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Book Review – Down a Country Road II

Sportsman and outdoors writer Tony Orman promised readers that after he’d travelled down the dusty country road in 2018, there’d be more tales to come; his penchant for sharing these tales emanates from his commitment as an author of some 24 previous books on hunting, fishing and the wilderness.

His extended and successful association with the open country has helped him forge a lot of rural friendships thus enabling him to continually gather and collect a number of interesting anecdotes from a wide variety of colourful characters. Some of his tales recall identities, pioneers and explorers who are no longer with us, but the common thread throughout the pages, whether the subject’s passed or is still present, is the author’s determination to record these diverse country experiences before time erases them. Consequently ‘wide-ranging topics and personalities’ best describes this latest edition of Down a Country Road II.

There’s good reading for the trout fisher when the Urewera’s Ruakituri River is the scene for Norrie Day’s practice of enjoying this spiritual place of solitude by just flicking his beloved fly rod. The rifle and gun enthusiast will equally enjoy the stories of legendary hunters such as Bert Barra, Bill Axeby and Lloyd Vient, when the reader is taken on journeys around Fiordland, Otago and the Tararuas by these past deerstalkers.

Senior rural folk will recall the importance women played in the country environment during the last war, so it’s pleasing to read accounts of the work ethos and economical contributions some of the amazing Land Girls made during those years.

High country legends such as Jack Scott of Godley Peaks, Arthur Shand of Island Hills and Fred Stacey who worked on numerous Marlborough Stations are some of the farming individuals mentioned with their experiences all offering good reading.

Chapter 19 is also interesting as it deals with several past murders that have occurred in the backcountry – the crimes drawing attention to the difficult circumstances and lawlessness that often prevailed in our young colony.

The pioneering adventures and somewhat historic efforts of missionary, botanist and explorer William Colenso are well described being highlighted by some of the exploratory journeys he undertook in the Ruahine and Kaweka ranges of the Hawke’s Bay region during the 1840s and 50s. Further tales worth a mention include the lost tribe of the Wild Natives River fame down in Fiordland, Paddy Freany’s sighting of a moa in Arthurs Pass and other stories revolving around high country shepherds and their dogs.

Christchurch City’s long serving wizard slips into the pages owing to his drought-breaking rain-dancing powers, and other chapters are devoted to mining, earthquakes, poets, stockmen
and much more.

The book is divided into 25 chapters; the text and layout are good, and the pages are crammed with these country accounts. While some tales are real number 8 wire stuff and offer an insight into the harsh, extreme life the back country presents, there are also hard-case stories with a sense of humour included.

It’s a very easy book to read, and at the conclusion of most chapters, there’s a brief annexed summary of additional interest pertinent to that particular yarn. Some of the pages are graced with sketches, and there’s a central section of some 50-odd photographs displaying locations and individuals.

There’s a relaxed read for all within the pages of this latest book from Tony Orman, and I wouldn’t mind betting he’s out there now, investigating more country roads and scouting for future stories.

Written by Tony Orman, Published by New Holland Publishers, RRP $34.99, 223 pages

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