January 5 was my birthday and it got me looking back through my old slides. Funny how life changes. Thirteen years ago I was living in New Zealand chasing cows with Allan Crawford. These days I live on my farm in western North Carolina. I chase mules instead of cows. When I run to town, it’s for diesel, memory cards and wifi, not shark oil, scones and slide film.
Slide film? Yeah, that’s the type of film you had to load in to your camera before memory cards showed up. As I looked at my old slides, they started looking pretty cool in that vintage sorta way. I thought you’d get a kick at seeing some of them.
They were all shot on the old Nikon camera I sailed around the world with. I have boxes of them (slides, not Nikons). That crusty “look”? No amigo, that’s not an app. Turns out what I saw as defects back in the day looks pretty cool now. Sorta like a dog bite scar starts looking hip a decade later. You know, something to talk about.
Here’s how those photos came about.
I’d sailed my sailboat Sea Bird half way around the world only to break down in a foreign land– New Zealand. There, I struck up a friendship with a Northland stockman, Allan Crawford. He and his family took me in and put me to work weekends droving cattle. I was supplied with a horse and a sandwich. I brought my old Nikon. The deal was I could ride along and take photos as long as I helped gather up and drive the cattle.
Monday to Friday, I painted, welded and sewed like crazy on Sea Bird. The rest of the week I went bush.
My job was to help Allan move cattle from winter quarters to summer grazing and back. In his part of New Zealand, at that time, the cattle still ran free in the bush. After rounding them up, we walked them up the road. The cattle had the right of way. When a car showed up, it slowed and the cattle flowed around it. The brown critters were docile and just shambled along. The dark ones, the black angus, where flighty and ran like hell. They were a pain in the ass to keep up with but since I was the free help, Allan didn’t get too mad if I let one or two break free.
Allan and I put in lots of saddle miles that year and a half. We moved hundreds of cows and I put lots of shark oil on my butt when it got sore. Allan never got saddle sore. I never crashed a beast into a Kiwi’s quarter panel.
I eventually repaired Sea Bird and sailed her the rest of the way around the world.
(Postscript: Allan and his wife Gwyneth still live in New Zealand. I chatted with him per phone a while back.)
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