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Sketcher.

BUSHFELUNG in the north ISLAND. (From a travelling correspondent). This work gives employment to a large number of men, and thousands of acres of bush, are felled annually,The work is hard and arduous, and necessitates living in tents, far back in the bush, almost away fr Q m civilisation, and working in the wet and sodden bush ; for despite the iac ; that the North Island is famed for the mildness of its climate, the bush area is an exception to the rule, and gets its full share of moisture. Most of the felling is done in the autumn and winter months, and bushmen who are afraid of a wet skin would have so much lost time that then cheques would barely pay "tucker. In such out-of-the-way places it is a difficult matter to get provisions ; all goods have to be packed on horses, and it is really surprising to see where these animals can go, amongst stumps and over fallen logs anywhere, in fact, that a man can go they will lead. Usually the owner of the bush sees that all provisions are ■packed into the camp, on the understanding that the bushmen cut a pack track from the clearing to their campSometimes the owner, who may have several gangs of contractors working for him, employs a man so see that the work is done up to the specifications. This man is called a ranger. In Southland rimus are better known as red pine, while matais are known as black pine, and ratas as ironwood. Tawas are unknown in Southland. They are very hard cutting wood and sometimes grow up to three and four feet in di ametor. The under-scrub, that is, very small saplings, supple-jacks, etc., is cut with a bush slasher. This work is alike trying to the clothes and temper, as "lawyers" are in abundance, and they cling to one as tenderly as their South Island brethren, and it is particularly disagreeable in wet weather. However, the scrubbing does not take near so long as the felling does, and is nnly a small item. All tree ferns have to be felled. There are two varieties here, known as pungis and mummies. Pungis are the same as the tree-fern of the South. Mpmmies are somewhat similar in appearance, but the underpart of the fern in a bright silvery colour ; they grow much taller than the other —sometimes to the height of about 30 feet, and the trunk, es pecially in tall trees is as hard as flint. The bushman drives his axe in very gingerly into these trees, as they frequently "gap" or turn the face of the best axe. The landowner, as a rule, declines to have anything to do with the insurance of his men ; in some cases, however, the owner insures the men, but it is taken off the price for felling. The price varies, according to the nature of the bush and the diameter of the trees to bo felled, up to from 25s to 35s per acre. A time limit is put on, so that the fallen bush will have a chance to dry during the summer months. The contractors have to purchase all necessary gear—tents, axes, slashers, grindstone, etc., besides all cooking utensils, so it will be seen that it takes n 0 small sum to fit out a bush-felling gang. In such out-oSHhe-way places, it is an impossible matter to get bread, so bushmen have to bake their own in camp ovens, and it is really surprising the splendid bread and the •"■brownies" that are baked in the bush, and it is equally surprisinghow they disappear, for the bushman is noted for his appetite. In felling some of the trees that are knotty or large ne a r, the ground, are "jiggered." That is, a small deep notch is cut in the tree ; a sapling about four feet long with the top side roughly squared is fitted into Hie notch ; the bushman then stands on this sapling, and by this means can cut the tree six or eight feet from the ground. In both scrubbing and felling the bushman always starts at the bottom of a ridge and works upwards. When large trees are growing dose together "drives" are planned, and they save a great deal of labour. A small notch or "backscarf" is cut in the trees (if the drive is a big one in some trees even this is not necessary), then a large tree is dumped into them, and aw a y they all go. A good drive is well worth seeing. The noise is terrific—great trees smashed and splintered, and limbs flying in all directions, and chains of bush levelled. Not a little science is required to plan o u t a drive, and the bushman has to use his head as well as hia hands in his vocation. Sometimes a drive "hangs

) up.” Then the bushman has to start 'it off again, and this is a rather dangerous task, chopping a tree wlth another one leaning into it. "Smashing is another labour-sav-ing device of the bushman, but in some places this is not alwajs allowed. It is felling Targe trees into the standing bush, thus levelling out the smaller growth ; any small saplings that may have escaped are then chopped. Some owners contend that the bush does not dry so well after being smashed, and insist on all saplings being chopped before the big trees are felled. No dead or dry standing timber is felled ; some trees may have only one or two branches on them, the rest all dry ; then the bushmen fell a large tree, in such a way that it carries off the branches of the other. This is known as "lopping" a tree. Most of the bush land in the North Island is very hilly and broken, and in felling bushmen have to go into some rather precarious places, though they are not compelled to go into any place th a t they consider dangerous, and it is an offence punishable by law for one man to go bush-fell-ing by himself. The work is dangerous, and bushmen as a rule are very careful, always giving their mates plenty of warning when a tree is falling that is likely to reach, them, striking him, and dozens of accidents killed in the bush by a falling limb striving him, and dozens of accidents occur every year in the bush. As a stinking example of the coolness of bushmen in the case of an accident, the following story, which is strictly true, may be told. . A Scandinavian, who was felling bush, had the misfortune to cut off his big toe with the axe. Taking off his boot he coolly placed the toe in his waistcoat pocket. On hobbling his way home he met a friend who inquired what was the matter. The Scandinavian told him about the accident, and concluded by saying—"l didn’t mind it so much —the only thing was I spoilt my boot !" In such out-of-the-way places it is a difficult matter to get to the nearest doctor in cases of accidents , but bushmen, as a rule, have a knowledge of rough surgery, which answers ail rigiit except in bad c a ses. Bushmen are noted for their splendid constitutions. As the work is hard and the life rough no man with a weak constitution could stand it for any length of time. One has only to look at the splendid stamp of men who compete in chopping events at the athletic gatherings to form an idea of what the average wielder of the axe is. On a bush-felling contract part payments may be had, but most bushmen prefer a settlement when the job is completed. After several months spent in a bush camp, the bushfeller returns to town with a largo cheque in his pocket. Some get no further than the nearest pub, and there fell their bush over again, until their cheques are "blued," then back to the bush again, sadder if not wiser men. Others, however, make a better use' of their money, and many a well-to-do settler in the North Island to-day owes his first start in life to that hard "graft" known as 1 bushfelling.

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Permanent link to this item

https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/SOCR19070706.2.22

Bibliographic details

Sketcher., Southern Cross, Volume 15, Issue 12, 6 July 1907

Word Count
1,378

Sketcher. Southern Cross, Volume 15, Issue 12, 6 July 1907

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