Longleaf Stories

full circle in the hundred acre wood

April, 1999

“Visit New Zealand?” I’ve gone from “That’s almost on another planet” to “Wow! Let’s go!” Buck and I are also considering a trip to Argentina this summer, so we’re madly looking at websites, buying guidebooks, etc. — immersion learning. And once I got over the shock to my nesting, cocooning side . . . I’m thrilled.

4-14  Still in the planning stage, and each day brings new explorations. We’ve been to the Haywood County Library in Canton (North Carolina) and found books on New Zealand, Argentina, and travel tips in general. Buck is on the phone right now talking to Mike Simpson, a Texas taxidermist and member of the Safari Clubs International executive committee. Mike knows both the Anuritay Ranch in Argentina as well as both Shane Quinn and Jim Hunter in New Zealand.

Last night we spoke to Shane and Michelle Quinn. They have a 16 month old son, Liam. Michelle faxed us their brochure. Name of the business is Alpine Hunting Adventures. We booked the trip through Cabelas. I liked them immediately. Going to their place surely gets us into the wilds of a wild country. We would fly from Los Angeles to Auckland, then on to Palmerston North. From there, the Quinns would either pick us up and drive the 2 1/2 hours north to their place near Taihape, or have their pilot fly us to the lodge. July 21-25 are the dates. From there we might go on to Queenstown and hunt at the Glenroy Lodge with Jim Hunter.

4-16 Wow! It’s done. We’ve paid Cabelas for the hunt at Shane Quinne’s and are today mailing a deposit to Jim Hunter at Glenroy. Both Shane and Michelle sound like they may be native-born New Zealanders (Kiwis), but Jim Hunter has a rather difficult to understand accent — my best guess is South African. We received a package yesterday from him containing a video and brochure of the lodge, as well as several brochures on Queenstown. The Quinns are sending a video, too. New Zealand is clearly a spectacular country.

In a phone call with Buck and me, Jim Hunter said Queenstown’s population is only 10,000, and yet there are well over 100 lodging facilities of various types including many nice hotels, b 7 bs and hotel/apartments.

July 9 – A greal deal of living has gone on since my last entry in mid-April: from allergy attacks to a trip to Bass Harbor, Maine, a return visit to Pensacola to move out of the leased house and bring our safe and other things to our mountain aerie, to a grand visit from Adele, Richard, Andie, Alex and Julia. A week from tomorrow we will board a plane for Atlanta and Los Angeles and then change to Air New Zealand and fly 12 1/2 hours to Auckland.

7-17    9:45 a.m.  The Asheville airport. Buck is parking the truck. We’re all checked in; early for the first time in our lives and it feels good! Very relaxed, but excited. The first leg takes us to Cincinnati, connecting to Los Angeles. In L.A. we’ll check in to the Sheraton Gateway at the airport, where we will R & R until time to board Air New Zealand for Auckland tonight.

We have a non-smoking king room at the Sheraton and are looking forward to making good use of it. It was reassuring to Con’s reaction to returning to Creature Comforts. Wiggled, made faces and headed right back to the hall leading to her room.

The flight to Los Angeles was comfortable and uneventful. The sweetest treat of our adventure so far was our check-in to the Sheraton Gateway hotel, a few minutes’ ride in a nice courtesy van from the airport. Room 1218. Cool, quiet, with a king-size bed.

7-21 Wednesday   I keep making these short starts, and here it is Wednesday already and we are in the Auckland Airport, domestic terminal, preparing to board a commuter plane to Palmerston North. It’s 10:25 a.m. The flight is scheduled to board at 11:20. There have been some delays this morning due to rain, fog, etc. On the way in from the airport, however, it appeared to be clearing somewhat.

We’ve had a fantastic time these past few days despite some jet lag and a preponderance of bad food. We’re having a blast.

In our LA (Sheraton) sojourn, we were like kids in a candy store. A super room, marvelous hot shower complete with massage shower head — great for tired muscles, plenty of time to enjoy each other and nap, then an excellent New York strip steak at the hotel restaurant.

A serene ride to the airport. Some pandemonium before boarding — thought we already had boarding passes; found out barely in time that we didn’t and that they must be issued by the so-called “Service Center” which had a very long line and only one clearly inexperienced agent. Finally, after all were on board, there were still seven of us in line to get boarding passes. The downstairs computer had shut down accepting any further passengers and so supervisors appeared and boarding passes were frantically handwritten. Our original seats were no longer available to us, the plane was full, and the flight attendants went around on our behalf trying to find someone willing to move so we could at least sit together. Their efforts were unsuccessful in four or more attempts, but finally an older woman traveling alone agreed to move to a “middle of 3” seat; ironically, between a man and woman who earlier had declined to move. She was a large woman, and probably cramped both of those individuals. We wound up at the very back of the plane against the bulkhead in hard, non-reclining seats. But at least we were together!

7-22  8:45 a.m., Thursday  We’ve arrived at the Quinn’s lodge near Taihape; got in yesterday afternoon about 3:30 — great flight and good drive from Palmerston North (about 2 1/2 hours from the airport). It’s like a Chinese fire drill around here this morning, with the other hunters besides ourselves getting ready to fly in Shane’s plane to Fox Glacier to hunt Chamois and Tahr for several days. More on this later. I’ll attempt once again to catch up on the trip so far. Buck is re-sighting in his gun this morning. One of the hunters, Steve, builds custom guns for a living. He made a wonderful refinement to Buck’s rifle by improving the trigger pull so that it is now very delicate. at any rate, Buck needed to go to the range and resight the gun prior to hunting this morning. Finding that the others will be at Fox Glacier and we’ll have the place virtually to ourselves is an unexpected bonus.

7-24  10:30 a.m. Cool and breezy but sunny, so I’m taking the opportunity to sit outside in the sun. It’s almost the end of the hunting season for the Quinns and their staff and it’s abundantly clear that Michelle, in particular, is sick to distraction of having strangers in her midst every day and night. Her own domestic drama has all the earmarks a pending explosion. Just where she, Shane and Bruce are along the continuum is impossible to tell.

I’ve read lots of books where there’s a phrase like “When I mentioned her name his face closed” or “When he asked her about _____________, her face closed.” For the first time I understand what it means to see a face close. Bruce has that wary, extremely guarded look around Michelle. Actually, his body and face are completely open around her in the way intimates are with each other until he senses he has been noticed and then, remarkably, he closes — snaps shut. The way he brings her a mug of tea while she is feeding Liam, and so many other gestures, is embarrassingly intimate, as is the studiedly casual way they end up sitting next to one another at the dining table or on the living room sofa, and especially the way baby Liam interacts with Bruce. The dynamics of physical proximity changed markedly once Shane left with the other hunters to fly to Fox Glacier.

A couple of sentences reveal so much. Michelle:  “I don’t like to travel with Shane. He’s so boring. His idea of fun is going to titty bars. As I have my own, that holds no appeal to me.” Shane is “not organized enough to have done that” in response to a question about who arranged the shelved books in alphabetical order by author. The helicopter is “Shane’s toy.” Affection, yes, and the familiarity of knowing each other all their lives . . . but passion? Michelle and Bruce, not Michelle and Shane. The pictures that Michelle looks on Shane as a dilettante who somewhat haphazardly pursues his own amusements and neglects to meet her needs. Bruce comes across as somewhat paternalistic toward Shance, with controlled visceral hostility. The others (Mike, Tony, Jane and Jackie) are bit players waiting to see what will happen.

7-31  Unbelievably, we have been in Queenstown almost a week. My brain is nearly bursting with so many thoughts, observations and feelings, many of which are surprising. The experience at Shane Quinn’s left much to be desired, although I learned a lot about the human animal.

I generally enjoy kids more than adults, but I found two-year old Shane and Michelle’s son, Liam, to be a true pain in the ass. The family calls him “possum.” I called him “peacock” because his screeches and screams sound something like a peacock. He has the vacant blue eyes of the very young or the psychopath. His ears balloon out from each side of his head — not like Yoda — they are round, not pointed; more like the rounded, Mickie Mouse ears of imported Samba deer. He is a sneaky child to be so young. Climbs up in my lap, sweetly entwines his right hand in my hair in a kind of massaging action, while sucking his thumb; looks up at me sweetly, removed his thumb from his mouht, takes hold of my thunb, guides it into his mouth and bites down — HARD. In shock, I pull on his oversized ear lobe. He loses the grip on the thumb, looks up at me in surprise, and WHAP! Hits me in the face with a backhand, then screeches in his peacock voice.

Next time this kid tried to get in my lap his pants were overloaded with stinky shit. He had already tried to cozy up to the guides, Mike and Tony, but they were wise to Liam’s tricks. So, when Liam’s aroma preceded his approach, I had the great good sense to stand before he could climb into the chair with me.

August 1    7:25 a.m.    Buck is preparing himself to drive out to the Glenroy Lodge for a day of hunting. To backtrack, we arrived last Sunday, July 25, at 1 p.m.; were met at the airport by Liz, a temp factotum for Glenroy. She guided us to Jeff Turner’s rental home on Malaghan overlooking the city center and Lake Waikatipu. It has a large plate glass picture window in the living room. In fact, the entire wall is glass; the other wall is floor to ceiling glass doors. It’s a contemporary house with a combination of large floor tiles in the kitchen, baths, hall and foyer, and low pile carpet in the bedrooms and living room. The only heating is by small individual units in the bedrooms and living room, and by a system of under the floor heating in the kitchen and foyer. The bathrooms have an overhead heat light, but the floor tiles in those rooms are icy. The kitchen is small, but efficient, and the dishes are nice. Basic white with blue, but also some very pretty provencal-colored ceramic cups, saucers and bowls matching the overall color scheme of blues and corals. The living room furniture is low-slung leather, with large square light pillows made up in a blue-coral-cream wide stripe that coordinates well with the stripe in the dining room curtain on the glass doors and a roman shade on the window.

8-3  10:30 a.m. (pct) Friday — 1:30 p.m. est Friday and 9:30 Saturday in Auckland.

The lights have come on in the big Air New Zealand 747 jet. It’s the crew’s signal that we should wake up and eat breakfast, which will be served shortly. The ubiquitous broiled fish with asparagus, tomato and mushrooms appeared as our low fat selection. I asked if it could be exchanged for a regular breakfast, either scrambled eggs or French toast. I think I’ll opt for the sugar hit and select the French toast. This transoceanic flight has been far more comfortable than the last.

10 p.m. est — Winging our way toward Asheville and home. I’ve only written little scraps here and there, but the meat is there in my memory.

Idea for children’s book series: Nzed, the Urban Hedgehog — doesn’t hibernate when or where he should. Usually he’s in the wrong place at the wrong time, but somehow despite that and his small size, he does okay and has lots of adventures. Research children’s books starring a hedgehog. I feel sure I’ve seen one.

A lot of thoughtful contemplation occurred on this trip about hunting. Buck and I talked about what style is ethically “ok” and what’s not; what type of environment, how many is too many, what are the components that give a hunt a satisfying feel rather than feelings of regret. I feel like Buck is moving through time, space and experience on this subject, and the place where he ultimately lands may surprise us both.

I thought a lot about lifestyle, ours and others we have seen along the way. Had the ever-increasing feeling there is something else I should be doing, not instead of but in addition to. A very introspective time. For perhaps the first time, I am beginning to see and feel the aging process at work in myself.

8-8 Sunday morning. Sitting on the deck with my bare feet and legs resting on the little redwood table, drinking my first good cup of coffee in three weeks, great even though the beans are a little stale. Want to capture a few notes — memories — of our New Zealand trip before closing that chapter. Damn, the sun on my face feels good.

We flew out of Asheville on July 17, 1999, arrived Auckland 5 a.m. July 19. Impressions:

  • Dark, seems like night rather than early morning.
  • Airport immigration area oddly quiet.
  • First me The Kens: Big Ken and Little Ken. They were looking for the constable to get a gun permit for Big Ken. Little Ken didn’t bring his into the country. they were headed to Shane Quinn’s place, too. More on “The Kens” later.
  • Constables and customs people very nice; constables cut from same cloth as those in Scotland.
  • New Zealand very concerned about foreigners bringing in seeds or bugs that could germinate and cause harm. Apparently that’s not an obsessive fear and has happened there; has something to do with the availability of virgin food sources with few people, etc.; happened with rabbits, possums, even deer, when introduced by gift many years ago; thrived to the extent they became pests.
  • Thus, signs in the airport threaten NZ$100,000 fines and up to 5 years in prison for failing to disclose food items, seeds, etc. in your possession. They had food-sniffing dogs. Disclosure also requested if you have hunting equipment, including shoes, sporting shoes, tents, etc. so, like the good citizens we are, we disclosed our hunting and hiking boots. They took Buck’s and mine, even though mine are barely used and were in ziplock bags, to the laboratory for examination; found a couple of thorns on the bottom of mine and some thorns and seeds on Buck’s, so they washed them for us! Quite amazing. In speaking with other hunters along the way, it would appear we were in the minority in terms of disclosure.
  • Took a van to the Hyatt. Interesting twist is that most of the vans have a little luggage-carrying trailer attached, sort of like a large, portable  trunk, or boot, as they call it. Nice driver, older guy, mostly wanted to talk about the search for JFK, Jr’s plane which crashed near Martha’s Vineyard yesterday. He was clearly a Kennedy family fan.
  • Lobby of the Hyatt Regency very attractive. Smooth check-in, around 7:30 a.m.; nice room, not large, with a good picture window overlooking Auckland’s harbor. We ordered breakfast in: scrambled eggs and wholemeal toast, “skinny” milk. It arrived with a flourish on a rolling table. I fixed a cup of tea, and we enjoyed our meal and crashed for several hours. Around 12:30 or so we showered, then took a walk around downtown Auckland. The Hyatt is right next door to the University of Auckland and also Albert Garden, a marvelous city garden full of gorgeous old spreading trees, some formal plantings, sidewalks and benches and inviting grassy areas. It divides the university area from the city center, which is kind of in a valley. Staircases beside one edge of the park lead you down into it. Weather generally overcast, although there were moments of sunshine and moments of light rain, sometimes simultaneously. We found a “Robbie Burns” liquor store and bought some Absolut and Chivas Regal. Also found a small in-town grocery for some olives. Neiter of us was hungry, so we skipped lunch.
  • Back at the hotel we relaxed, then enjoyed a couple of drinks with Cash nuts, my God, from the mini-bar. Then Rex, the top-hat and tails doorman, called a cab to take us to Cin-Cin on Quai, a trendy place on the waterfront, for a dinner that was very pretty and virtually inedible!

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