Once again the bull wandered onto the Titahi Bay Road at Porirua, on New Zealand’s North Island, and stopped traffic. And once again someone from the Katene family had to be called to drive the bull back to where it belonged. Enough, George Katene thought; this bull was too much trouble. We will sell it, and use the money to take us to the hui tau at Dannevirke, farther north on the island and well to the interior. The Maori Latter-day Saints looked forward to these yearly gatherings which lasted for days, filled with preaching and dancing and eating and sports, and other celebrations of both Maori and Latter-day Saint culture. It was expensive to provide transportation and supplies for his large family, both immediate and extended, and selling the troublemaking bull would take care of everything quite nicely.
So the bull was sold, George Katene’s truck was put into shape for the trip, and George’s wife, nine children, and some aunts, uncles and cousins prepared to go to hui tau in April, 1936. Some other aunts and uncles who would have found it hard to travel such a long way in the back of a crowded truck were put on the train. At the last minute, George’s good friend, Clement Devenport, decided to go to hui tau with the Katene family and offered to drive his bigger, somewhat more comfortable truck. George Katene offered to buy the gas for the trip, the men erected a canvas top over the truck bed and filled the bed with boxes for sitting and straw for comfort, and the family headed off to hui tau.
Some distance from home, at Pahautanui, Inspector J. Ainsworth of the Main Highway Board saw the heavily laden truck on the road – interestingly, for LDS culture, he described it in his notebook as “a covered wagon.” He stopped the truck, counted the people in the truck bed, and asked where they were going. To hui tau at Dannevirke, they said. And how are your expenses being paid? he wanted to know. George told him about selling the bull, and using its proceeds to pay for fuel on the road. This is your lorry? he asked. No, George said, it belongs to Clement Devenport, the driver.
The inspector turned his attention to Clement. Your passengers are paying for the fuel? he wanted to know. Well, yes; George Katene and I are friends, and since we were both going to hui tau, Clement was providing the truck and George was paying for the fuel. What else is he paying you? Nothing. No? He gave you nothing else? Well, he is president of our local church, and he gave me my ticket for the hui tau. I see … Let me take a look at your papers … Everything seems to be in order with your personal papers and your vehicle license, but where is your Certificate of Fitness? My what? Your Certificate of Fitness – you must have such a document certifying the safety of your vehicle when you transport people for hire. But they didn’t hire me – I am their friend, and I’m going to hui tau with them!
Inspector Ainsworth could not quite satisfy himself as to that. There was something suspicious about the whole arrangement – a truck filled with thirteen adults and five children, not related to the driver, and the passengers were paying expenses. That certainly seemed to him like a hired vehicle … and so he issued a ticket to Clement Devenport for transporting passengers “for hire or reward” without the necessary Certificate of Fitness.
The Katenes continued on to the hui tau in the truck driven by Clement, and enjoyed a successful conference. Sometime later George and Clement returned to Pahautanui. Clement, represented by a Mr. Mellish, appeared in the Magistrate’s Court of Mr. E.D. Mosley.
Mr. Mellish laid out Clement’s defense: The trip had been organized by George Katene, an accredited Latter-day Saint minister among the Maoris in Wellington District, he said. The Rev. Katene had “found it difficult to get his young men to attend to their religious duties” and so “he was particularly anxious to make this trip a success. He intended to take his own lorry to the Dannevirke hui tau,” which, he explained to the court, included “concerts, dances, games, and religious exercises lasting several days.” The family’s bull had been making a nuisance of itself, so the Rev. Katene decided to sell it “and so provide the benzine for the trip. At the last minute the defendant, who was a personal friend of Mr. Katene, had offered his lorry.”
Clement testified, saying that, like all Latter-day Saints, he had been invited to attend the hui tau “whether he took his lorry or not.” He had personally driven that lorry the entire way to and from Dannevirke.
George then gave evidence and told of his family’s original travel arrangements. The passengers were George and his wife, their nine children, and seven near relatives – of course they felt they had to pay for Clement’s fuel. Clement was a personal friend, and visited the LDS Church at Porirua “very frequently. He is a real decent pakeha boy and I look upon him as one of our own,” George told the magistrate. The defendant received no reward of any kind for driving the Katene family in his truck – he received expenses only, and a free ticket to the hui tau, which he would have been given even had he not driven the Katene family.
The magistrate considered, and gave his verdict. “Although the court usually took a very strict view of these prosecutions,” Mr. Mosley said, “there was no evidence in this case to convince him that any ‘hire or reward’ had been given. The arrangement was a friendly one, such as might well have been made between such close friends.” In the circumstances, he dismissed the charges.
Tomorrow: A story about one of the passengers in the back of Clement Devenport’s lorry.