A group of young Maori men were carrying bundles of flax down the track from the pa to the canoes tied to a tall kahiakatea tree on the sand of the Komakorau Stream. The old chief came down.
"Whatever are you doing?" he asked.
"We are going to take this flax to Auckland to sell to the Pakeha," answered one of the boys.
The chief looked at the stuff in the canoe.
"But this is rubbish," he said, "It wasn't cut with the proper ceremonies. It isn't dressed properly. It's rubbish!" he repeated.
"It doesn't matter," replied Iria. "The Pakeha says he doesn't care whether it was cut properly or not. He'll give us a good price for it."
The old man was not satisfied.
"Maori rope will hold a mako, a fighting shark, but this..?" -and he snapped a piece contemptuously - "...this will not hold an inunga, a white-bait."
He turned to his two grandsons Hoki and Pore who were standing watching. "When we Maori want to make a rope, it must be done properly. The men work on it the first day and then the women take it up, but only the properly initiated know all the right things to do."
"But it takes so many days," said one of the workers. "We haven't time to do it that way. Now we just cut it and take it to Auckland and we can get many things for it. It's much easier and much quicker."
"Time!" exclaimed the old chief. "This hurry, hurry will get our people nowhere."
Some of the women came down with their kits full of delicious peaches; white-fleshed with a delicate pink blush on the skin. Most of them were as big as a tennis balls with juice that ran down your chin when you bit into them.
"I wish I was going too," said Hoki. "Next year, when I am twelve, I'll go down with the canoes."
One of the men who was passing by carrying a kit of potatoes, tripped on a root and a big potato shot out, hitting the little dog which was standing near the boys. The dog yelped and would have slunk away, but Pore picked it up saying, "Don't cry, little dog. You are not hurt." He snapped his finger at the dog which howled and jumped down to hide.
Muru said, "When we were down in Onehunga last year, there was a coat with shining buttons lying on the wharf, and there was no one near except a Pakeha dog. I picked up the coat just to look at it, and the dog grabbed my leg. All the six of us shouted at it, and hit it, but it wouldn't let go until its owner came. When he told it to 'let go' it did."
All the group laughed increduously. A dog as brave as six men? What nonsense! And one that could understand what was said to it!
"Look! See where his teeth went in?" said Muru; and the others had to believe his story.
"When I go down, I'll bring back a Pakeha dog. A big brave one", said Hoki to Pore. "He'll eat up that coward of yours."
"Perhaps that Pakeha dog did not fight with the lizards," said Pore, referring to the old legend that explains the Maori dog.
Ohihoa, the catechist, came down the hill with a bag of melons. He was going with the canoes as far as Rev. Ashwell's mission station at Taupiri, and he hoped to bring back some paper and ink and, if he was lucky, some copies of the New Testament in Maori.
"Miss Heron will look after the school while I am away," Ohihoa said to the boys. "Make sure you are good." Hoki and Pore promised to behave well. School was held in the missionaries' cottage.
"Get some tobacco seeds if you can," said one of the older women, "but make sure you don't get dock seeds as they did last year!"
Iria growled, "No, we'll get the right thing." As he looked at the loaded canoes he said, "There will be enough here to get a horse, I think. It would be so much easier to plough the ground if we had a horse like they have at Rangiaowhia. Sir George Grey gave them the first pair in 1849, and now they have several." The whole group discussed the matter and decided that if possible they would buy a horse.
Amid a chorus of good-byes and a chant to wish them a successful journey, the canoes paddled down the stream. At Taupiri they would join the Waikato River where it was easy paddling to Tuakau after which several miles of portage, until they were able to paddle to the Manukau Harbour.
As they disappeared, Hoki turned to the younger boy. "Let us go and get some eels." he suggested.
"Yes," responded Pore, "but first I'll have to feed the rats."
"You and your animals." scoffed the bigger boy, but he went with his cousin to cut flax root. Pore picked a few wild strawberries that were growing on the bank. As he lifted the manuka covering the rat pit, the sun shone on the silky blue-black fur, and Pore thought how pretty they looked. One of the little creatures sat on its haunches and held up his paws for the strawberry which he ate with delicate little bites. As the boys watched, Hoki said, "You know, they are really too small to be bothered eating. It's much better to go and catch a pig. I know there are some in the bush now, because I've seen signs."
"Some day we'll have enough sheep to eat lots of mutton. That's easier than catching a pig."
"Well, I don't know." replied Hoki. "You've got to make a fence if you want to keep sheep. You know, we used to build pallisades to keep an enemy out, but now we make them to keep things in. It's much more exciting if there is an enemy. Sheep are so dull."
Pore wasn't listening. He looked at the rats and said to them, "I' m glad you are not going to be eaten. I think I'll let you go again."
But Hoki was impatient to be off on their fishing expedition.
"I'll just get my axe.", he shouted running to get it.
On his last expedition to Auckland, Iria had brought a sharp steel "pakeha" axe and he had given Hoki his stone one. It was the younger boy's prized possession, and he did not go anywhere without his axe if he could help it.
"Come onr" he shouted, running down to the stream where their small canoe was lying on the grass. It didn't take the boys long to put it in the water and, singing as they went, they paddled upstream until they came to deep water just past the causeway that led to Ell Pa.
"Let's go across to Lake Tunawhakapeka." suggested Hoki.
"Oh, no," replied his cousin. "That lake belongs to the Kirikiriroa people."
"It doesn't matter now. No one kills anyone any more," said Hoki , paddling to the bank. Pore wasn't so sure but he usually followed his cousin's lead; so the two boys carefully hid their canoe among the cutty grass that grew by a clump of manuka, and taking their enakei with them, tried to push their way through the scrub that covered the land. Looking up they saw a bush-covered slope away to the Southwest.
"Lake Tunawhakapeka is on the other side of that hill," said Hoki but there was a bog between. By walking on the tops of the cutty grass and toi toi, they reached the hill, and looked down over the lake. The brown water sparkled in the sun and, across the lake in the deepest part, the boys could see the rows of manawa posts. No one went there now.
Hoki and Pore paddled up the Komakorau Stream.
So long ago that no one really remembered, there had been a thriving lake village there. But an earthquake had lowered the level of the lake and an enemy had devastated the pa. It was a brave man, and only bright sunny day, who fished there.
"Let's try this edge of the lake."
At the bottom of the hill was a patch of drier ground. Here pink moss and small rushes were growing. Among the moss were showing tiny, red berries. The boys picked handfuls, (sweet, with a flavour of turpentine), and crammed them into their mouths.
"Look!" said Pore. "A sundew." and he showed his cousin the little flower that lives on insects. Hoki wasn't very interested.
"Come on," he said , leading the way.
They were on a deeper bog now, and they both knew they had to be more careful. There were clumps of rushes and cutty-grass on which to stand, but every now and then they had to skirt little pools covered with yellow scum.
"Some of them are very deep," said Hoki , "and if you get in the mud, it will try to hold onto you."
A wind whipped up from the lake, making the long leaves of the toi-toi whisper and sigh, a sad sound to hear.
A harsh grating chuckle made the boys jump.
"Whatever is that?" whispered Hoki. "An evil spirit?"
"I think it is a bittern," Pore whispered back. "Perhaps we can see him."
The sound came again, quite close, but the boys could not discover the bird.
"He holds his long neck up and looks just like the reeds," Pore said softly as they peered carefully all around.
Suddenly, the clump on which Hoki was standing shuddered and tilted, and he splashed into the pool. Before he could stop it, the enakei flew out of his hand and landed in the middle of the water and the boy was up to his knees in the yellow ooze. Hoki grabbed the toi-toi leaves nearest him, but they snapped off.
"The mud's getting me! It's pulling me down!" he shouted frantically, making things worse by his quick floundering movements.
Pore looked around. Oh, where was something that would help?
Then, half buried under the moss, he saw the end of a punga trunk. With the strength born of desperation, he clawed at it. The mud sucked but the boy was stronger, and he carried it back to where Hoki, up to his waist now, was shouting and struggling. Pore slid the log across the muddy surface to his cousin who grabbed it and held tightly as the younger boy gradually pulled him to safer ground. Trembling, the boys sat still to recover.
"I don't like this place," said Pore, "Let's go home."
Then Hoki discovered that his axe was gone. It was somewhere in the treacherous yellow mud. Both boys knew that it was hopeless to look for it. The eel trap was bobbing on the water, just out of reach.
"I could get it if I had a stick." said Pore. "It took us hours to make, and I don't like to leave it."
Suddenly it disappeared under the water and then seemed to pop right up into the air. Inside, was the wicked head of the biggest eel the boys had ever seen. He gave a flick, and the trap flew apart as if it had been made of twigs. The eel seemed to look at the boys angrily, then it vanished again.
"This is a bad place. Let us go home." They set off as fast as they could.
Once they were back in their own canoe; however, they recovered their spirits and sang as they paddled down the stream.
For modern readers, the main pa was just down the Piako Road. The boys left their canoe near where Sainsbury Road joins the Hamilton Road, and crossed the bog roughly where Boyd Road runs up to Clement's house. Here they could look down on Lake Tunawhakapeka, and they probably went down the cliff directly below the house to the water.
Rushes ‘an Raupo, To cows an’ Clover by Edith Williamson