By Faith

Here is a lovely story copied from a book called ‘Molesworth’ by L.W. McCaskill from P45 onwards called ‘Old Bill’ from a drove of cattle in 1876. Quote; “I had stayed the night at the rainbow.  I had been all day travelling through that narrow portion of the Wairau River to wide open country.  The river hard turned sharp to the right keeping to the hills, which stretched on away forward to the right.  The plain I entered into stretched for several miles in front of me.  Beyond this expanse of plain, there were steep, rough-looking hills again.  The hills were the grazing grounds of thousands of Merino sheep and the valleys were the grazing grounds of hundreds of cattle.  I’d been mustering and droving for several years, and although I don’t know when it was, I know that at some time I’d decided to come up to this country.

I knew a great many other chaps who followed the mustering work; and I’d met an occasional one who’d worked on Molesworth and Tarndale.  I’d always had the impression that these were the real high-country men, and although I wouldn’t have admitted it, I wanted to be as one of them, even though I knew I could get plenty of other work much nearer to town.  So I rode along the beaten track and as I turned around at the bottom of the spur from a mountain on my right, I saw a man with a pair of bullocks dragging a sledge loaded with firewood a short way ahead of me, and further ahead of that a small cottage.  When I caught up with them we bid each other the time of day.  He was a strongly-built man of medium height, with brown curly whiskers and brown hair and he asked which way was I heading.  I told him I wasn’t quite sure myself yet, but I was looking for a job.  He said “Oh well, I don’t think you should have much trouble finding one.”

After we’d gone along together for a while, he said: “Did you come up from the Rainbow today?”  I said “Yes-my name’s Bill.”  He replied, “And mine’s Jack Fitch.  How are you Bill?”  And we shook hands.  Jack said, “I think you’d better come and stay with us tonight, Bill.  The Tarndale homestead is further on still and I’m not sure whether you’ll find anyone at home there.”  I thanked him.  As we got nearer the cottage I could hear a dog barking and I could see a woman standing near the front door.  Jack drove the bullocks up to the side of the house and stopped them not far from the garden gate.  I took my gear off my horse and at Jack’s direction let him go with the bullocks.  We both walked back to the house and Jack introduced me to his wife Freda.  She was a very pleasant woman and spoke with a slight German accent.  She was fair and good-looking with an abundant crop of hair, and for a woman she seemed to be very strong.  She was very happy and friendly, and I at once took a liking to her.  Jack told her I was going to stay the night and she pointed out a lean-to at the end of the cottage where she said I could put my belongings.  She showed me where I’d find water for a wash, and told me to come inside when I was ready and we’d have tea.  When I entered the cottage I found it consisted of one large room, with a portion curtained off at one end and a very large chimney at the other.  The larger portion served as a dining-room and kitchen combined.  The table was set when I entered, and Freda, all smiles and chatter, directed me to a seat at the side of the table while she and Jack sat at either end.

After tea Jack and I sat on a bench outside the door while Freda did the washing-up.  Later she brought out a stool and sat with us.  Jack pointed out the direction of the Tarndale Homestead and, sketching a plan on the ground with a stick, pointed out the directions of Molesworth, showing on his sketch the different rivers and creeks lying between.  Molesworth, he said, was on the Awatere River but all the others, such as the Severn, Saxton, and Acheron flowed into the Clarence.  Looking in the opposite direction he marked out another branch of the Clarence, which started from Lake Tennyson and flowed down past St James.  All the mountains about here, although rough and precipitous, seemed quite low to me; and when I mentioned this to Jack he explained that where we were we were standing was over three thousand feet above sea level, and that if the general run of these was only two or three thousand feet high above us they’d actually be five or six thousand foot mountains.

As the evening drew on they told me they’d be sending some cattle to a place on the Grey River (on the very other side of the Alps on the West Coast) and that Freda was anxious to find someone to drive them.  Sensing a chance to get the sort of job I’d been looking for, I suggested they give me the job.  I noticed they exchanged glances, and then Jack said, “What do you think Freda?”  Freda replied, “Oh yes, Jack.  Bill will take them.”  “All right then, Bill,” Jack said, “You can take them.”  Jack then described the route I’d have to take, and he told me he’d get a sketch plan which I could take with me.  With this plan he was sure I couldn’t go wrong.  We’d go and get the cattle together in the morning and then I could start as soon as I liked.  Jack explained that he was due to deliver the cattle on 17th March 1876, near the junction of the Robinson and Grey Rivers (which was about fifty miles from the West Coast, but still on the other side of the mountain range) to a man named McNeil who’d pay for the cattle on delivery.  The price had been fixed at £5 a head.  Next morning, after breakfast, Jack and I started off to gather up the cattle.  Those I was to take were three to four year old steers.  There were twenty steers all told and it didn’t take long to cut them out and start them on the way back home.  We got there early in the afternoon and put them in a paddock near the house.  All the next day, except for attending to our horses’ shoes and getting the packs ready, we had a spell at home.  In the evening Jack produced his map and together we went over the journey I was to take.  It was a sketch map in three sections showing the rivers and large creeks in black with prominent features, such as mountains, flats, or gorges marked and written in, with the track I was to take continuing right through in red dots.  It wasn’t to scale, but the approximate distance between prominent points had been written in.

Early next morning we started the cattle on the road.  Jack and Freda were going to see me as far as Lake Tennyson.  I started off to lead and Jack and Freda came up in the rear.  The cattle handled well and we took them along very slowly.  Although we were travelling on an upgrade, they never showed the least sign of distress and were soon following my horse just like old stagers.  At midday we reached the Island Saddle and soon were making our way steadily the other side to Lake Tennyson.  When we got there, we passed the outlet, turned the cattle over towards Maling’s Pass, and then stopped and made ourselves a drink of tea. Later in the afternoon we’d crossed Maling’s Pass and were in sight of the Waiau Valley, we let the cattle drift for a while, after which Jack and Freda left me and made back for home.  Before they left they told me that I’d stay the following night at Ada Station, and asked me to give their kind regards to Mac and Joe, who’d take care of me and give me any help I needed.

So Bill continued on, having an exciting passage over Cannibal Gorge, delivered his cattle and collected 100 gold sovereigns.  He spent five nights in the open and three in huts.  He continues: I was soon on my way from the Ada Hut, heading up the Waiau.  And soon through Maling’s Pass I continued on to Lake Tennyson, where I stopped to let the horse graze for a bit, and had my lunch and a drink of water from the lake outlet.  In about three-quarters of an hour we were on our way again along the shore of the lake and heading up for the Island Saddle.  We crossed over the saddle and soon had the Wairau River on our left with a well-beaten horse pad to follow.  Arriving down the flat we soon had Jack Fitch’s homestead in view.  Just then I noticed the horse turned his head to the left and by his gait I knew someone was coming up behind us.  It was Jack Fitch, cantering up through the gorge towards us.  He soon caught us up and asked me what sort of trip I’d had.  I said, “All right! I’ve landed the cattle and been paid for them.”  He said, “Good! Wait till you see the stack of wood I’ve carted while you were away, I’ve got enough to last us all winter.  We had some rain a couple of days ago and were wondering if you’d got it where you were.  It brought on a bit fresh.”  We were now getting close up to the cottage and I could see Freda standing near the door.  She called to us as we rode up and seemed very glad to see me.  Jack said to sleep in the same place and we pulled our saddles off and turned out the horses through the gate.  I got my coat out of my pack and after feeling to make sure the money was in my pocket I went in.  Freda was busy dishing up the meal, Jack was sitting at the table, and I took one of the other chairs.

Before sitting I put the money on the table in front of him and said, “There you are, Jack.  You’d better count that.”  He said, “All right, Bill,” and just left it where I’d put it.  We started our meal and I knew Freda was waiting for Jack to count the money, but he talked casually about any other thing, concentrating mostly on the amount of firewood he’s got.  After tea Jack and I sat on the seat outside and got our pipes going.  Freda joined us and sat on the doorstep.  Then Jack asked, “Was McNeil waiting for you when you got there with the cattle?”  I told him, “No,” and said McNeil’s mates had taken delivery for the cattle and paid me.  I went on and gave him an outline of the whole trip.  I could tell Freda was interested in the whole journey, and she said how glad she was I’d come along and taken the cattle through.  Otherwise she’d had to stop at home by herself or go with Jack.  After we’d discussed the cattle, Jack asked me if I’d like to stop on for a while with them; or was I going to push further on?  I decided I’d stay a day or two to lend a hand with some fencing; and then head in the direction of Molesworth.  By this time it was nearly dark.  Freda lit the lamp and Jack and I went in.  Jack picked up the bag, counted the money and said it was all correct.  Freda seemed to get more joy out of the money than either Jack or I, laughingly telling Jack all the things she was going to buy next time she went to town.  I felt grand, being with these people.  They were very fine and I felt satisfied that my first job on the Tarndale country had been a success.” End.Spiritual Application; ‘Old Bill,’ had never met these folk before, yet they trusted him to deliver the cattle to the buyer far far away on the opposite side of a rugged and precipitous mountain range, and to then return with the money.  Now to put this in perspective, this is 1876 not 2022 so we need to get an idea of the value of the stock entrusted.  Now a 3-4yr old steer in good condition is valued today at about $2,500 a head, $3,000 for good ones, now 20 x $2,500 is a huge $50,000, or 20 x $3000 is $60,000, and then you entrust a complete stranger, solely on ‘good faith,’ could you be trusted??  1 Corinthians 6:19-20 “What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost [which is] in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?  For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.”  Your soul, body and all were bought at Calvary, the price was high, God willingly paid it, are you ‘Value for Money,’ or have you wandered away from God, God has entrusted you with many ‘Talents’ are you returning them to God or embezzling them, God entrusted you, ‘By Faith,’ are you obeying and serving ‘By Faith,’ and are faithful in all that you do?  Romans 1:17 “For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, the just shall live by faith.”  Let us be Faithfull in all our ways, for all of our days.