A bull in a china shop and other tales from the meat trade

Feb 15th, 2015 | By | Category: News

Bill WaringOver the last little while Number 8 Network has run stories from Bill Waring.  Bill, who passed away last year,  spent his life in the Waikato meat industry – as did his father and grandfather before him.   Here is his final essay, on the unexpected and  lighter side of the industry.  Farewell Bill.

IT WAS THE practice, when unloading cattle at the Taupiri railway yards, for one rider to ride ahead through the town, closing gates of the house sections while a second rider brought up the rear of the mob.

This particular day, I went to close a gate, only to be told by the lady of the house, “It’s alright Bill, I’ll keep a watch out.” Along the mob came, the lady went to the gate and said “Shoo”, but perhaps not convincingly enough because one bullock looked at her, snorted, and proceeded towards her through the gate.

The lady broke ranks and headed at a good clip towards the rear of the house, the animal moving after her. She was a long slim lady and could build up a fair turn of speed and still held a considerable advantage on the animal the first time around the house. The moment was not lost when Sandy called out from the other horse, “ Once more around again Mrs — and you’ll have him beaten!” And she did, holding a sufficient yardage the second time round to pause and take a sudden right turn up the front steps and shoot through the front door. The game over, the bullock meandered out to rejoin the mob.

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Bull and chinaFather tells the tale of early post-World War One years, when he was bringing some cattle through Ngaruawahia. One elected to go in through the front door of the business that was subsequently taken over by Farmer’s Trading Company and when inside chose to walk through the china department. The whole staff stood statue-like while the animal made its way down between the displays without causing nary a chip. But the mayhem that followed in the adjacent rear chaff and oats section was something terrible to behold.

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"Who me?"

“Who me?”

Still with driving cattle, my horse had lost a shoe and fortunately I had borrowed Ron Walker’s big Grey. I was taking cattle towards the Taupiri saleyards when a bullock broke back. Chasing after it the animal swerved around a telegraph pole. The horse, at pace, made to follow it, but I wanted to go to the other side of the pole to head it off. In the confusion the horse and I smacked into the telegraph pole with such force that after one or two groans of protest the pole fell to the ground, thus snapping all the telephone lines and cutting half the district off from any outside contact. The horse and I were both on the ground with the horse squatting on its rump with its two front legs between its hinds so propping its body up, as in a Disney cartoon. It looked at me as if to say, “You silly bugger.”
Fortunately the man at the Post Office didn’t believe me when I reported the incident, saying, “Come on Bill, no horse or rider could bowl a pole like that over.” Considering the amount of revenue lost with the damaged telephone pole and lines, they spent several days looking for a car that had a concrete pole mark on it, eventually putting it down to “Persons unknown”. Meanwhile, the horse and I quietly nursed our bruises and spoke no further on the matter.

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One day at the Frankton Market I had, as was my habit, called into the saleyards office to pay the previous week’s trading accounts, before proceeding to the yards where the cattle were being auctioned. I liked a pen of cattle and put in a bid. There was silence, no further bid, and the cattle were knocked down to me.
I was wondering why nobody else had bid, when Alex, a fellow buyer, looked at me and said, “Take your bloody glasses off.” I did and immediately noticed how much smaller the cattle in the pen had become. I never made that mistake again.

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I was draughting cattle with Father one day. Father was riding lead when suddenly his horse dropped dead under him. Father picked himself up, looked at the horse, then as I rode up, he looked at me with the comment, “It’s the first time she has done that.”

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Sandy McTear, at the particular time of this tale was a delivery man and while on the Christmas meat delivery stopped to put off a parcel at Oscar Svenson’s cottage. Oscar, unknown to Sandy was a parsnip wine maker of local renown. Sandy was invited to a cup of Christmas cheer, had one then some more. Many hours later a local farmer of that area arrived back in Taupiri, having completed the round himself, with Sandy, oblivious to all about him, stretched out in the back of the van.

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Sandy (again) went up to the farm to yard cattle for the next day’s slaughter. He failed to return within a specified time so Dave McNee was sent to find out what had happened. He also did not return. A third, Frank Thrupp, went forth, but being a little more of a cautious person than David, on arrival at the farm did not get out of the vehicle until he was able to ascertain the problem. He found Sandy and David treed by a raging horned bullock. Sandy had earlier been treed and David had made the mistake of trying to drive the animal away on foot. They had been in a ‘holding hands’ situation on a not-too-strong branch of the tree, and too scared to move in case it broke.

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During World War II, as well as a shortage of petrol and tyres, there were all types of shortages relating to the running of vehicles, one being brake fluid. A home-made mix could be concocted of one part meths, one part kerosene and one generous part castor oil, and although this mix played havoc with brake linings, it did suffice. As using this mix caused braking systems to need continual topping up, a bottle of the mix was always carried in the glove box.
“What is that in the bottle?” asked Paul as he drove off to the farm. “Brandy,” I jokingly replied. Next morning when getting the vehicle ready for delivery, I noticed that half the contents of the bottle were missing. When Paul got to work I thought he looked a little pale. “Have you moved yet?” I asked.
“No, I’m still living where I usually do.”
“Well, um, have you been yet?”
“Been where?”
“OK. Have you, er, shit yet?”
“Shit! It started yesterday afternoon after I tried some of your brandy. I took some more to stop it but it didn’t work. I’ve been on the toilet seat most of the last twelve hours. I always thought brandy cured complaints like that.”

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A scene from the movie Goldfinger was almost re-enacted one Tuesday morning when I was on my way to the Frankton sales. I called in to Affco Horotiu to check some stock that we had in freezer storage. However in parking the car I did not give enough freeway to train traffic being shunted along the railway lines. While I was in the freezers a rack of rail-wagons came around the freezer building corner, I heard the bang and rushed out only to see the car being crushed up against the boiler house wall, finishing up wider than it was long.
The driver of the shunter appeared around the corner wondering why the wagons couldn’t make any further headway. The car was wedged between the boiler house and the wrack of wagons.

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The trade needs health inspectors, and some do and over the years have done a good job. However, there were some who probably meant well, but their requirements plus their unacceptable attitudes were at times both impractical and nigh impossible to complete. One of the younger inspectors (always in a suit and pointy shoes) seemed to be out on a crusade to change the world, and could not be satisfied no matter what; even the staff were getting rattled. I can assure you I had nothing to do with what happened on this gentleman’s next visit…
He came in, again, in the same smart business suit and pointed shoes, the same ‘holier than thou attitude’ and commenced his usual harangue. Unbeknown to me the boys had arranged that when he had finished his inspection of the front and was moving towards the swing doors to the manufacturing room, one of the boys would call out some innocent comment, then, as the inspector went through the doors, the small goods man with a hand full of sausage meat, supposedly for my inspection and comment, would come from the other direction. Yes, it did happen. They met, the suit and the sausage meat. The smallgoods man apologised profusely, picked up a damp cloth and proceeded to wipe down the inspectors suit; this really only spread the mix further. The inspector looked aghast, his mouth moving but no sound coming forth. Very soon, after a further brief conversation with me, and with what dignity he could muster, he departed. Strangely, he didn’t return. There was a different inspector next time.

Od time butchers on Victoria St.

Od time butchers on Victoria St. Photo: Perry Rice, Hamilton City Libraries

And here is Roy Burke’s obituary on Bill from the Waikato Times –

BILL WARING was a doyen of Waikato meat retailers. He was a businessman and butcher, the son of a butcher, and the grandson of a butcher.

As a lad of 8 in school holidays he helped deliver meat to farms in the Taupiri district from the back of a oneton truck. Later he learned how to judge and buy stock for slaughter. He had a role in developing the meat retail industry from sawdust-on-the-shop-floor basics to the very front edge of modern hygiene.

Bill had towering intelligence (recognised by family and friends) and in his 70s, after retirement, wife Audrey and daughter Marilyn bought him a computer and urged him to a university education (World War II had abridged his formal education at age 15). He accepted the challenge and emerged with a BA in history in 2000 and an honours degree in sports and leisure in 2006.

Bill has left us. He was taken by cancer on Wednesday September 17 after a year’s battle. He was 89 and is survived by Audrey, daughter Marilyn, son Gavin, and three grandchildren.

In later years he became a prolific writer, recording an in-depth personal history interweaving the history of the Waikato retail meat industry. It is being published in chapters by the Gordontonbased digital community newspaper Number 8 Network.

Bill and Audrey’s daughter Marilyn, Professor of Public Policy at AUT University and an international figure in the women’s rights debate, is a former National Member of Parliament. She declined to support Prime Minister Rob Muldoon on an issue of principle in 1984, triggering a snap election that toppled the government. Firm regard for principle is in the Waring genes; in his writings Bill recalled his father in depression years prohibiting him from mowing the home lawns. ‘‘You have a job and if you mow the lawn it means (others) are denied this work. Everyone has the right to work.’’

Australia-based Gavin heads a major consulting firm specialising in business rescue and recovery

Bill was born in Hamilton on August 6, 1925, the only child of Lou and ‘‘Willie’’ Waring. Willie was a returned man, one of the second wave ashore at Gallipoli and a survivor of three years in France. Post-war he bought his father’s Taupiri butchery, slaughterhouse and adjoining paddocks with a Soldiers Settlement Scheme loan.

Bill attended Taupiri Primary School. Secondary education was at King’s College, Auckland. Rugby, athletics, tennis and golf were his recreations till serious pelvic fractures ruled out contact sports. World War II and staff shortages brought him back to the butchery at 15.

He had a ‘‘look and learn’’ education in the trade.

Bill learned every facet of butchery from judging stock to knifing finest fillet. He learned that the white of a beast’s eye indicated the colour of fat after slaughter. He learned that movement of a flank pointed to condition.

The RNZAF called him up towards the end of the war and he served nine months in New Zealand before discharge. The business expanded – Huntly, Rotowaro, Chartwell, Morrinsville, Matamata, Hamilton central. At peak there were six shops and 11 retailing concessions.

Audrey Rumney, was prime on his scene in the late 1940s. They married in 1949. There were 300 at the wedding dance.

The Warings became enthusiastic skiers and Ruapehu was one of their favourite places in winter.

Lifelong, Bill was a philosopher, strongly influenced by a poem given to him as a youngster by his mother. Rudyard Kipling’s If was his guide. If you don’t know it, get it. Read it. It’s the key to Bill.

Number 8 Network thanks Roy Burke for introducing Bill to us many years ago, it has been a pleasure to run his memories on the site.    Click here for the first in the series.

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