Terms of endearment  The Poor B#ast@rd

In my early years in New Zealand, even my father-in-law gave me a hard time for being a public servant and a Pommie. You take these things on the chin and realise, eventually, it’s a type of Kiwi bloke-humour and probably well meant.

 It might even be code for ‘you’re one of us now’. Anyway, the Kaumatua Tramping Club newsletters have a good sprinkling of such terms of endearment – most frequently directed at Trip Leaders. The KTC 40th Anniversary Edition summarises the situation very well.

In this excerpt from the archives, Dave Peebles* explains about tramping and leading trips in the Club’s first decade from 1960 to 1969: Dave was a foundation and life member of the Kaumatua Tramping Club and first newsletter editor. His trips and talks on medicinal and edible bush plants were a legend and were always eagerly attended. When he wrote the above words he was 88 years old and still tramping. There’s a memorial to him on Norbett Loop Track.

“Marked tracks weren’t that common in those early days. It was even possible to go astray on the Five Mile Track at night, as a well-known member at that time could relate. The track was so wet and muddy that if you got onto dry land you realised that you were off the track! But getting geographically confused was so common that trip leaders could, in certain dire circumstances, be awarded the letters ‘PB’ after their names. Fateful phrases contributed to the award, such as “I think we take the left fork here”’ or “That ridge looks like it’s going in the right direction” or “Didn’t we pass that rock 5 hours ago?”.

What does PB mean? The term is not one of mirth or approbation. It is a token of the deepest sympathy and heartfelt commiseration for a wretched, shattered Trip Leader who has fallen into a trap that any, repeat any, could have fallen into. It could happen on any Club outing. The Trip Leader has got the party into an impending doom situation, and the prospect of spending a night out in some horrible, godforsaken creek bed is on the cards. Members who have gone through the same situation themselves say with pity – “The Poor B#st@rd”. The phrase – There, but for the Grace of God, go I – puts the feeling exactly in a few words.

The first PB award went to Warren Hobbs. On a Club trip from the top of the Puffer along to the Pylon Road, Warren uttered the fateful words “Looks like we’ll be back too early. What about going down that gully, it’ll only take half an hour longer”. Four or five hours later with darkness rapidly falling on a bleak winter’s night, and wet up to the waist from sliding down waterfalls and wading deep pools, the party got out – but only just. The next time it was the writer himself* – coming down from McKerrow to Jacob’s Ladder before the track was marked. He too uttered fateful words: “We’re off the track. Never mind, we’ll pick it up further down” – they didn’t! After a long struggle the party came out at Jacob’s Ladder as night fell, with 3 torches among 16 persons. Blundering along the Five Mile in the dark, the writer fell into a gully and the party cried “Leave the Poor B—- there!”.

Dave was writing in early 2000 about events that took place 30 years earlier. I suspect, by then, far fewer PB awards were being handed out. Tracks had improved, there was better track marking, maps were much better, and it wouldn’t be long before GPS devices were readily available and affordable – all of which took a lot of stress off trip leaders. It would be churlish to suggest we are less likely to go off track now, less adventurous and therefore less likely to get a PB award but the figures probably speak for themselves – when did a trip leader last get you lost? But there’s another factor that I think may also apply. I don’t think I‘ve been called a Pommie for a long time. Maybe bloke-humour just doesn’t cut it anymore and we’re nicer to each other. As our website rightly says, we’re renowned for being a friendly and welcoming club.

The KTC Archivist October 2018

We encourage your club to take a look back through its archives, and forward any humorous stories from yesteryear through for us to share. Its all part of our rich heritage of outdoor culture! Please get in touch. 

Wilderlife