About (4)

by Patrick O'Brien

The neighbourhood

Locals called our district Okunui, a made-up name which they derived from the area’s two dusty, gravelled thoroughfares, Okuku and Nui Roads. It was a flat, monotonous and wind swept landscape.

Our farm backed onto the Manawatu River and its other three sides were bounded by the farms of four other families: Cameron’s to the west, Wilkin’s and Redmond’s in the north, and Mattock’s to the east.

By today’s standards these farms were small, and, over the years, as their holdings became uneconomic to farm, neighbours sold out to neighbours in amicable deals that were best suited for those families with sons and daughters who wished to remain on the land. My family left in the early 1970s.

Originally there were around 20 families in the district, whereas today there are three — and that area which was once our farm, now comprises one paddock of a larger dairy farm.

In recent years I hitchhiked through the area again and stopped off to visit the new owner. I camped on his lawn and we shared a meal. His name is Terence Olsen and he was my best friend while growing up. The land is in good hands and, in some nice way, it feels like it’s still in the family . . .