The smooth guy

A short story by Bob Collins (Stumpy)

Johnny was a smooth guy. He was pleasant, cooperative, a bit of a ladies man, he got on well with children, was quiet, well spoken and good looking. Though not a local man and unmarried, he fitted into the community like a glove. He came to work for a metal supplier as a truck driver, delivering crushed rock throughout the district but mostly around the three valleys, Murupara, Ruatahuna and ours.

Johnny got on well with everyone. He attended the parties, played sports, went to the pub, he dressed up as father Christmas for the kids – everyone’s friend. The area in which he worked was famous pig hunting territory, a majority of men residing in the three valleys owned a team of pig dogs.

Most hunters kept a team of three, a finder, a bailer and a holder and add to that team a pup for training, a man has quite an investment in dogs. Each hunter treasured his dogs. Hunting success depended upon them, to a considerable extent, feeding the family did too and good replacement dogs were hard to come by. The time came when dog theft in the district became apparent. Good dogs were being stolen at night, off the chain.

Suspicion and anger ran rife, with sour promises of vengeance if the thieves were ever identified. It was generally accepted that “Those lousy pig hunting cruds from Tokoroa” were to blame. “They were not only coming over here to hunt OUR pigs, but they were flogging our good dogs too”.

Visiting hunters began to feel a frosty climate, when they visited Murupara, Ruatahuna or our valley. In fact the hunting situation would have been in a very bad state if it had not been for Johnny. Travelling around the district so much, as he did, he soon heard about hunters who had lost their dogs and he had a secret source of well trained dogs, all for sale – at a price.

Johnny pointed out that with this sudden upsurge in “good dog” demand, his source was quickly drying up, so the price went up and up. A well trained dog and all Johnny’s were, soon commanded a price of up to five hundred dollars. Time went by, dog theft did not diminish at all, Johnny did a roaring trade selling pig dogs. But one day Johnny received a rude shock.

He delivered a dog to a fellow at Murupara, who had recently had one stolen, but the fellow immediately and angrily claimed to recognise the dog. It had been stolen from him eight months previously. Johnny was outraged. He could not doubt the man, he confided his secret source of dogs was based at Tokoroa, he would go right now and check where the dog actually came from.

Off he went in high indignation and at high speed. The disgruntled hunter went to the pub to drown his sorrows and await Johnny’s return. At the bar he met two battered and bruised pig hunters, one from Ruatahuna,one from our valley. They had met that day out in the bush, pig hunting. Each had recognised a dog stolen from himself in the other man’s pack.

They engaged in quite a punch up until each realized both had the same story. Each in good faith had purchased a good replacement dog from Johnny. The three men drank until closing, growing angrier and angrier, scheming dreadful vengeance, waiting for Johnny. They wasted their time. Johnny had shot through to parts unknown, certainly not Tokoroa.

From that day on, no more dogs were stolen and all those that had been were finally located amongst the pig hunters of the three valleys. Smooth Johnny was never seen in the district again.