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Thursday, July 09, 2015

Masters Of The Dwang

Old House In Waikato, New Zealand

I received a comment from New Zealand which contained a puzzling expression:
"...cowboy builder... "

(see post Home From The Holidays,

Since the writer had just denied facility in foreign lingo, this was a puzzle, for it was an assertion and a disavowal - was it not?  "Cowboy builder" is surely from far away climes and long ago palavers of mankind.

I looked for it in New Zealand newspapers, and found the following in the Waikato Times:
What became of the cowboy builders and the shonky jobs?
They came thundering over the horizon and across the Canterbury Plains in a swirl of dust and heat and beating hooves, nail pockets flapping wildly in the wind and spirit levels at the ready in the saddle holster. A posse of cowboy builders and renegade chippies mounted up and rode for the corrals of the Christchurch CBD, that earthquake-ravaged, dodgy city of the South.
From every point of the compass they came, holed up for years in the dead end gulches of shonky jobs. The "Do It Yourself Boys" - masters of the celebrated dwang, joist haulers and concrete-pad lads, warriors of the skill-saw and angle grinder, the chisel champs and jackhammer jocks, the under-cut boys; the "no-job-too-small-for-cash crews" camped out in the wastelands of far-flung suburbia. Meanwhile, across the ditch, from Caboolture to Gundagai, the bad boys of the rivet-gun and crow bar gangs hearing the call - saddled up and rode out. Not one Trade Certificate between them.
A scenario maybe that belongs to a chemically induced state of euphoria or short film treatment of the same. The DIY tradition lives on, last vestige of colonial self-sufficiency whose origins go back to settlement times and a healthy distrust of authority.
In Australia there existed once upon a time the sugar bag carpenter. I met an old codger at a pub in Bondi Junction - claimed he was the last of that old breed, and I believed him too; in fact, I wrote a poem about what he told me that sweltering summer afternoon on the eve of the new millennium. The poem, Sugerbag Carpenter subsequently appeared in my collection, Unmanned (1999). The poem kicks off like this:
Them days all you needed was a blunt saw & an axe thrown in a sack. If you could drive a 3" nail through a pound of butter you got the job and that's a fact - ask Bob the Builder who shook the hand of Banjo Patterson though no one believes him...
(I emphasized "cowboy builder" and similar things.)


Oh, a dwang is a noggin between studs.



knutty knitter said...

You do realise we don't speak English here.....:) On the other hand, I do appear to speak American according to an on-line quizz. I do not admit to speaking 'Strine' They are a whole different breed over the Tasman.


Montag said...


Give me "cowboy builder" anytime.

knutty knitter said...

Australian. The weirdos next door we always try to beat at whatever but who we support if none of us is part of whatever situation........mostly :) Especially sporting stuff.


ps if you want to really peeve a New Zealander try suggesting that they are Australian :)