Ohakune can be a very quiet place, and in the bush the silence is deafening. But on this day it was broken by the sound of a lone bulldozer winching logs through the thick mud and clay. My job was to lay fence posts, to make a compound for gear being used in the forest. At 16 years of age everything was new to me and exciting. I was always wondering what adventure lay around the corner.
I still don’t know which was the oldest, the bulldozer or its bearded driver. The machine was an old D8 with a cable blade, not like the hydraulic ones I had seen in other parts of the bush. The driver was as brown as a berry, and he always had a grin as though he knew something that no-one else did − except when smart town kids like me pestered him to teach us to drive the bulldozer. This day, he had got his machine stuck in the mud and it just wouldn't budge.
He told me to get out of the area and go to the top of the hill. As I headed off, I watched with interest what he was going to do. After assessing his situation, he took from the tool box two sticks of gelignite and some fuse and sat there making up the two sticks. It became obvious that he intended to blow up the machine.
I thought, ‘Well, it’s old anyway.’ But he stayed on it and proceeded to light the sticks of gelignite. Now I didn’t want to watch, but another part of me had never seen any one blow himself up either, so I compromised by turning my head slightly to the side, just in case it was too awful. He lit the fuses with his cigarette and tossed them under the bulldozer and waited. Then with a dull WOOMPH the machine lifted about a foot in the air. At that moment he let out the clutch and drove out of the mud. The suction of the mud was broken, so he could drive the machine as before.
A mixture of relief and wonder flooded through me, as I realised he had deliberately executed this move out of sheer confidence in his ability to accept any challenge that the bush could offer.
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