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March 29, 2004
Hallie Appel wrote....
I was interested in the picture of the NZ bush/forest sent by Anthony Dicker. I think it must be the entrance to the place I and my friends played, and the picture shows the volunteer fire brigade's shack where they kept their equipment. I think I'll attach a short account of one of the events that took place beyond the shack where you wade through, jump over, or construct a bridge over, a small creek to get up the hill behind. It was written for a small group of people who played in that bush as children, all of whom are writing memories for the rest of us. The name for those tree ferns is "punga" and if you wanted to be particularly mean to an enemy you got some "itchy powder" -- the hairy outer covering of a punga tree-- and stuffed it down their neck.
Rata trees of the North Island, my tree book tells me, often start life “high up in the forks of other trees, later sending roots down to engulf its...host.” This particular vine had seemingly changed its mind part way down, and had turned up again, ending up entwined in the next tree over.
We found that once we’d pulled it down to the right level, it became a fine swing. We could sit in the bottom of the ‘U’ and holding onto the sides could pump until we seemed to be flying out over the creek. At least that’s the way I remember it; perhaps the idea of such a swing was as important as its actuality. Anyhow, it was important to us and we kept it secret.
Or thought we had, until the day we came to swing on it and found it hacked through by person or persons unknown who had evidently spent a long time chopping at it with a pocketknife. Who could have done such a thing? Obviously, a BOY. But how did they learn about it?
one of us had a twin she was quite close to, and that twin was, worse
luck, a boy. And the boy had affiliations with other boys, of course.
Here Hilary was able to tell us that the boys had a fort further up the bush. I don’t remember if we tracked them to find out where it was — we had had success following them, unseen, to other locations before — or if she was able to show us exactly where the fort was. I do remember that when I saw it I found it hard to believe that mere boys could put together such a perfect structure.
It seems to me that it was made entirely out of punga fronds, and looked like a little house sitting in the middle of a small clearing, with a doorway, at least one window and a neat roof. It was high enough to stand up in and looked so sweet I for one felt a small pang of regret as we set to to destroy it.
We pulled down the roof, tore down the walls and scattered the punga so far and wide that by the time we were done you couldn’t even tell that there had been anything there. It was a most satisfying feeling, and I learned that revenge can be sweet indeed.
I don’t remember that either the swing or the fort was ever mentioned in public later.
Copyright 2004 Arthur Saltzman.
All rights reserved.