by Keith Smith
Self-published and available from the author: 1 Foster Terrace, Napier. Price: $25
Reviewed by Roger Moroney.
Keith Smith has few regrets in life - despite not having the use of his right arm for the last 55 years.
But he did regret the war ending in 1945. "Because I never got the chance to have a go at a Messershmitt!"
Keith, or Smithy to his mates...and 'Elvis' to the widows he insists pursue him for a spin around the dance floor at the Taradale RSA on a Friday evening... is a character.
One of those (dare I use the term) 'dinkum' Kiwi blokes who never let adversity get in the way of a good time, or getting something done. Like building a fence...or a double garage...or a boat...or re-sitting your pilot's licence - all with just one arm.
His exploits over the years, including his stint in the RNZAF, firstly as a mechanic then as a pilot, are entertainingly laid out in this wonderful slice of a Kiwi battler's life.
Keith plays it straight and writes crisply and casually - as if conversing with the reader over a couple of beers.
And the tales of a rich and adventurous life (particularly in his younger years of hunting, forestry and aviation) are the perfect read while enjoying a quiet beer.
The Ohakea years are a wonderful read, and his recall of events and attention to service detail will strike a chord with anyone who went through there...and anywhere in the military for that matter.
The anecdotes are spread liberally throughout...my favourites being his building a boat in the living room without his wife knowing...and the days and nights in heartland New Zealand forests as a young tree-feller.
But the most absorbing chapter is that of the motorcycle crash which cost his arm in 1947 and the hospitalisation afterwards. Even here he finds humour...his description of a couple of 'large' nurses is priceless.
Great yarns about a solid, never-say-die life...which 76-year-old Keith insists is a long way from done yet.