Short back and sides

A short story by Bob Collins (Stumpy)

The ten men in the bush gang were a pretty young crew. Stumpy, the gang boss, at twenty-five was the oldest. Like all the bush crews working in the Kaingaroa Forest in those early days they worked hard and played hard.- The crew members were all great mates.

The parents of one of the crew lived in Rotorua and he would spend weekends at home there when he was not working. One day he told the crew that his parents had taken off to Norfolk Island for a holiday and, as he was spending the weekend at the house alone, why didn’t they all go along for the two days and warm the ’old shack’ up a bit.

This sounded a pretty good idea, so the whole crew accepted the invitation, and so did a log truck, driver who happened to be there at the time. Inviting this chap, Joe, proved to be a drastic mistake. He was big, blond, loudmouthed – and he just HAD to tinker with anything mechanical.

The whole crew arrived at the house on Friday evening with their host, their luggage clinking and rattling for it consisted solely of crates of beer and flagons of wine. The ‘old shack’ turned out to be something else again. It was a huge, well appointed mansion set in large, well tended grounds. It was immediately obvious the owners had not gone to Norfolk Island to dodge the bailiff – they must be loaded! The house had every mod con imaginable – and the boys were struck dumb in wonder.

They wandered around looking the place over, and dumped their ‘luggage’ in the spacious living room without very much care. There would be no breakages – the ankle deep, wall to wall, shag pile carpet would see to that. The party started immediately and went on all Friday night and into Saturday. When supplies ran out or hunger overtook the crew, they would have a whip around and then send out a ‘foraging’ party.

Things got pretty noisy at times, but that was of no consequence with those spacious grounds around there were no close neigh complain. By midnight Saturday, things were really humming along, when big mouth Joe, the mechanical mind, found a reel motor mower while ferreting around in the gardener’s shed. He, of course, ,’just had to see if ‘she’ would go so he wound the motor up. ‘She’ went!

Drunk in charge of the motor mower, Joe put up a pretty fair imitation of his calling, log truck driver, to entertain the boys. With his left hand throwing the imaginary gear box into Low, Low, he drove the mover up the front steps into the house, shot through the gears into ‘overdrive’ to go down the ‘flat tarmac’ of the hall. He dropped to ‘Low Second’ at full revs to get through the heavy going of the shag pile carpet in the living room. Then disaster struck. Being drunk, he ran into the couch and stalled the motor – which by his reckoning was gutless anyhow.

It was then discovered, that the mover had cut half an inch of pile off the carpet from door to couch. This stuck out like a sore thumb and could not be camouflaged. It was obvious some doctoring was required. The decision was made, ’Let’s mow the whole carpet it will then all be the same length and the damage not so noticeable!’

Out went all the furniture. Joe stoked the mower up and mowed the living room. That evened up the level of the pile though the carpet did look a bit moth eaten and tatty round the edges. Back went the furniture, but it was a forlorn hope that the owners would notice nothing amiss on their return.

The boys of the gang never did discover if the owners noticed their carpet had received a ‘short back and sides’, for the day before their return the son resigned from the crew and shot through to the South Island – for no reason at all!