Journal » Trout 11 » My Grandad [Mark Pirie]
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My Grandad

Mark Pirie

For John and Marilyn

My Grandad farmed first in Southland,
near Isla Bank, where he raised my father

and his sisters. In the cold winters,
my father talked of riding a bike

out to the local school, through sleet
and ice, such hardships I would never know.

Moving later to Dunedin, he
farmed at Highcliff on the hills overlooking

the Otago coast. I would visit him with my
sister during school holidays, and follow him

on his daily routine. And as I remember
this could be dangerous for electric wires

were kept live to prevent his herd
leaping the fence. My small size meant

I got a shock climbing the posts.
Even rubber boots seldom

helped me then. Later, walking back to the farm-
house, sheep carcasses were often seen,

butchered, strung up on hooks
near the aviary that kept his prized birds.

My sister and I would visit the aviary a lot,
open the latches and check on the baby

chicks, usually they would chirp,
and retreat to their nests. And careful

not to harm them, I never stayed
long to stare and watch, preferring

instead to leave them there untouched,
unharmed, snug in straw, their mothers close-by.

Years later, Grandad moved farms
to the Canterbury Plains, first at Yaldhurst

and then, after, West Melton. Once I came
to visit him as a young man, and he drove me

out to the farm, and I helped him
for several days, watched him tend

his herd, his hands rough and callused from
work. That day, he made me coffee

in the shed, while I sat watching spiders descend
the dusty air. We sat talking

on God and poetry. I talked to him then
about the creation of words, of Baxter,

and he talked to me about the Lord of creation.
'Baxter?' he said, 'I knew his parents down

Otago way, a freak, wasn't he?' Years later,
on every birthday, I still wait, – wait for his words

of love to arrive, words to remind me
of the Lord, his message and his love,

and always in the light of a farmhouse,
his figure roams the paddocks of my mind,

moving amidst his herd, calling
and tending them, keeping them

and me from harm, making sure we shall not want,
a fine Shepherd, a graceful servant of the Lord.


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© Copyright 2003 Mark Pirie & Trout.