Jul 25

Midnight search and no rescue

Large Friesian bull in a paddock

Imagine walking into a bull in the dark…

As we are a fully trained search and rescue team thanks to a late night request to help find a fisherman missing on the Kaipara Harbour, here are some handy hints, with the tips following the lessons and the most important tip last because that was our learning process.

The farmer and I were asleep when neighbours across the river phoned at 11.30pm. A fisherman hadn’t arrived for a rendezvous a few kilometres further up the river. It was howling a gale and, had the motor failed, his boat might have washed up on the other side of our farm. Could we check?

We bolted out of bed and pulled on warm clothes. I grabbed a hat, jacket and our biggest torch. Yes, the farmer jumped into the truck without a torch presumably figuring the headlights would do the work.

After driving to the point near the house (no luck there), we headed through the farm where the torch came in handy.

Tip Six: Take a torch.

We walked along the beach then, because the tide was so high, through a wet, puggy paddock. I asked the farmer to slow down so he wouldn’t leave me in the dark which gave him a bright idea – he could travel faster without me, so why not leave me all alone in the dark!

Sure, I said as he took off for the bluff with the one and only torch.

Tip Five: If possible, take a torch for each person.

It was a black, black night. I couldn’t see a thing, including the nearby towering pines which didn’t break the screaming wind. I envied Kate the dog who’d come for the adventure, but had sensibly stayed with the truck.

Tip Four: If you can wangle it, stay with the vehicle.

And it was so cold. Lucky I grabbed that jacket and hat.

Tip Three: Dress warm.

While I stood in the paddock my mind galloped. What if the farmer fell and dropped the torch? How long would I wait? Could I get back to the truck? I couldn’t use the fence as a guide – it was electrified. Were there bulls in the paddock? Imagine bumbling into a sleeping bull.

After what seemed like forever – about 20 minutes – I saw the farmer’s torch flash and he showed up shortly afterwards having found nothing.

As we stumbled back across the paddock I suggested holding hands would make things easier. The farmer said he doubted this was acceptable on a search and rescue mission, but held my hand anyway.

Tip Two: Hold hands, especially if it’s really dark.

We got home at 12.15pm to find two messages from our neighbours. The first had been recorded moments after we left – as they’d watched our vehicle lights disappear through the farm, they spotted the lights of a boat heading up the harbour. The second message, at five past midnight, confirmed the missing boatie had arrived. Sigh… if only we’d known.

Tip One: Take a cell phone. Then HQ can phone if the lost person is found and you can immediately return to your warm and snuggly bed.


About the author

Rae Roadley

Rae is a journalist, freelance writer and writing tutor. Soon after returning to her hometown to work for Northland's daily newspaper, she met beef and sheep farmer Rex Roadley. He lived in a historic home at Batley on the Kaipara Harbour and after moving there, Rae reported on farming then wrote a newspaper column, The Country Side. Her wryly amusing tales of country life earned many followers and led her to learn more about the local people, past and present. She tells the story of her new life in 'Love at the End of the Road: Finding my heart in the country'.


  1. Lynley

    Yikes, well done you standing in the pitch black. And for not moving as the Farmer would not have found you again.

    Do cattle lie down to sleep at night? – obviously I am a “townie”!!!

    Since the Christchurch earthquakes I am a lot more emergency conscious and I have a few more mental check-lists in my busy head. Males in the family do seem far more vague over such things……

    Take two cell phones next time and then you may be able to communicate with each other if need be….or if you needed to talk to the Farmer from a desolate, dark spot. Good old RTs come to mind if cell phone coverage is dodgy.

    Great outcome in the end. All were safe and sound and we like that:-)

    1. Rae Roadley

      Thanks for the thoughts and tips. Yep, cattle lie down and even have nana naps of a sunny afternoon. It was a great outcome, so all good.

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