By John Keast
The old wool wagon is going home to Mesopotamia, the great expanse of country on the south side of the Rangitata, and home to the Prouting family.
For the past year or more, the wagon has been in Ashburton in the care of the craftsmen at the Ashburton MenzShed.
They, bit by bit, have restored the wagon, built in 1911 by P & D Duncan in Christchurch.
When it was brought in, its timber was rotting and its wheels were falling apart.
But when Laurie Prouting saw the restoration job, he could not stop smiling.
“You’ve done us proud. Well done,” he said.
Son Malcolm, who runs the station now, was with him, and his son.
Laurie Prouting said he recalled his father, Malcolm, using the wagon as a kind of high-country trailer, but he does not remember seeing it pulled by horses.
But it was, with Charlie Dunstan, of Mayfield, in the driver’s seat.
“I remember him sitting on a chapman sack on a kerosene tin at the back of Morrison’s in Geraldine. He wrote a manuscript about (author) Samuel Butler.
“He reckoned (booksellers) Whitcombe and Tombs were charitable to say his books were readable.”
The restoration became a major project for MenzShed members.
Rotting timber was removed from the deck and replaced with macrocarpa boards.
Bruce Dellow – a mainstay of the project – used his carpentry skills to refurbish the wheels, replacing felloes, the curved wooden sections on which the steel rim sits.
On one wheel he replaced eight felloes. They were crafted from oak.
Mr Dellow, a retired builder, also put the steel rims – tyres – back on the wheels.
They were heated until they expanded, then dropped, smoking, over the wooden frames before being cooled.
There were jokes when the Proutings arrived about whether there was enough “tread” on the tyres to get a warrant.
“Take it down to the station,” Mr Dellow said.
He was grinning.
MenzShed chairman Stewart Dunlop said members were pleased to be able to work on it, though it had its frustrations.
“The wheels were the trickiest,” he said.
Most members, he said, played a part, but Mr Dellow’s expertise was invaluable.
Mr Prouting said the wagon was part of history, and reckoned it would have been stuck in the Rangitata more than once.
“It was pretty weather-worn when you got it.”