It's not every day a covered horse-drawn covered wagon pulls up in my driveway. Only two days actually, as I recall.
Three if you count the one that went past and didn't pull in, but that was pulled by a bullock, not a horse so yeah, just two.
The first time I was living in a small place called Horopito, memorable only for its immense wrecker's yard. So it was quite novel to see a covered wagon lurch its way down the gravel road and heave to a halt.
The dishevelled driver seemed to be looking for something, peering out from under a greasy cowboy hat. Helpful sort that I am, I wandered down the driveway to point him in the right direction: "America, circa 1850, back the way you came but turn left at the big intersection, not right". . .
Before I could set him straight he told me, in a decidedly Kiwi accent, that he was looking for work.
"I'm a travelling farrier, and I saw your horse in your paddock and wondered if you wanted its hooves trimmed."
No self-respecting Horopito-dwelling horse owner could turn down such an offer. Farriers were a rare commodity in our parts, as were, well, people in general. The traveling farrier hauled his rasps and clippers from the wagon and trimmed away at my horse's feet and when he'd finished he asked if I knew of any other potential clients he could visit.
As it happened I did. A friend down the road a bit had a horse called Patch who also had hooves. What luck. I made a broad hint that my friend's house was exceedingly difficult to locate without an experienced Horopito-familiar guide and I got the appropriate reply. "I could sure use a guide, how's about you jump up on the wagon, pardner, and show me where I can find this friend with this horse."
Actually, he said "yeah OK but before you ask, I'm not letting you drive".
I clambered aboard, resisting the urge to yell yeehaa and off we trundled. The wagon was unwieldy on the bumpy gravel road, lurching along, canvas cover flapping.
We rounded the corner and I could see Patch the horse, grazing on the roadside behind an electric tape.
As we got closer, Patch the horse saw us, too.
Horses are timid creatures, flight animals. They are always on the lookout for things that might want to chase or eat them. Patch saw the lurching, canvas-covered wagon approaching and the sight bypassed all the sensible, civilised areas of her brain and went straight to the "catch me and eat me" node.
She stood straight up, pricked her ears and stared. The farrier and I thought the best move was to get past Patch, up her owner's driveway and park the offending wagon behind the garage where she couldn't see it.
Patch thought the best move was away, fast. As we drove past, she accelerated to a speed I didn't know short fat pinto mares were capable of.
She ran straight towards the electric fence and kept going. There was a loud snap as the tape gave way and Patch was free and running for her life. Straight down Horopito Rd and towards the distant main highway.
The travelling farrier hauled his horse into a u-turn and whipped it with the reins, urging it after Patch. I think he'd watched far too many Westerns.
Patch saw the monster chasing her and went faster. I held on for dear life. The traveling farrier lashed his horse with the reins and actually did yell yeehaa. We careened down the road and round the corner, right into chaos.
There was one other thing Horopito was a little bit famous for at that particular time. It was where they were filming an early Kiwi movie . . . Smash Palace.
In the time it had taken us to trundle down the road and thoroughly upset Patch, the film crew had arrived, set up, spread the roadway with props, cameras and actors and were in the middle of, I think the intense bit where the star, Bruno Lawrence, has the local cop at gunpoint.
Suddenly, through the centre of it all galloped a wild-eyed and sweating pinto mare. People fled in all directions and fled still further when the first onslaught was followed by a wildly swaying covered wagon driven by a yelling yeehaa-ing cowboy, with a pale, white-knuckled woman clinging to the seat beside him.
Three of the film crew who were still on their feet and not dusting themselves off and swearing summed up the situation in a glance. They leaped into a battered old blue van and gave chase. The van had sliding passenger and driver's doors and they had these open as they sped up beside us.
"Jump in" yelled one of the crew "it will be faster".
That I had to doubt but our wagon-horse was flagging so it was hauled to a halt and I leaped in the passenger's side of the van. Or tried to.
Did I mention there were three film crew? The van only seated three. I was crammed in the doorway, most of me on the outside and we resumed the pursuit, overtaking Patch who, once convinced the monster had gone, slowed to a walk, then a shaky halt, and allowed herself to be caught.
I led her home to her owner, who to be honest was not best pleased. The travelling farrier slunk off into the sunset, never to be seen again, and my part in Smash Palace, "kidnapped heroine clinging to covered wagon", was never seen either. I did look for it at the premiere.