to time. Albert used to whisper to me that he hadn’t found any graves or bones in the garden, adding that a previous owner had been an associate of Minnie Dean, who is the only woman hanged in New Zealand. She took in babies and young children, murdered them so she did not have to feed them but still received the allowance for their care. So the myth was that the previous owner had tried the same thing!

Some time later, Allan asked me for a permit to burn some of the branches he had cut and some old weatherboards he had taken off a wall, so I went there and for a chat and arrived back at the office more talkative than usual! Allan used to buy whiskey by the half gallon flagon, four of them a time and every time I went there he wanted to lower the level in his flash crystal decanter! I told him that I would prefer it if my crew burnt the rubbish with some fire gear on hand. He was happy with that, but pointed out that he was quite capable because he had owned a high country sheep station and he needed to be multi-skilled. He then asked me if I would, on a personal basis keep an eye on their property because they weren’t ready to move in permanently, so he would only be there mostly at weekends. I agreed and so we quickly became friends.

Each year, early in the New Year, Allan and Betty put on a late afternoon barbeque with drinks for us ‘forestry boys’. Oh dear some of those sessions! I knew him and his whiskey by then, and learned to sit on the one drink, because I was responsible to drive all of the workers home! And sometimes getting them all on board was a challenge! It was all in good humour though, until the next morning, I recall Bert sitting in the sun with his hat pulled over his eyes at smoko time. There was the well-known toot, toot as Allan headed out to the main road. ‘Vote catching bastard!’ Bert grumbled!

Allan took a genuine interest in the forest and the employment it created in the area, he helped out in a few ‘issues’ over the years. He even tried to break the severe drought during the mid-sixties by instigating the seeding clouds with dry ice, frozen carbon dioxide – no it didn’t work but a lump of ice went through someone’s roof, which caused a stir! It was his presence that saw the council seal the road, and then, whenever there was tar left in the tanks, a little bit more. The forest entrance passed his gate, and he negotiated for us to carry out the formation work and lay base metal, and then the council sealed it properly. Sure it was advantageous to him, but the road was very steep and corrugated, which made it difficult for us to haul our fire gear up there. During WWII he was in a special unit and tested for the ability to divine water, he was found to have the ability and I was with him when he needed to find the source of a spring and sure enough he easily located it. But it made him physically tired and could see it in his face.

I happened to have a few trees and shrubs left over from a small project, and helped him to plant them. The bug had bitten him and he became enthusiastic making his garden bigger and bigger year upon year and as his knowledge grew he purchased more exotic plants until garden groups began to visit. He discussed with me what to do with an outside wall that he wanted to be a feature and I suggested a rock wall made for the local red sandstone. I took him up to where there was a good example near the old coal mine on Diamond Hill and he was excited when I told him I had a shot-firer’s ticket and would blast him fresh material. His wall turned out well and two owners on, it remains a feature.

He gave one of his old pipes to my young son who liked to prance around with it pretending he was Sherlock Holmes! He had the hat too, so looked the part ! But in the end it was the result of years puffing his pipe that saw his demise, but he led a colourful, if sometimes hard life and I still cherish his memory.

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