Saturday, 8 March 2008

Crumpy’s A Good Keen Man

A few years ago I was managing a frustrating sales team, and had foolishly taken to bringing my pain home with me at the end of the day. One Saturday morning I was moaning about the lack of enthusiasm my guys were showing for selling lacklustre advertising opportunities to disinterested regional small businesses when Bushwacker Jnr. treated me to a dose of the wisdom and clarity that a five year old has, and the rest of us would be wise to relearn. ‘’Daddy if you don’t like your guys, you should get different guys’’. Ahh! from the mouths of babes and sucklings! Talking a good fight at interview and actually having what it takes to treat daily success and failure as being part of a larger process, excepting the limitations of the terrain, and to making do with the kit available is quite another. The endless search for talent continues, if only there was a foolproof way to find a good keen man…

I’ve been away travelling with work for the last few weeks so apart from (unsuccessfully) hunting road kill from the car window I’ve not had the opportunity to do anything even remotely blog worthy, apart from catching up on some reading. Mrs BoB has long been telling me how much I’d love the work of Kiwi legend Barry ‘crumpy’ Crump(1935-1996) and was kind enough to send me a compendium of his works. How right she was. Crump has a sparse writing style (big type - not many words on the page) and manages to sound as though he’s sitting next to you by the crackling camp fire. He undoubtedly would have made great company.

I want to make Crump the patron saint of making do with crap kit. This was the age of canvas tents that weighed more that a suburban dad after a big lunch, waterproofs that weren’t, boots that were ‘half way to worn out before they were worn in’, and help that was more trouble than it was worth. At the time of writing his first book ‘A Good Keen Man’ he was a youthful deer culler on New Zealand’s south island during the early fifties, when deer numbers reached such epidemic proportions that the government had to send guys armed with war surplus 303’s (iron sights – no scopes) out into the back country to dramatically thin out their numbers before they ate the vegetation down to the rock.

Support and training were merge to say the least;
‘Do you know how to bake bread in a camp oven?’
‘Three rounds per skin you bring in, after that you pay for them yourself’.
As for leadership while actually doing the job it was,
‘I’ll be along to see how you’re doing in a couple of months, weather permitting’.

Before hunting could commence Crump and who ever he was working with at the time would have to cut their way through the bush to get to ground they were going to hunt that season. So it was only after a few weeks limbering up with a little ‘light’ forestry that the actual work they were paid for could begin.
Leaving camp before dawn and returning in the dark often with only his dogs for intelligent company, enduring the south islands notoriously changeable weather and rough terrain. The job would certainly be a tough and lonely endeavour, so it’s not surprising that the deer cullers of this period have an almost mythical place in Kiwi hunting lore. This was hunting on a scale, and in a style, that is almost unimaginable today. All deer were fair game and once there was enough meat for the table, only skins were brought back to camp as proof of kills. I’ve never met anyone who has got twenty deer in a year, Crump and his more effective co workers were getting twenty in a day. Each. A different kind of conservation effort to what we’d practice today, but without it New Zealand would now be bare rock.
The way he tells it, from his first season Crumpy was something of an asset to his manager, by the time he’d been in the job a couple of seasons he was shooting so many deer that he burned through a rifle barrel in a season!

As usual top performers must be kept on their toes so despite his Herculean (or should that be Sisyphean?) efforts he wasn’t allowed to rest on his laurels. When he put his reports in he was expecting some modest recognition of his efforts only to be told ‘you could have done a bit better if only you’d put a bit more effort it’. Same old same old!

His boss was the kind of shameless huckster that would have been at home in any of the sales offices I’ve worked in; always trying to get more numbers out of young Crumpy, and issuing empty, yet beguiling, promises of help on the way (if only he could ‘get the *&^@:$% numbers up’ in the meantime). The ‘help’ promised would occasionally be waiting for him when he returned to camp at night. Fresh faced and ill equipped both between the ears and in the rucksack.

Legs: “The only wood legs brought into the camp was on the butt of his rifle”

Wilmer: That evening, while I baked a couple of loaves of bread, Wilmer proved beyond all dispute, by brilliant deduction, that queen Victoria was perverted, that one of his own ancestors wrote under the name Shakespeare, that Winston Churchill was an impostor, and that the present birth-rate in Indo-China would make the world so top-heavy that in ten years it would start to wobble and eventually spin in a north-east by south-west direction. I believed all this and finally went to sleep with my head reeling from all the startling bits of information that had been poured into my unaccustomed ears ………[ I’m not going to spoil this bit for you - its hilarious] ………….If this was one of Jim’s good keen men I was going to ask him for a woman next time.

A succession of these ner-do-wells, dreamers and egotists rock up at his camp, only to find that they don’t really have what it takes to be a poor lonesome deer culler a long way from home after all. Any complaints about the time he’d wasted on their basic training would of course be met with further promises of having found just the guy to replace the last bloke, ‘totally different story - you’ll like him, he’s a good keen man’. Hilarious!!

Thanks for reading
Your pal
The Bushwacker.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

And thank you for this most interesting of stories. I would imagine bagging twenty deer a day, day after day, would get a little old. But at the same time these guys must have become great shots.