Mona Anderson’s tale of High Country life

A River Rules My Life has been re-released!

Originally published in 1963, Mona Anderson’s unique perspective of a woman’s experience on a South Island farm brings to life the High Country of days gone by.

Deep in the Rolleston Ranges, in the Main Divide of the Southern Alps, Mount Algidus Station is isolated between the mighty and dangerous Wilberforce and Rakaia rivers.

Mona crosses the Wilberforce as a new bride in the 1930s to start her life in this harsh environment. To get to her new home she must ride a dray cart for hours in a freezing wind – perched on top of all her worldly possessions – including a piano!

Mona’s observations of everything from errant cooks to brave horses are quite matter of fact and entertaining, while sad events are accepted as a part of life.

When World War II takes away many farmhands never to return, Mona and her husband Ron are stretched to do many jobs, and Mona has to muck in – feeding the men, and working alongside them – often on horseback.

Poetry and “back country” ditties pepper the tale, including one written by the author. Most notable are these lines written by a young hand leaving to join the Army:

Oh land of river, rock and spur / Of sunkissed hills and sky so blue / I, a humble musterer, Will ever leave my heart with you. / Tho I dwell beneath some distant sky / My memory will ever turn / To mates I knew in days gone by / And evenings when the camp fires burn. / For I am leaving you this day / To return again. But who can tell, / For good or bad. I cannot say.  Mount Algidus, I wish you well.

The charm of this book includes quaint “station names” for many local features; such as Bustmegall (Bust my gall) Creek, More-rain Hut and Boulderstone Creek (the Rolleston). Mistake ‘Hill’, at 7000 feet illustrates the Southern capacity for understatement.

Filled with thrills and spills (no-one is spared a dip in the Wilberforce), this book is a cornerstone of New Zealand back country life and a must for your holiday reading list.

More information

A River Rules My Life
by Mona Anderson
Published by HarperCollins New Zealand
ISBN: 9781775541141

Gallops – and they’re off and racing! 11th November marked the beginning of the NZ Cup and Show Week 2017 in Canterbury. Every year during the middle of November, Canterbury celebrates the province’s anniversary holiday.

Will you be going to the A & P Show or having a flutter on the horses? I love the gallops events at Riccarton Park Racecourse. The thrill of their speed pumps my adrenaline.

Find out more

Ruakura: Picturing Canterbury

View a photo of Ruakura

Ruakura Experimental Station in agriculture  [ca. 1905]
Ruakura was established in 1901 with the first experiment in crop improvement.

Those wonderful men with their farming machines

Farming has its heritage along with the rest our society, and its technology has a bit of fascination even for us townies.

A lot changed in terms of technology in a short time in the twentieth century. It always amazed me that my father went to church in a horse and buggy in his childhood, and that he saw men landing on the moon. That’s a lot of change for one lifetime.

PhotoIn farming terms it was perhaps as startling. He worked a horse team as young man and never lived down landing the whole lot at the bottom of a gully when ploughing on a steep hill.

Perhaps that was the reason he just loved farm machinery. He was the first in his district to obtain a header when they became available, a huge step up from threshing by hand and the threshing mills. He used to bring in the cereal crops for the whole district.

Not everything was such fun though. The first tractors had metal wheels with metal lugs on them and metal seats – as you can see on tractor in  this photo – and they were hell to spend all day driving on. In good New Zealand number eight wire style, our farm yard used to be littered with machinery which was originally horse-drawn and had been adapted to pull behind a tractor. The machine being pulled here looks very familiar.

It is the traction engines I remember most though. As now, they emerged from retirement at every agricultural show and sometimes we saw them still in action on farms in our district. Wonderful behemoths that even a science fiction writer could not out do.

Browse the farming images in our collection.