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BURIED TREASURE., Auckland Star, Volume XL, Issue 88, 14 April 1909
EAURI GXBI AND ITS DEEVEKS. .THE INDUSTRY FROM WITHIN. (By P. T. L. Chevassus.) XL_THE DIGGER AT WORK. The further one progresses in ike art of winning gum from the soil, the more does it become abundantly manifest that, in a purality of senses, there is more in this business than meets the eye. The more, too, as you realise that to chase the elusive gum is the work of an expert—that le premier venu is not a good digger because he possesses a set of tools—the more does your interest grow and your enthusiasm increase. Forthe beginner on the gum fields must serve this novitiate in this as in any other occupation before he can claim to be a really passable workman. Indeed, the best diggers or hookers are a comparatively small class of the gumdigging community, the majority enever qaulifying for the cordon bleu. When the neophyte, anxious to lay. in his first crop of information on the subject of gum digging, comes into contact with the old digger, it is more than likely that a conversation somewhat after the following nature will take place:— The Old Digger (with a sidelong glance) -. 'H3oing to give gum a turn? ,, ' The Neophyte (enthusiastically) : "Oh, yes!"( With a burst of confidence) — "Say, mate, tell us how you strike gum, will you?" The 0.D.: "Oh, you just dab your spear in the ground until you strike gum. Then you dig down and fish it out, 'or hook it out if you are working in the swamp." The Neophyte (relieved) : "Is that all there is to it?" The 0.D.: "Ye-es!" The Neophyte becoming confident) : "Then anyone can do that." The O.D. (grimly) : "Oh, yes!" When this innocent neophyte gets into, the field he will very soon discover whether that is "all there is to it." He will work till he nearly drops far half a bucket of poor gum. without being able to understand why it is that in the same time the old digger, working a few yard* away, in apparently a leisurely fashion, with occasional Baits for a : smoke and a "pitch," has got two or three bucketfuls of good gum. His gum will consist of "nuts," "soogee" and "wood," recovered with infinite pain and exhibited with considerable pride to Old i Digger, who, being a man of few words j but a kind heart, utters a word of encouragement and advises liim to ""keep on pegging away." And as the days pass and progress is slow he begins to realise that there is a good deal more "to it" than he imagined, and, in a properly humbled frame of mind, he will sit at the feet of the old digger and learn. The old digger, be it here said, is always willing to instruct the beginner and help him with advice. They are a very kind hearted, liberal set of men these diggers. Let mc, then, so far as space will permit, endeavour to give my readers some general notions of how gum is obtained. The ordinary outfit of a digger in the field consists of a , spade, a spear, a hook, a bucket to wash bis gum in, a "pikau" to carry his gum in, and a billy of tea. which he boils over a fire of twigs in a fireplace, hastily improvised out of a few sods of earth, with a etout stick projecting out of them on which to hang the billy. He may also use a pump when digging in a swamp to draw off excess of water. Some diggers use a Californian pump, which works on the dredge I system. In the days when only the best shallow white guni was saleable, digging was the sole method employed to secure gum, hooking being, comparatively speaking, a modern innovation. Gumdiggefs are experts with the spade. It is quite a sight to watch a good digger turning over the earth. I know of one good man who will put down seven or eight holes a spade and a-half square and six feet deep in a day, wMch means turning over and throwing out something like 30 cubic yards of earth, and I will back a good gumdigger against any navvy to put down holes with, the spade. As regards the other tools, let mc give precedence to each according to the order of its use. The first thing, of course, is to locate your gum. This is done with the spear, which is a long narrow blade of flexible steel, fixed in a spade handle, and about a-quarter of an inch square at its uppermost extremity, to a point at the other end. Formerly, when diggers confined themselves to shallow ground, at was rare, as T have before stated, to see a s spear over 3ft in length. Nowadays spears vary from sft to almost any length, ten or twelve feet spears being common.fi About half-an-inch from the point of the spear, and, again, about eighteen inches from the point, two small coils of iron-wire aTe bound tightly round the spear. These are called "jokers," and, by driving a wad of earth before them, make it much easier for the back portions of the spear to drive into the ground. . A spear with jokers on it can-be driven five or six times into the ground- for every once without a joker. Until four years ago the joker was an unknown adjunct to the spear. Its origin is interesting. A digger in a day camp at Otaika was standing one morning idly conversing with some friend? Having a spear in his hand, he started spearing at a rotten old boot near by him, aiming at the eyelet holes. Every one he was successful in spearing came out sticking in the spear. With, his spear thus embellished, he began, to spear the ground, when he observed that the spear travelled into the ground with much greater ease than it was wont to do and with far less effort than was customary on his own part. Repeated experiments proved undoubtedly that this new virtue in the spear was due to the eyelets upon it. Here then was the joker in embryo, and to : day no spear is without them. The joker has made it possible- to spear much ground which. • formerly was too stiff; it has made old fields new again. i !t seems" almost a pity id mention it, i,but the Latinity of the digger has compassed tbe wretched pun involved in the motto, "Dum spiro spero." There is not much, however, to be hoped from spearing, unless it is done systematically and intelligently. Good spearing only coine= with experience. Watch an experienced digger spearing, especially after you have been spearing yourself, and you will quickly discover that there is a good deal fnorp in it than you supposed. Thus, in the fijrafc place, an experienced man knows very quickly, from the nature of his ground, the presence or ab=e"nee of grit and r so on, whether it 'Will pay him: to spear closely or riot. JMrtfier,. he knows "*£' about what depth lie is looking for gum... ;and' "always speairs to the -&mc dept£. If hfe fitriiies" tiifflberj wEicif occTuiff
once in every two spear thrusts, he tries to discover how the timber lies, and endeavours" to spear round or under it, to ascertain if any gum be there, for gum is very frequently found under wood. Again, be drives his spear into the ground at an angle, not vertically, which makes harder work and id more liable to bend or breaK the spear. Above klli he always, so far as it is possible, drives his spear into the 'ground at the same angle. Obviouely, if he did nob do- so, close spearing on the surface , would signify little, as the points! touched at the , "bottom" might be quite far apart, and large pieces of gum lying: between them would be missed. Though giim is frequently missed, bad spearing, should never be- the cause. Of the spear much more might be said. All th.it it is necessary to add here, however is this—that once gum has been located the spear 7 is invariably left on it until the" spade- or hook is also in contact, otherwise the position- might be lost. And what about the hook? The good hooker is the' artist among skilled gumgetters. The skill arid dexterity required , to manipulate a hook properly are infinite, arid take a long, tdme to acquire. At first your" hook takes command- of you, and goes any way but the way'you want it to go; but with practice, aa- you acquire command of it, you 'begin to realise all that tie Hook is arid all it can do. In. appearance it is a very unpfeteritious-lookirig concern. It consists of a long hollow tube" of steel, welded at the lower end to a solid circular rod of steel, ending in a slightly upturned toe at the business end, whilst at the other it is curved into" a ring, in which is firmly fixed a straight circular wooden handle, with two cuts in it, to show in which direction thp toe points. The length of the hook varies greatly, but is always equal to the length of the spear you are using. The shape, size, and angle of the toe varies also considerably, some toes being 3uitable for one class of gum- and soil, and some for another. In the old : days , a small- fossicking hook ! with a , very narrow toe- "was in use, but 'since .the introduction of- the joker' the ifossicking hook has' gone out of- use. liHooking, of course, is only possible in la soft b&ttom'i ami until recently it was confined to white gum in soft, loose stamps. Nowadays, black gum has frequently to be hooked through three or four forest growths of timber. Gum having been located, the hook is worked down to it, the toe is engineered under ■the gum, which is gradually drawn up to the surface. It sounds easy enough, doesn't it? Well, try it. One of the difficulties the beginner Has to contend; with is- recognising, the sound of gum when he strikes it. He will continually mistake wood and , char- , coal -foi , gum, until- he has had considerable experience; Moreover* the sound of gum varies gretrtly *e66rding: to , the class oi bottom, in-- vrtiichtitz -is- found, and also accpediiigf: ti>> ties depth.-, at which. it. Kee. Generally sneaking, gum .has a. leeonaM,
splintering sound, but experienced diggers will as often tell gum by the feel as by the sound. The best'ijjwearer on one , field I know is as" deaf post. As for the other- implements ueedTby the digger onv the: (field—the , b'ueket t tW pump, the pikau—it is. not-necessary? to .do more ,thm. enumerate .them. Bufc let
mc give the reader one piece of advice. If He- should venture on to a gumfleld, let him go warily and make sure of hia , footing-, or he will infallibly stumble into one or. more potholes* The ground is full of- them,, and swearing is a reprehensible habit. . . •■ ,£Ta fee sQatinued..)!
BURIED TREASURE., Auckland Star, Volume XL, Issue 88, 14 April 1909
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