Tuesday, December 9, 2008
I'd saved up a fair, few bob now by staying in the Bush and not going into town to spend it.
One day, I said to Arthur "I wouldn't mind one of those new Honda motor bikes. They look like they'd be pretty handy to git around on."
"How much do they cost?"
"Oh probably around 200 quid."
"How much ya got saved up?"
"About 150 quid. I saved a fair bit of money when I was fencing with Smithy and a few bob more at Dick Skipworths."
"Tell ya what I'll do with ya Yorky. We'll go into town and see my Bank Manager. If I go guarantor for ya, he'll probably lend ya the amount ya need for a bike."
"Fair dinkum Arthur, you'd do that for me?"
"Long as ya pay it off mate, why not mate."
"You're a bloody, little beauty Arthur," I said, with an excited grin on mi face.
"I'm goin' into town on Thursday, ya can come in with me and we'll go to the bank."
'Three days wait, that's not far away at all', I thought.
Thursday morning found Arthur and me parking his work Ute outside the Commercial Bank of Australia.
"G'day." said Arthur to the young Bank Johnny who stood behind the counter. "The boss in?"
"I'll tell him ya here, Arthur."
The Bank Manager came out to the front counter a few minutes later. He was the typical Bank Manager type with a white shirt and tie, rather large gut, pair of good shorts with a crease down the front, white socks and shoes. His black-gray hair was very well groomed along with his neatly trimmed mustache.
"Good day Arthur." he said as he approached the counter. "How ya going mate?" he said as he leaned across the wooden counter to shake Arthurs' hand.
"Pretty good Jack. Can't complain mate."
"What can I do for ya today Arthur?"
"I'd like a loan Jack."
"What do you want a loan for Arthur? You've got near on as much money as the bank has." he said jokingly.
"Not for me Jack. This is Yorky, he's working out at my place. He wants to buy one of those new Honda 90s' and he's short a few bob."
"Good day Yorky." he said. "Come through to the inside office gentlemen. I'm sure we can arrange that. Sit down.," he said as he took his seat behind the large black desk with his name on it. "How much do ya need Yorky?"
"A hundred quid would cover it. I've already got the rest saved up."
"Ya gotta' account with us Yorky?"
"No, it's in mi pocket in 20s'"
"Alright mate, you'll have to open an account with it and then we'll draw it back out and lend ya the rest. Ya gonna' guarantee it for him Arthur?"
"Yeah, give me the papers to sign and I'll co-sign it with him."
As soon as the paper work was done, the Bank Manager read the terms of the agreement back to Arthur and me; I signed it in the appropriate places.
"Alright Yorky, ya understand that if, for some reason, ya don't pay the loan in the time stated, Arthur will have to pay it, alright?"
"Pick ya money up at the counter on ya way out then. Thanks for ya business Yorky."
"Oh thanks for the loan." I said with a handshake.
When we got outside the bank I said to Arthur, "I really appreciate that Arthur. You're a really decent bloke mate."
"No worries Yorky. Just make sure ya pay it off in time, then if ya ever need another loan for a Ute later on, you'll have a good track record with 'em mate. Where's the Honda at Yorky?"
"Down the end of the street at Chamens."
"OK, we can walk down there mate. I'll come with ya to make sure everything goes all-right for ya."
It didn't take very long before the bike was loaded into the back of Arthurs' Ute and tied down so it couldn't move around on the way back to his place. Ya may wonder why I didn't ride it back. Well the truth is I had no idea how to!
Once we went over the ramp into Arthurs' road paddock, he said "Let's take it off the back Yorky. Ya can ride it from here."
After the ropes were undone, we got one on each side of it and lifted the back wheel down onto the dirt track. Arthur squeezed the clutch and we pushed it back off the tailgate of the Ute.
"Git on her Yorky and give her a good burn."
The Honda 90 was the latest bike of its size, out on the market. It was black and silver with the Honda wings on the side of the petrol tank. It had a double seat and a single exhaust pipe.
I sat on the new seat, turned on the key and kicked down on the starter. The bike fired up first time.
"That's a good sign." said Arthur. "Ya' got ya' self a real good little bike there Yorky."
"What's the gears again Arthur?"
"One up and 3 down mate."
The bike was in first gear and I slowly let the clutch out and it glided off smoothly up the dirt track. I was wobbling so much on it I had to jam on the brakes 'cause I was too close to the fence and the last thing I wanted was to drop it and scratch the hell out of it. I pushed it well away from the fence and then said,
"Arthur, you have a go on it mate. See how it goes."
Arthur swung his leg over her and took off up the track, no problem at all. He spun it around and pulled up right alongside of me, the Log Cabin fag was still smoldering away as he got off.
"She's a beauty Yorky. Hop on her again and take ya time. I'm going up to the house for a cuppa'"
As soon as Arthur took off, I felt a bit more comfortable at trying it out so I started her up again and put her into first gear and eased out the clutch.
'Now we're cruising!'
I thought as I got used to maneuvering her around. It only took about an hour or so before I was feeling quite competent on it.
Over the next week or so, I rode mi new bike all over the property.
One day Arthur said to me, "Why don't ya ride her into town Yorky. It'll give ya a bit more freedom mate."
"I haven't got a license Arthur."
"That don't matter Yorky. Call in and see the old Sarge. He's a good friend of mine. He's coming out here to do a bit of waterskiing next weekend with his family. Just tell him ya workin' for me Mate. He'll give ya a learners permit."
On Saturday morning I rode mi new bike into Lake Cargelligo. It was not as easy as it sounds though, especially when the cars and trucks went past. They threw up a heap of stones and dust behind 'em that stung the body when they hit and the dust was so thick it was hard to see where I was going.
"Good day Sergeant Montgomery." I said as I walked into the Police Station.
"Good day young fella'." He said, eyeing me with suspicion. "What can I do for ya mate?"
The sergeant was a big bloke with a large barrel chest. He had a pleasant enough face, but I heard through the Bush grapevine that he didn't take shit from no one.
"My name's Richard Swindells and I'm working out at Arthur Auberrys' place and he suggested I see you for a permit to ride mi new bike."
"All right, give us a minute or two till I can find where that Constable of mine has put 'em. How's Arthur?", he said as he looked under the counter.
"He's pretty good. He said you're comin' out to his place to waterski next weekend Sergeant."
"I'm comin' out there but ya won't catch me on no bloody waterskis. My young daughter likes 'em and I like to sit in the shade of a good tree with a cool can a' Fosters in mi hand. Here we go, fill that in and sign it here."
Once I paid for the permit, he gave me the slip and my portion of the permit and 2 cardboard L plates.
"Make sure a put 'em on."
He must have read my mind 'cause I was thinkin' about the embarrassment of riding around with the two L plates on mi new bike.
I still had a few Quid left when I drove away from the Cop Shop so I went back to Chamens where I bought mi bike and ordered a new windshield for it, 'cause the flying stones and dust were a bit dangerous.
The new Honda was the best thing that I'd ever bought. Arthur was absolutely right; it gave me a newfound sense of freedom.
Sometimes, I'd ride to town during the week and sometimes I'd go and visit Kevin up the top end of town, at his apartment.
A few times, 1 or 2 of the local sheilas would ask me to take 'em for a ride around town. This was a bit risky 'cause I wasn't supposed to carry anyone on the back until I'd gotten mi full license.
There was another couple a' young blokes in Lake Cargelligo who also had new Hondas, so on a hot Saturday afternoon, when all the shoppers had gone and the dusty, bitumen Main street was quite deserted, we used to burn up and down the street, practicing back-wheel-slides and front-wheel-stands. It was quite hard to wheel-stand my small Honda until this bloke called McFadden showed me how to sit right back on the seat. This made the front-end much lighter and up she'd go for 10 or 15 yards before she'd drop again.
The old Seargent was not too pleased with this kind of activity so we had to keep a good eye out for him. One Saturday morning, I decided to ram a crowbar up the exhaust to knock the baffles out. When I started it up, it scared off all of Arthurs' chooks. It sounded great to me. It used to roar like a small tractor when I screwed up the throttle. Many's the time I would scare a cockies wife as I sped around her on her way to town.
It took quite a skill to control the bike on the corrugated dirt corners, especially when I had it flat out at 55 MPH. The back wheel would slide into the corner as I leaned right over. I had developed the knack of sliding mi boot and correcting the front wheel which made the bike go sideways and forward, until I pulled it up straight again.
One Friday night, as I was heading into town, I was going around the last dirt corner before the bitumen started, I was doing about 45 and the bike was skidding nicely when, all of a sudden a work Ute loomed up in front of me. I would have hit it straight on if the driver had not of swerved onto the opposite side of the road. This gave me a hell of a scare so I decided to take it a bit easier from then on.
The next morning, I was sat outside the Hotel Australian when the old Sergeant came up to me.
"G'day Sergeant Montgomery."
"Ya permits run out, hasn't it?"
"I think so Sergeant."
"Listen,", he said, "I don't mind ya driving with no license but for Christ sake use ya fuckin' head mate! Fix that bloody exhaust pipe. I can hear ya set off from Arthurs' place every time ya come into town! Now, do the right thing mate or I'll run ya' in next time! Alright Yorky?"
"Yes Sergeant, and thanks for telling me."
"Don't fuckin' mention it mate. I'd do the same for a white fella'"
A few minutes later as I was sat there, trying to figure out how I was gonna fix it, Kevin Skippy pulled up and reversed into the space next to me.
"G'day Kevin.", I said, as he got out of his new car.
"Jesus Christ Yorky! You're turning into a real fuckin' tear arse!"
"What d'ya mean Kevin?"
"I very nearly wiped ya out last night mate. Ya must a' been doin' 50 around that corner and ya were on the wrong fuckin' side of the road as well. Ya gave me a hell of a bloody fright, ya bastard."
"Oh, was that you?"
"Just as fuckin' well it was, ya pommy bastard or you'd be dead if it was some old Cockies wife."
"Yeah, I suppose ya right Kevin. The old Sergeant just gave me the word too."
"You're a temporary Australian Yorky.", he said with a smile.
"What d'ya mean Kevin?"
"That's what we call blokes who 'yahoo' on motor bikes, temporary Australians. Anyway, how ya doin', ya bastard? Ya like it out at old Arthurs' place?"
"Yeah mate. Arthur's a real fair dinkum bloke. He got me a loan for the bike."
"Make sure ya don't kill ya self on it then or Arthur wouldn't be happy about that, would he?"
"Yeah, ya not wrong there mate. I've decided to slow down a bit, especially after last night. It scared the shit out of me as well when you came off the bitumen and hit the dirt right in font of me. I thought I was a gonner for sure."
"Alright Yorky, I'm off to the Hotel to see Stan Booth. Look after ya self mate."
"See ya later Kevin."
I rode mi bike across and down the street to Chamens and ordered a new baffle for the exhaust pipe and the following weekend I was installing it at Arthurs' place when Sergeant Montgomery and his wife and daughter came driving down the yard.
"G'day Sergeant.", I said as he pulled up level with me.
I held up the baffle in mi greasy hand and said, "One new baffle Sergeant!"
"Good on ya Yorky. You'd better come in for a license next Saturday morning while you're at it."
"Will I have to take a test Sergeant?"
"You know all the answers in the code book?"
"Sure do Sergeant. I memorized all 26 by heart.
"Then there's not much use giving ya a test is it? I know you can drive 'cause I've seen ya riding that bike on one bloody wheel so I suppose ya can ride it just as well on two, right?"
"Right Sergeant. I'll be in the station next Saturday morning for sure."
Just then, Arthur came out of the gate and walked over to the car.
"G'day Monty. Park ya' car over in the shade mate and come inside. I've got cold can of Fosters for ya in the fridge."
Saturday, December 6, 2008
One bright sunny morning as I was splitting a few logs in Arthurs' backyard I heard the sound of hoofs trotting behind me. As I turned around, I saw a magnificent-looking chestnut stallion, snorting and throwing his head back as his shiny, long main danced in the mornings sunlight.
Just then, the side house-gate opened and Arthur came walking out,
"Ya got a new horse Arthur?" I said.
"No mate, why?"
"Look over there, near the silos. Isn't that one of yours?"
"No way Yorky. I dunno' who owns him and besides he's a blood stallion. I can't think of anyone around here who would have a blood horse on his property. They can be pretty cranky at times."
As Arthur walked towards the horse, the horse lifted his front feet off the ground about 2 feet and threw his head back and gave a happy, neighing sound. Arthur kept walking straight towards him and when he got a few feet away, the stallion turned and ran off up the yard towards the fence. When he came to the stock ramp, he cleared it in one mighty leap and ran around the paddock, obviously to show off his breeding.
"Let's get some tucker for him Yorky. We'll put a saddle and bridle on him. .
"What's the saddle and bridle for Arthur ? Are you going to ride him?"
"No mate. You are!"
"Me! He's a race horse Arthur. I've only ridden stock horses mate, that were well-broken in!"
"No worries Yorky. There's always a first time for everything mate!"
"Tell ya what Arthur, you ride him first and I'll ride him after, alright?"
"Sounds good to me Yorky, lets git the gear."
Once the gear was in the back of Arthurs' old work Ute, we drove over the ramp and into the paddock where the racehorse was cantering around. Arthur stopped the Ute and got out to get the small bag of nuts. He walked over to the stallion with his hand out-stretched and palm up so the horse could see what was on his hand. As soon as he smelled and saw the nuts he came cantering over. Arthur let him eat what was on his hand and at the same time he was talking softly to him.
"Fetch the bridle over Yorky.", he said softly and don't make any jerky movements he may be shy,"
Very quietly I got the bridle out from the back of the Ute and took it over to Arthur who now had the racehorse eating out of his hand, without a care. Slowly Arthur slipped the straps over his head and palmed the bit into his mouth. All the horse was interested in was some more nuts.
As soon as the bridle was in place, Arthur walked him around the paddock in a large circle. Then he said, "I'll Grab the blanket and saddle Yorky. Here mate, you hold onto him while I saddle him up."
The horse didn't seem to mind the saddle too much but every now and again he'd jump sideways as Arthur said, "Whoah boy, steady on there big fella'."
Once the saddle was in place, Arthur took the reins and mounted the big horse. He was a bit frisky but Arthur was a great stockman so it only took a minute or so before the horse knew that Arthur was in full control.
"I'll ride him down the Lucerne paddock Yorky and we'll put him in the big open paddock across the road till I can find out who owns him. Follow me down in the Ute mate, will ya?"
"No worries Arthur.", I said as I hopped in the drivers seat.
I was, by this time, a pretty good driver. When Arthur and the horse got close to the ramp, the stallion took a great big leap with Arthur on his back. He very easily sailed across the six-foot stock ramp.
"That looked great Arthur!", I yelled out of the Utes' open window.
"Open the gate across the road there Yorky.", called Arthur.
I pushed the large gate open and Arthur and the big stallion rode through and I closed it behind them. Arthur dismounted and held him by the reins.
"Come on Yorky, git on him. It'll be a good bit of experience for ya . This is an 500 acre paddock mate, give him his head and let's see how good he really is!"
"You're fuckin' joking Arthur.", I said as I swung mi leg over him. "What if I fall off? I'll break mi fuckin' neck mate!"
"Come on Yorky, you're not gonna fall off. Just remember to keep ya knees tucked in tight. She'll be right mate."
The stallion was no fool. He knew that I was nowhere near the horseman that Arthur was and as soon as I let a' bit of tension off the reins, he was off like a bat out a' hell. Straight up the big open paddock he went, gaining speed at every stride. It was only a matter of seconds till he found his pace and then started to pull away, towards his top speed. With mi squatters hat jammed down hard on mi ears, I was hangin' on for dear life. I tried to rein him in a bit but there was no stopping him at all now. I applied a bit more tension to the reins but it made no difference whatsoever. He just kept pulling away. At one point, I looked down towards the stirrup and the ground seemed to be a brown blur.
'Oh what the hell', I thought. 'There's no turning back now.'
I gave him a bit of encouragement by loosening the reins and giving him his head. A good dig from my boot heels and he knew what to do.
The fence posts were turning into a blur as he reached out for more ground. It was what I would have imagined it to be like, going around the race track. I was starting to like this so I stood up in the stirrups and leaned down over his neck like I'd seen the jockeys do on mi dads' TV. The fence was coming up soon so I put a bit of pressure on the left-hand rein and the stallion started to veer off to the left. We made a very large turn as he pushed the ground from beneath his feet. He pounded them at full gallop. The blood was pumping through our veins and the brim of mi squatters hat was standing straight to attention as the wind made it quiver. His long chestnut mane was straight back as the wind whipped it from side to side.
'What a thrill!', I thought, as I looked out over his large head and ears.
I started to rein him in as we flew past the last pine trees. We still had a fair way to go to where Arthur was standing and I was taking no chances because he was a strong horse, plus the fact that I'd already experienced being thrown over a fence by Patches and I didn’t need that little experience again. It took me all my strength to pull him in and I thought I was pretty strong. The more I pulled, his head in and down, the more he tried to pull against me. I was almost going to panic when I felt him ease up a bit. He was hardly even blowing when we cantered up to where Arthur was standing by the old Ute. I think my heart was beating harder than his when I finally dismounted.
Arthur held the reins and I slid out of the saddle onto a pair of rubbery legs.
"We could make a jockey out of ya'", said Arthur, with a big grin on his face.
"Fuck you Arthur!", I said, as I walked around in a circle. "There's easier ways to make money than that."
"Ya' did pretty good Yorky, at least ya' stayed on him but I had my doubts at one point there."
"Yeah mate. Once he got wound up into his stride there was no stopping him. I was gonna' walk him back but he had other ideas."
"OK mate, let's turn him loose. There's a dam in this paddock so he's got some water and we'll fetch him some chaff down after breakfast, then I'll make a few phone calls tonight, see if I can find out who owns him."
As we drove back to the house I rolled a Drum and said to Arthur, "That was a pretty exciting start to the day, eh."
"A good ride, first thing in the morning, gets ya heart started Yorky. Ask any married cocky around the Bush. They'll all tell ya the same thing mate." said Arthur with a smile.
Monday, December 1, 2008
"Ya wanna' go fishin' tonight Yorky?, said Arthur on our way home from the paddock, one evening.
"Yeah, I'd love to Arthur but I haven't got a rod or a reel." I said.
"Ya don't need a rod for what I've got in mind mate."
"Then how are we gonna' catch fish?"
"I'll show ya when we git home."
We parked the Ute in the yard and Arthur said, "Have a look in that shed over there Yorky and you'll find a large sack behind the door. Fetch it over here will ya, it's not very heavy."
The sack was right where he said so I picked it up and took it over to where he was chopping a few logs for the evenings' fire.
"Good on ya' Yorky. I'll just split this big log and then we'll go down to the lakeside." said Arthur.
When we were at the waters' edge, Arthur said, "There's a small tin rowing boat under that clump of overhanging trees, float it down here Yorky."
The tin boat was only about 10 feet and had a metal bench seat at each end.
"Climb in mate and we'll row out a-ways."
Arthurs' property was a very beautiful place. The back part of his yard gently sloped down through the trees to the waters edge. There was always lots of bird life to be seen around dusk. Ducks, Shags, Cormorants and even Black Swans used to use the Lake as their home and there was always an abundant supply of catfish, small cod and plenty of Turtles.
"Row out towards that stump sticking out a' the water Yorky.", said Arthur, who was sat up front undoing the old sack.
When he opened the top of the sack, I could see why we didn't need any fishing rods.
Arthur was very carefully pulling out a few handfuls of Gill net and getting it ready to tie on to the long, dead tree stump which was about another 20 yards away.
When I maneuvered the boat into position, Arthur said, "Good on ya' Yorky. I'll tie the rope onto the stump here and you row very slowly towards that dead tree sticking out of the water over there."
"No worries Arthur. Here we go mate!"
As I rowed at a slow pace, Arthur let out handfuls of the net, shaking it out as he went. It took a while to let the net fully out, which was about 50 feet long but eventually we had it tied off to a dead, sun-dried, silvery tree.
"That's it Yorky. We should get at least a couple of tasty Catfish out of that."
"How long will it take to catch a fish?"
"Oh, we'll check it out in the morning mate. It'll give it a chance to fill up."
The following morning Arthur and I were up a half hour earlier so we could check the net.
"Row us out Yorky and let's see how we've done mate.", he said, as we got into the tin tub which had been left tied to a stump on the bank.
It was a beautiful morning to be out on the Lake. The Shags and the Cormorants were already diving for their breakfasts and the birds were singing and tweeting in the trees around the lakeside. A Kookaburra was having a good old laugh to himself as we rowed over to the dead log.
"Alright Yorky, that'll do mate. I'll lift the net from here and sort of pull the boat along as we go. You try to make sure we don't drift over the top of the net so we don't catch it on the boat." said Arthur.
Arthur very carefully lifted the net out of the water in sections. It wasn't long before a good-sized catfish appeared out of the water.
"Shit Arthur, how ya gonna' git him out of the net. It's all tangled up mate?" I said.
"Yeah, that's one of the downsides of using nets. Once I find where he got into it, I'll soon have him out."
It took Arthur about 5 minutes to untangle the net and the catfish hit the bottom of the boat with a good 'thump' and then proceeded to flop around for a while.
"How big d'ya think he is?"
"Oh, he's probably somewhere around 3 pounds."
I could see why they were called catfish when I saw the long whiskers that stuck out from his face.
"What a bastard!", said Arthur as he pulled on the gill net.
"What's the matter mate?", I said, as I leaned over in the boat.
"We've got a turtle caught up in it and he's made a right bloody mess of the net."
The turtle was moving all over the place as Arthur pulled the section of net into the boat. He spent a good 10 minutes trying to untangle the long-necked turtle, but the more Arthur untangled him the more he moved his legs around and re-tangled himself.
"Grand streuth! I didn't want to do this but there's only one way to get him out of the tangle now."
Arthur put his hand to his belt and pulled out the pocketknife from the small leather case he kept it in. He opened the main blade, which he kept good and sharp because he used that knife for everything.
"Ya gonna' have to cut the net so ya can git him out Arthur?" I said.
"Not on ya life mate.", he said, as he cut the turtles head off with one sharp thrust. He held the turtle over the side of the boat so it didn't mess the boat up with blood.
This gave me quite a shock as I didn't expect it.
"Only way to git 'em out when they get so tangled up."
"How come there's so many turtles dead on the roads if they live in water?" I asked.
"They travel across land once their usual water hole dries up. They've been known to travel 40 or 50 miles to get to a new water hole."
"How do they know which direction to travel in?" I asked.
"They've got a good sense of smell Yorky. They can smell water when it's miles away." said Arthur.
That morning we got 3 good-sized catfish out of the net and that evening Arthurs wife cooked 'em up for dinner. A sprinkling of salt and pepper and a fresh lemon out of Arthurs' orchard made for a good meal.
After dinner, I sometimes watched an hour or so of TV in Arthurs' large main room but that evening Arthurs wife was really wound up tight. Everyone was sitting around with their feet up on a large foot stool when she singled me out and said,
"Get your feet off of my furniture! Where do you think you are, at home?"
"Oh no.", I said. "My mistake Mrs. Auberry. I saw everyone else had their feet up so I just followed suit"
I left the house about 5 minutes after that episode and went back over to my room. About 10 minutes later Arthur knocked on the door and came in.
"Ya alright Yorky?" said Arthur.
"Yeah, I'm alright. I didn't mean to offend your wife." I said.
"That's alright mate. It's not your fault. She has a few problems which make her uptight most of the time so she's on medication and when she gets low on the medicine she tends to get pretty cranky for no good reason. Don't take it personal mate." said Arthur.
"All right Arthur, as long as I'm aware of that I'll be careful around her." I said.
"Anyway mate, it's good for me that ya here 'cause if not, she'd have gotten cranky with me mate!" Arthur said with a grin.
Friday, November 28, 2008
"Here we go mate.", said Kevin, as we turned off Condoblin road and over the stock ramp. We drove up the track, which ran parallel to the fence and over another stock ramp, then down into Arthurs' yard.
Arthur was chopping up a few logs when we arrived and as soon as the dogs started to bark, he turned and gave us a wave. Sticking the axe into a log, he casually walked over to the drivers side of the Ute.
"G'day Skippy, how'ya goin' mate?"
"Not too bad Arthur. Ya got all ya wheat in the silo?"
"I finished a couple of weeks ago, Skippy. We're not all big landowners like you blokes are."
"We might have a lot of land but we got a lot of headaches that go along with it, Arthur."
"Yeah, ya not wrong there."
I brought ya new man over for ya Arthur. He's a pommy bastard but not a bad one. Every now and again they send us a good one." he said with a laugh.
We got out of the Ute and I walked over towards Arthur and held out mi hand.
"Arthur Auberry.", he said. "Good to meet ya'."
As we shook hands, I said, "Richard Swindells. Good to meet you Arthur."
"His fucking name is Yorky, Arthur. He's from Yorkshire so you can forget that other name. It's too fuckin' long anyway.", said Kevin.
"Yorky will do me if it suits you.", He said to me.
"Yorky's fine.", I said with a smile.
"Are these ya ports Yorky?", said Arthur.
"Let's take 'em to where you'll be staying then."
The 3 of us grabbed mi gear and walked across the dirt yard to a small corrugated tin hut. Arthur pushed open the door and to my surprise it was a very clean little place.
"This is where you'll be staying. Ya can have ya meals over at the house."
"Jesus Christ!", said Kevin. "This place is a fuckin' palace Yorky. It's too good for a pommy, mate!"
"Don't you believe it mate. After old Burts place, nothing is too good for this Pommy."
"Shit Yorky, the walls are lined and there's even wallpaper on 'em and you've got lino and a big rug in front of the bed. Ya even got a mirror to look in. You'll be able to see ya rough head in the mornings before ya go out and scare someone, mate."
"My head is nowhere near as rough as that bastard of yours Kevin.", I said with a big smile.
"I take it you two like each other, the way ya abuse one another.", said Arthur.
"Oh, he's not a bad, poor Aussie bastard."
"Fuck you, ya pommy bastard.", said Kevin with an even bigger smile.
"How d'ya like married life Kevin?", said Arthur.
"Pretty good mate. Just look at the gut I'm getting' on me. It won't be long before I gotta put a mirror on the end of mi work boot so I can see mi dick."
"She must look after ya then, does she Kevin?"
"She sure does Arthur. She's the best little sort in Lake Cargelligo."
"She better be Skippy. They don't improve with time!"
"All right Yorky, I'm off mate. I'll see ya around town sometime."
"Thanks for bringin' me over here Kevin.", I said.
"No worries mate. I'd do the same for a white fella."
We all walked back out of mi new room and Kevin hopped in his Ute and I gave him a wave as he spun the Ute in the dirt and tore off, up the road.
"He's a wild boy, that Kevin is.", said Arthur.
"Yeah, but he's a real fair dinkum friend.", I said.
"Make ya self at home Yorky. We'll be eating about 7 O'clock. I'll give ya a shout a few minutes before."
"Thanks Arthur.", I said, as I headed off back to check out mi new room.
Arthur Auberry was a middle-aged man who wore a canvas Karkie jungle hat. He had pleasant features and the usual deep lines from a life in the bush. He smoked Log Cabin rollies and always had one stuck out of the corner of his mouth. Once he stuck it in the right-hand corner, he never removed until it was a quarter of an inch away from his lips.
He wore the usual clothes of a wheat cocky and there was nothing on the surface which would reveal the devastating past this man once had to live, which I came to hear about as we developed a good, respectful relationship.
The room where I was now living in was just as Kevin said. It was clean, comfortable and reasonably large. I took a few work clothes out of mi case and stuck 'em neatly in the chest of drawers. The .22 was placed next to the bed and the trumpet, which I very rarely played, now claimed the far corner near the wardrobe.
I met Arthurs' wife that evening at the dinner table. She had silvery hair and gaunt, tight features. She appeared to be very high-strung when she communicated with her children,
Arthur Auberry had 5 children; 2 girls and a boy, who were away at boarding school and a lot younger boy and girl who were still at home.
Over dinner, she asked me a few questions about my past life but I could tell she was just being polite.
After the evening meal, I went back to my new room and laid down on the bed for a rest. About half an hour later Arthur came across and said, "D'ya know how to milk a cow, Yorky?"
"Sure do Arthur. I've had plenty of practice at that."
"I've only got one old milker. D'ya mind milkin' her of a mornings for me?"
"Don't mind a bit Arthur. D'ya wanna show me where the shed is, and the setup?"
"Good idea Yorky."
After we'd walked around his cow yards and he'd shown me where the butter-churn was, he went back inside and I walked along the lakeside for a while before I hit the sack.
I did a bit of land clearing with Arthur for the next few weeks. It was pretty easy work 'cause Arthur was a real easy going man to work with. Most of the time we'd work away in silence as we walked around his paddock, stacking up small timber which had been missed by the large D8 bulldozer that stacked the bulk of trees and roots.
As we got to know each other, Arthur would ask me questions about England and what it was like living in Yorkshire. In turn, I'd make inquiries about his past, growing up in the Aussie Bush.
One lunch time, as we were sitting in the cab of his flat bed truck, he had just finished telling me a story about his younger life. Then he said, "Course that was before the war, mate."
"What war?", I said to him.
"The bloody second world war Yorky!"
"Were you in the war Arthur?"
"Yeah mate, unfortunately. I was also in the Korean war as well."
"Fuckin' hell, that must have been pretty fuckin' scary for ya mate, was it?"
"Well it wasn't too fucking pleasant mate, I can tell ya that much."
"Tell me what it was like Arthur.", I asked with great interest. " Mi dad was in the first world war. He was shot, got mustard-gassed and had dysentery twice but that's all he would tell me about it."
"He probably couldn't handle remembering some of the things that he'd seen Yorky. Same as most people who were in a war."
"Yeah, but tell me a story about it, can ya?"
He pushed his old Bush hat to the back of his head and rolled another Log Cabin. As soon as he was puffing away at the smoke and was satisfied that it was going all right, he stared out of the window and said, "All right Yorky, I'll tell ya what I saw. I was on a troop ship going over to New Guinea 'cause the japs had landed there with a sizeable force and our job was to get the bastards out 'a there 'cause it was too close to Australia for comfort."
"Were there only Aussies in New Guinea?"
"No mate, the fuckin' Yanks were there as well as us blokes."
By the tone of his voice it did not take a genius to hear he had no respect for the Yanks.
"Don't ya like theYanks, Arthur?"
"They're alright in their place, mate but ya can't keep 'em in the shithouse all day."
"What d'ya mean Arthur.", I said.
"They're the worst fuckin' Army of men you'd ever come across. Sometimes our lot would get sent out on patrol with them so we got to know them pretty fuckin' well. Ya never go out on a patrol in the jungle with the Yanks backin' ya up. You've always gotta' keep the bastards to the side of ya or up front 'cause they're undisciplined and a gutless set a' bastards. They accidentally shot more of their own men and ours than the fuckin' japs did put together!"
"Why'd they do that?"
"No disciple mate and bad communication, plus the bastards were so jittery from lack of training that they'd shoot anything that fuckin' moved. The other thing is they were pretty fuckin' soft. They couldn't go anywhere without their home comforts. They had more luxuries than the whole fuckin' Aussie army put together. Now, the Diggers mate were a different story altogether. If ya got into any sort a' trouble which we did at times, the old Aussie would dig in. We never let each other down like those pack a' bastards did. We were all in it together mate, as one unit. We were all prepared to die for each other and sometimes we did.", he said as he rolled another smoke. "Then there were the 'fuzzy-wuzzies.", he said as he drew a deep long drag on the handmade. "Now those big, black bastards were a different kettle a' fish altogether."
"What are fuzzy-wuzzies Arthur?"
"They're the New Guinea natives mate. They were usually big, tall black fellas' with a mop of black bushy hair. That's where they git their name from. They all chewed this stuff called beetle nut. It's a root that grows in the jungle and when they chew it, it makes their gums and teeth go dark red. Even the women chew it."
"Did ya ever screw a native women Arthur?"
"Na mate. I'd have had to be pretty bloody hard up to take on one of those Sheila's but some of the blokes did. We used to use the fuzzys as guides because those blokes were born in the jungle and they knew it as well as the backs of their hands. Sometimes, when we were out on patrol, they'd be a few yards in front of us carrying their machetes. All of a sudden they'd stop and raise one of their long, black arms."
"What for?", I said, with great interst.
"I'm just gettin' to that part Yorky, give us a go mate.", he said.
"Off they'd go, through the jungle out of sight, so our blokes would sit on our boots and wait. We didn't have to wait long because a few minutes later we heard a rustling in the bush and next minute the old fuzzy-wuzzy would appear, on the track, right beside us. He'd have a big red toothy grin on his face and in his left hand he'd hold up a japs head by the hair."
"Fuckin' hell Arthur!", I said.
"Yeah mate. The fuzzies could smell those fuckin' japs a mile away. At one time we used to give 'em 2 bob for every jap head they'd bring us, and many's the time I saw 'em walk into our camp with a big sack slung over their shoulder. They'd walk right up to the middle of where we were sitting, with a big red toothy smile on their face, then they'd drop the bag right in the center of us blokes. They'd grab the bottom corners of the bag and lift 'em up and 10 or 12 japs heads would roll out on the ground in front of us. This made a few of the new blokes jump like hell. We stopped givin''em 2 bob a head after that 'cause 12 japs' heads cost a pound and 2 bob. We would a' gone broke at that rate!"
"Is it true that the Fuzzy-Wuzzies still head-hunt in New Guinea?"
"Yeah mate, far as I know, they still do a bit up the Northern end of the island where the dense jungle is but most of 'em live on the outskirts of the city now. They're pretty fucked up by alcohol though, just like our Abbos. Anyway Yorky, let's git crackin' on those sticks. We've done fuck-all work for the past hour. We'll never git finished clearing at this rate."
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
As the wheat season progressed, the line of trucks at the wheat silo in Lake Cargelligo could be as many as 120, all waiting to dump their load after it had been weighed off. This made it necessary to put up the field bins so the headers could dump their bins because old Dick could only get back to the paddock twice a day.
A field bin is made of thick weld-mesh and is about 12' high. The ends of the mesh are joined together to make a circle and a long roll of hessian is draped around the inside to stop the wheat falling back out. When the headers are full, they dump their loads into the field bin and the empty trucks are loaded from these central field bins when they arrive back in the paddock.
One afternoon, Digger and I were pushing an auger into the full field bin so that when Dick arrived he could fill the truck and drive back into town as soon as possible to join the line again.
"The auger's not high enough yet Yorky.", said Digger. "Dad will never be able to drive straight under that mate, so we'll crank it up a bit. Ya see that small lever there Yorky?"
"Hold her up mate while I crank the handle."
"OK mate! She's up."
"Good on ya."
Instead of cranking the handle to make the auger go up, he cranked it the opposite way which wound my finger end between 2 large cogs.
"Owwww!!", I yelled in pain.
"What's the matter mate?", said Digger, with a shocked look on his face.
"Mi fucking finger!!", I cried out.
"Oh fuck!", he yelled and wound the handle back the other way.
As soon as my finger end came out from between the cogs, it exploded with deep red blood. The blood started to run in big, fast drips down into the dry, red dirt of the Paddock. It left wet indentations behind as it sank into the Earth.
"What the fuck happened?", said Digger, with concern for me all over his face.
When he saw the blood running out of mi finger, he said, "Fuckin' hell Yorky, I'm real sorry mate! The weight of the auger caused the handle to turn the other way. Let me see ya finger, mate."
The second finger on my right hand was trembling uncontrollably as I stuck out my hand.
"Fuckin' shit! The fuckin' nail is ripped clean off mate! Jump in the Ute Yorky, I'll take ya home to Mum, she's got a first-aid box in the kitchen."
Tears of pain were slowly making their way down my dusty face as we drove flat out across the paddock towards home. A look of compassion and concern was on Diggers' face as we broadsided down the dirt road about 40 mph around the corners.
"Does it hurt a lot Yorky?"
"Yeah mate, but it's still numb."
When Diggers mum saw the finger she went straight to work on it. She cleaned it up first and then wrapped it in a clean gauze and last of all she put a finger stall over it to keep it from getting dirty.
"Do you want to go to the Doctors in the Lake, Yorky?", she said.
"No thanks Missus Skippy. What can he do that you haven't already done?"
"He may want to give ya a tetanus shot, Yorky."
"No thanks, you cleaned it up real good. I watched how ya did it."
"Alright Yorky. It's not bleeding as bad now. We'll change the bandage tonight so we can keep it clean."
"You alright Yorky?", said Digger.
"Yeah mate, don't worry about it. At least I've still got mi finger left. The nail will probably grow back soon enough and I've still got 9 more."
"Oh you boys!", said Nellie. "Get outta' my kitchen and be more careful up the Paddock."
Digger and I drove back up the Paddock. We arrived just as Dick was pulling up under the auger.
"The fuckin' augers too low.", said Dick. "Get Yorky to hold that lever out and you crank her up a bit while I get the truck closer in!"
"You hold the lever out Dick.", I said as I held up mi finger for him to see.
"Fucking hell Yorky, how d'ya do that mate?"
"He was holding the lever and the wheel slipped the other way when I went to crank it.", said Digger.
"Fuckin' hell, you hold the lever then Digger and I'll crank the handle and watch ya fingers Digger or you'll end up like Yorky. He won't be able to pick his nose for while with that finger!"
That same evening, when we got home, Mrs. Skipworth said to me, "There's a parcel for ya Yorky. It came in the mail today.
"A parcel for me?", I said with surprise.
"Yeah, it's on the table over there."
"Open it up for me Kevin, will ya.", I said. "It looks like it's from mi mother in England."
"It's postmarked Seamail. It's got a Yorkshire stamp on it and it was sent October 9th. That's means it took nearly 3 months to get here!"
"I wonder what’s in it?", I said as he turned over the parcel.
"Here's a declaration slip. It says on here XMAS CAKE - GIFT. Ya mother must have sent ya a cake Yorky."
It took him a while to open the parcel and when all the paper and cellotape was off, he said, "Here mate, you open the lid, it smells funny to me."
"It doesn't smell too good to me either.", I said.
When I lifted the lid of the box, there was a round cake inside but instead of being covered with cream it was covered in mould!
"D'ya wanna piece of cake Kevin?", I said.
"Jeeesus! Git it outside before it smells up mums' kitchen!"
"What will I do with it?"
"Feed it to mums' chooks. They'll love it. It'll make 'em lay more eggs Yorky.", he said with a grin.
As I laid in bed that night, mi finger really started to throb. The pain was so bad I couldn't help crying a bit. Digger, who was in his bed across the other side of the room said, "Can I git ya a painkiller Yorky and a glass of water?"
"If ya will mate.", I said in a quiet voice.
"Try to keep it raised up a bit Yorky. It may take a bit of pressure off of it.
What's it feel like mate?", he said.
"It feels like a big clock going 'throb, throb, throb."
"I'm sorry I can't do anything more for ya Yorky.", he said as we both lay awake in the darkness waiting until morning time arrived.
When I sat down for breakfast, Dick said to me. "How's ya finger Yorky?"
"It stopped throbbing Dick but if I put any pressure on it, it really hurts."
"Well don't just sit there Digger. You wound Yorkys' nail off so cut his bacon and chops up for him, ya big lout!"
In a few days, mi finger end was feeling much better. The only time in pained was when I'd stubbed it against the side of a machine or accidentally knocked it up against something but by and large, it was alright.
By the time the wheat season was over, I had developed a deep brown tan and along with that, a few more muscles to add to the ones that were already developing.
One morning, Dick Skipworth said to me, "Well Yorky, there's not much more wheat to strip. We should be done in a couple more days. Have ya got anywhere else to work after here?"
"No Dick. I was sorta' hoping to stay on at your place."
"Can't do that mate. Not that I don't mind havin' ya around but we haven't got enough work for ourselves till we start ploughing the land again. Tell ya what I'll do though. There's a swag of Cockeys lined up in their trucks at the Silo everyday. I'll try to find ya a job with one of them, if ya like."
"Yeah Dick. I still don't know too many people around the Lake so if you can find me some more work that'll be great for me."
"Hey, Yorky mate, take a quick run up to one of mi boundary paddocks with me, will ya? Ya can get get the gates for me."
"No worries Dick. What are we gonna do?"
"Nothing mate, I just want to do a quick check on old Tommy Clark and his sons."
"Who's Tommy Clark?"
"He's an Abo from out at the Mission. He does a fit of fencing for me, every now and again."
Once we arrived at the boundery line, Tommy was nowhere to be seen.
"Hop in the Ute again Yorky. I know where they'll be."
A couple of hundred yards away, near a few Malli trees and a patch of scrub was a dilapidated old shed. The small shed was on its' last legs. Lumps of rusty, corrugated iron sheets were hanging off of it and some had fallen off completely.
Pulling up a few yards away, we got out of Dicks' Ute and he yelled out,
"Clarky, ya old bastard, where are ya? Clarky!", he yelled even louder. "Git ya black arse out here!"
There was no sound or movement. Dick walked up to the front of the shed where the door used to be. I followed close behind as he stuck his head in the shed opening. What I saw was quite upsetting to me. Tommy and his 3 sons were all flaked out in a pile on the dirt floor. There was a couple of ratty, old blankets in a pile that were not covering anyone up.
"Git up ya lazy black bastard!", said Dick, as he shook Tommy with his work boot.
Tommy slowly rolled over and tried to focus his squinty, bloodshot eyes which I noticed were bright blue colored.
"Git up ya bastard.", said Dick again, as Tommy came alive. "You're supposed to be putting up my boundary fence, ya lazy good for nothin' bastard!"
"G'day Dick, how are ya mate.", he said in a soft-spoken voice.
"How d'ya think I am? I thought you'd have mi bloody fence finished by now, Clarky!"
Tommy was now on his feet. He turned around and gave each of his sons a good kick in the arse with his worn-out work boots that had no laces in 'em.
"Git up ya Black bastards!", said Tommy, as he gave 'em all another good boot in the arse.
Slowly, his sons started to stir.
"How are ya boss.", said Tommy as he became more awake.
"I thought ya were gonna be finished today Clarky. What happened mate? Did ya git on the fucking plonk again last night?"
There were two empty half-gallon flagons laid on their side with no tops in sight.
"Yeah boss, I thought so too but we ran into a couple of problems."
"Ya mean ya ran into a couple of flagons Clarky!"
"Yeah, we had a bit of a party last night."
Tommys' old, dirty clothes were practically hanging off of him and his sons clothes were in no better shape. One of 'em had on a shirt that only had one sleeve. Another son was using a lump of bailing twine for a belt. The other one had on a pair of worn-out thongs and his trousers were way too big for him. As each one of them slowly got to their feet, they did their best to say, "G'day boss." and flashed a smile that showed less teeth than more.
Tommy introduced me to his sons by name. I shook each of their bony hands in turn and said, 'G'day.'
"So when are ya gonna finish me boundary fence Clarky, this year or next?"
Tommy thought this was a good joke. He started to giggle. Soon as he stopped giggling he said, "That was a good one boss. We should be finished this week."
"That's what ya said last week mate. If ya did more fencing and less drinking of that cheap McWilliams plonk, you'd be finished in no time."
"No worries.", said Tommy, "It won't take too long now."
"I hope not. I want to run a few ewes in this paddock. I saw a good bit a' feed on the drive over."
When I shook Tommys' hand, I noticed half of his thumb was missing and a bit of bone was sticking out of the end.
"Hey Tommy, what happened to ya thumb mate? D'ya have an accident on the fence line?", I asked him.
"No mate, I did it out at the Mission. We've got a big, long rope tied to an old gum tree so we can swing down the bank and out over the river and then let go."
"So how did that take ya thumb off?"
"Once I swung out as far as I could and then I let go of the knot in the end of the rope, not knowing that mi thumb stayed in the knot."
"Jesus Tommy, that must of hurt."
"Not really mate. I was full a' plonk. I didn't know till someone told me."
"Fucking hell, did ya get it sewn on at the Docs?"
"Nah mate, I tied some fishing line around the end of it, to stop the bleeding."
"Why's the bone sticking out?"
"After the end had come off, the rest of the skin shrunk up. That's how it healed."
"Jesus mate, does it still hurt?"
"Nah mate, only if I knock the end of it.", he said, as he giggled.
"Alright, we're off Tommy. I'll check on ya in a couple of days.", said Dick.
"Hey, before ya go boss, can ya give us a twenty? We need to go into town tonight to grab some tucker. Were out!"
"A twenty? Are you fucking kidding Clarky? If I give ya a twenty, you'll buy a couple a' gallon flagons and then I won't see ya for a bloody week!"
Dick put his hand in his pocket, pulled out his wallet. He withdrew a tenner and handed it to Tommy.
"I'll give ya the rest of what I owe ya when you're finished the job mate."
"There's four of us."
"I know, that's why I didn't give ya a fiver."
"I guess ya know me too well.", said Tommy, flashing Dick a toothless smile.
As we drove off across the paddock, I said to Dick, "I can't believe they sleep on the ground in that rusty old shed. Did ya see their clothes?"
"Yeah Yorky, they can live like that cause they're black fellas. They'd rather drink plonk than buy some clothes and put some good tucker into themselves. I'm buggered if I know how they can eat those bloody Goannas without getting the shits. I couldn't."
Back home at Skippys, I was thinking, 'Here I am in much the same position again. I've worked miself out of another job! I decided not to let it make me as sad, this time.'
As I walked through the backyard at Dick Skipworths' homestead, his wife Nellie was chasing a chook. It was quite a sight to see, in a way, because she was not a young woman. I decided to give her a hand.
"Ya trying to catch a chook, Missus Skippy?"
"Yeah Yorky but I'm not as fast as I used to be. D'ya wanna' give us a hand for a few minutes?"
"No worries. Which one are ya after?"
"Ya see that rooster over there Yorky?"
"Which one? The one near the fence?"
"Yeah, that's him. Let's see if we can get him. He looks like he'd be good eatin'."
"Let's drive him into the corner. We'll grab him as he tries to get away."
Very slowly, we shooed a mob of hens into the corner of the fence and shed and as soon as the prospect looked good, I said, "Let's rush 'em Missus Skippy!"
The hens flew up in the air in all directions and the rooster tried to run between us. He almost succeeded but just as he tried to get through, I managed to grab a handful of wing feathers. Once I had him by the legs, Mrs. Skippy took over.
"Give him to me Yorky. I'll make short work of him. He's led me on a right merry chase for the last half hour."
I handed her the roosters legs and she took off towards a large stump. The top of the stump had been sawn off flat with a chain saw so it make an ideal chopping block. I walked towards the veranda back door and just before I opened it, I looked back to see what Nellie was up to. She now had the roosters' neck across the chopping block and a large, long-handled axe was firmly in her right hand. She raised it just above her shoulder and said,
"I'll show you, it doesn't pay to lead old Nellie Skipworth on a long merry chase Mr. Rooster."
'THUMP!' The axe head came crashing down on the Roosters' neck just behind his head. The old rooster had no idea what had happened to him. The roosters' head lay on the right hand side of the axe, which was firmly imbedded into the flat stump. She flung the rooster down in front of her and blood spurted out of its neck stump where its head had been a few seconds before. While the nerves in the roosters body were kicking and making it jump all over the place, Nellie wiped the sides of the axe on the wood chips, which were used on the ground to keep the dust down. When she was satisfied it was clean enough for her, she stuck the axe back into the stump and went over to retrieve the rooster. As she bent over to pick it up, I heard her say,
"That slowed ya down a bit sport, didn't it!"
I always felt compassionate towards something that had to be killed, although I must and admit I dismissed the feeling when I saw the old rooster on the dinner table, his legs in the air and his skin a crispy brown color.
"Have you ever missed with that axe, Mrs. Skippy?", I asked her as she cut off a leg.
"Not since I've been married to Dick.", she said.
"And how long is that?"
"Oh about 34 years."
The next day as I was packing my cases, Kevin walked into Diggers' room and said, "G'day Yorky, ya all packed are ya mate?"
"Just about Kevin. Here, sit on the case will ya, so I can lock it. I didn't pack it as good as I usually do."
"Is that all you've got Yorky?", said Kevin as I stood the 2 cases on their ends.
"Yeah mate. One's got work clothes in it and the other's got good ones."
"Is that all the possessions you own mate?"
"Nah, don't be silly mate. I've got a trumpet and a good .22. That's about all I can carry."
"Jesus Christ Yorky, ya don't have much to slow ya down."
"Suppose you're right. I've been in Australia almost a year now and so far I haven't even unpacked 'em."
I went to pick up the 2 cases and Kevin said, "Give 'em here Yorky. I'll carry 'em out to the Ute for ya mate. You grab the horn and rifle."
Once the cases were in the back and the rifle was sitting on the back window ledge, I said my goodbyes and thanks to Dick, Nellie and Digger and then hopped in the front with Kevin. Old Dick leaned in the window and said, "Arthur Auberrys place is not far out of town so I'll see ya in the Lake some weekend mate. Thanks for ya help Yorky."
"Thanks for the work and teaching me to drive."
Old Dick stood back from the window and relit the Log Cabin rollie which was sticking out of the old fag holder.
"Where to sport?", said Kevin with a smile on his face.
"Arthur Auberrys' place and don't switch the meter on mate!"
"Where's Arthurs' place Kevin?", I asked as we drove along the Condoblin dirt road.
"Not too far now mate. He's only about 7 miles out and the farm is right on the Lakeside. He has a paddock of Lucen that he irrigates from the Lake, that's how close it is."
Monday, November 10, 2008
After a few minutes of shining the spot around, I picked up a pair of bunny eyes. I tapped lightly on the roof of the cab.
Jim stuck my new .22 out of the window. He took quick aim and squeezed off the trigger, 'BANG!', the bunny fell over in the light and never even kicked.
"Ya got him mate.", I said, quietly.
"Give me the spot, Yorky and go an pick him up."
When I picked up the rabbit, I saw that Jim had him him in the head. When I got back to the Ute, I said, "Good shot mate! Straight in the head."
"That's where I aimed for. This rifle of yours is a real piss cutter mate. She's accurate as hell."
"That's what I wanted to hear.", I said as I put the rabbit in the back of the Ute and then climbed in myself.
"Ya see that stick in the back, Yorky, the one with the bent end that looks like a hocky stick? Well, stick it in the corner so it's handy, 'cause if I miss a shot you run up along side the beam and whack him on the head with the stick!"
That's the way most people git a lot of rabbits. They fire a hollow-point right next to 'em so it makes them sit up. They're easier to whack in the head then.
At one point in Australia, rabbits were considered a plague. They destroyed a lot of crop and made burrows all around the place. The cocky was not too happy when one of the wheels of his plow or combine sunk into a large burrow and bust one of the axle. In the end, there was such a plague of rabbits that the Government sanctioned the use of a poison that was specially developed to rid the land of rabbits. The name of the poison was called Miximotosis. Were you ever to see the devastating effects of this poison you'd understand why head-shooting a rabbit was the most humane thing to do.
After about an hour of shooting we would stop and gut out the rabbits and then pair them up size-wise by their back legs and hang them across the steel posts which were sitting cross-way on the back of the Ute.
That particular evening we shot 400 pair of rabbits and in the morning when it started to warm up and the blowflies came out we covered the rabbits over with a large mosquito net and took of to the Chillers which was situated in a scrub paddock just outside of Lake Cargelligo. In those days, we got 2 to 3 Shillings a pair, so for 1964 that was a profitable evenings work.
Sometimes Jim liked to go trapping rabbits with steel-sprung leg traps. I was not as keen on this way of hunting because I didn't like to see the rabbits caught by their leg in the trap.
One morning, as we were walking around Jims' trap line, a fox had gotten himself caught by the back leg. When he saw us approaching him he was obviously scared, so he went back to trying to chew his leg off as he had been doing before we interrupted him.
"What the hell is he doing?", I asked Jim.
"He's chewing his back leg off so he can get out of the trap."
I couldn't stand to see this sight. I said to Jim, "I'm going to let him out of the trap!"
"Be careful!" warned Jim, as I walked up to the fox. When I was only about 3 feet away from him, he lunged at my outstretched hand and tried to bit it which made me recoil in fright.
"He won't let me get him out of the trap!"
"I could have told ya that mate, before ya tried. He'll take ya hand off if ya get too close to him."
"How are we going to get him out then?"
"If I were you mate, I'd hit him on the head with the rabbit stick 'cause you'll never git him out any other way."
I tried to get close to the fox again to get him out of the trap but as soon as I got close to him, he stopped chewing his leg and made another snarling lunge at me. This time I could see that Jim was right. My response to the situation was an incorrect response because it did not alleviate the foxs' suffering and pain. The only other option left open to me was to hit the old fox on the head. This action put him out of his pain.
I didn't feel too good with myself after killing the fox. After a while Jim said to me,
"What's the matter mate? You don't look real good."
"I felt the pain the fox was in and I also felt the pain of killing him too! It felt like I was the one who was caught in a trap!"
"Yeh mate, I know just how ya feel. I've been put in that position a few times miself. It's a hard one, especially on the heart. You'll git over it mate or you'll never survive in the Bush. No one promised ya an easy life or ya wouldn't be out in the Bush in the first place. Come on Yorky, let's git these traps cleared and reset again."
One morning, Jim said to me, "We're out of mutton Yorky. Ya feel like getting a room for us mate?"
"If ya like. Where's the best place to go where it's not too far away mate?"
"You'll probably find a few in the Bush, the other side of Burgooney Road, but mind ya look where ya going mate 'cause it can get pretty dense in there and I wouldn't want you to git bushed or you'd never find ya way out."
"No worries Jim. I'll just follow the fence line. That way I'm bound to find mi way out to the road again."
"That's the story mate! Make sure ya git a half-grown one. Don't shoot a big old buck 'cause they're as touch as old boots and mi teeth aren't in real good shape these days. Fill that small canteen up with some water before ya go. Ya never know, ya may need a drop if you're out there for a while."
After I'd filled the small, tin canteen up, I slung it over mi shoulder and grabbed mi rifle and a box of hollow-points and last of all, I grabbed mi new Akubra Squatters had that I'd bought from Chamens the last time were in town.
The dark brown Akubra had a wide brim which kept the hot sun off mi shoulders. I'd put the traditional Squatters crease in the top of it so it sat on mi head real comfortable.
"See ya later Jim!", I said as I walked out of the yard with the rifle in mi left hand, hanging down at mi side.
"See ya later Yorky. Good luck Mate!"
Once I got out to Burgooney Road, I took mi bearings from the position of the sun and made mi way off into the Bush.
The trees and bush weren't too thick for the first couple of hundred yards but after the landscape changed to thick bush which was now all around me. Every now and again the Bush would give way to a natural clearing which was dotted with large rock formations.
After about an hours walking in silence, I sat on a rock in a clearing for a bit of a spell. The Bush birds were hopping from bush to bush as they played and looked for small seeds to eat. A few feet way from me I saw the track of a wall-eye snake which disappeared under a large round rock. He was probably sleeping there, out of the hot sun.
The air was crystal-clear and not a cloud in the deep blue sky. There were no such things as airplanes and helicopters flying around the skies. Every now and then a Wedge-tail Eagle would call out to its' mate as it hovered and glided on the warm air currents.
Wedge-tails are very beautiful and graceful to watch as they circle the clear blue skies looking for young rabbits or mice to take back to their nests. They nest high up in the branches of dead trees. Their nests are quite large because a full-grown Wedge-tail could, quite easily, have a 6-foot wingspan. Usually one of them will hunt while the other feeds the young with whatever was caught for the day.
I walked for about another half-hour before I spotted a small mob of Roos laying and sitting under the shade of a big Eucalyptus tree. 'I had better keep downwind of them', I thought, 'so they don't pick up my scent or I'll never git close enough to get off a good clean shot at one of 'em'.
While most of the mob sleep in the shade, a couple of sentries are left to guard the camp. The sentries usually walk around looking for bits and pieces of things to eat and then they sit back upright, check out the landscapes and then put their heads down again.
Very quietly, I moved slowly from tree to tree until I was in decent range of them.
A .22 is not considered a big rifle, especially where Roos are concerned but a good hunter can always bring one down with a well-aimed shot. I decided to try and make it to the next large Box tree before attempting a shot. Very carefully, I moved ahead. Once I was leaning against the large Box tree, I took a slight breather because now my heart was pumping and banging away from the concentration of sneaking up on them. As soon as I felt steady enough, I very quietly turned around and leaned against the tree which made good support. There was already a bullet up the spout 'cause I'd pushed the bolt home when I first saw them. Very slowly, I eased off the safety catch so it didn't make a clicking sound. I raised the rifle to mi shoulder and leaned mi left shoulder more against the tree. Taking my last deep breath, I sat the bead of the front site smack in the middle of the back V shape and took careful aim at a half-grown Roo who had his head down in the bush grass, eating. I aimed the rifle about half an inch above his shoulder 'cause I was still a long distance away for a .22. The two sights of the rifle were now as steady as I could hold them. I carefully started to squeeze the trigger. 'Careful Yorky', the inner hunter said to me, 'don't pull it or it will pull the rifle off target.'
Squeeze, squeeze, BANG! The Roos were up and off as the sound of the rifle cracked the silence like a big stock whip. A flock of grey and pink Gallahs flew into the air, squawking out their warning signals. The mob of Roos were now thumping out a retreat paradiddle as they headed off deeper into the scrub. (All except for the half- grown one that was kicking its' last, under the tree.) It was almost dead when I reached the spot, so I put a bullet between it's ears for good measure.
The Roo was a young gray male. He was not too big or too small. The first bullet had gone straight through his chest, right under his armpit. It was a fast, clean kill which was the only type of kill that was acceptable to me.
I waited for a few minutes until the adrenaline had subsided from the run across the scrub from my hiding tree. As soon as the body had calmed down to its' natural, unexcited state, I re-loaded the rifle and pushed the safety catch firmly forwards into the on-position and then I leaned the rifle against the tree. Although the Roo was not full- grown, he was, by no means, light as I grabbed the butt of his thick, sinewy tail and slung him across my shoulders. As soon as the Roo was comfortably positioned, I grabbed mi rifle and started back the way I'd come.
Back-tracking was always the hardest because now I was a good few pounds heavier. Over the last 3 months I'd spent with Jim, I'd gotten a good Bush education so I was able to find my way back out to Burgooney Road, no problem at all. I stopped for a rest as it was now really hot. I took a small sip of water and rolled miself a Drum.
Although the body had acquired the habit of smoking, I did not smoke a lot. Not because I didn't want to mind you, but it is always more difficult to smoke in an environment that has clean, pure air. Smoking in the city was much easier because of all the lead pollution and various other contaminations.
I was glad to see Burgooney dirt road because the Room was now getting fairly heavy and the sweat was streaming down from under the brim of mi squatters hat. When I got back to use the house yard, Jim was busily building a new Avery that looked like it was going to be 5 times the size of his old one.
"Yorky mate!", he said as I got close to him. "Ya got a real beaut there mate! He's the perfect size for eating. Fetch him over in the shade and we'll clean him up. The Missus will make us some Roo-tail soup. We'll git enough steaks off of him for a couple of weeks mate. We'll make a Bushman out of ya yet Yorky, ya Pommy Bastard!
It was about 3 weeks later when Jim said to me, one morning after we'd got home from spot-lighting, "Well Yorky, it's too hot to fence and there's not enough money in the rabbits now, so I've got no more work for ya mate. I'm gonna have to find a job for miself now."
"Oh shit", I said, with a sad feeling in my heart. "What are ya gonna do for work Jim?"
"Oh, I'll probably git a job driving a header for the wheat season. There's a couple of wheat Cockys' that I drove for last year have asked me to come back again. I'll either do that or I'll git a job driving a wheat truck to the Silos in Lake Cargelligo, mate."
"What am I gonna do? I don't really know anyone, only you and old Burt and I'm certainly not going backwards Jim."
Jim had a bit of a laugh at this and then said, "Don't worry mate, I've got a job lined up for ya already for 10 quid a week."
"Oh, this is a bludge, mate! You'll git to ride around on a header all day in the wheat paddocks."
"About every hour you'll jump off and grease a big automatic header for the driver while he's emptying the bin into one of the semi's. After that, you'll git back on and ride around for another hour. Ya can't git better than that, mate!"
"Who'll I be working for?"
"The Cockys' name is Dick Skipworth. He's got a big place out on the main Lake Cargelligo West Wyalong road. He's a pretty decent bloke and he's got a couple of sons. One's called Colin and the other ones called Kevin. They're real hard doers, mate. You'll like 'em."
"Isn't that where Peter Smith works?"
"Yeah mate. Peter's on Fred Harzeys' place just down the road aways so you'll probably get to see him. He usually drives the wheat semi for old Fred."
"When do I start?"
"I'll take you over to there place tomorrow morning mate. Give ya time to pack up ya gear and I'll pay ya up all the money I've been saving for ya Yorky. It's no good hanging around here mate. Ya not makin' any money sitting on your arse."
I was still feeling a bit apprehensive at leaving Jims' place because once again I was off into the unknown. That evening as I lay in the darkened bedroom, I was thinking of all the things I'd learned from Jim about the Bush when I heard the voice of silence whisper to me, 'Don't worry Yorky, everything will be all right for you. It's necessary for you to move. Don't forget, what pleases you holds you back.'
The next morning, Shirley made me some breakfast and gave me a couple of items of clothes that she'd very graciously washed out for me.
"Thanks for all the meals and washing you've done for me Shirley."
"That's alright Yorky, I'm glad to have been of some help to you. Don't forget to stop in if you're ever passing by. You're always welcome here Yorky."
I loaded my 2 cases, the trumpet and mi rifle into Jims' old blue Holden Ute and waved goodbye to his small kids as Jim and I drove out of the dirt yard, down the Bush track and out onto Burgooney Road.
We drove in silence that sunny morning.
Monday, November 3, 2008
As well as learning how to shear, I had a slight handicap to work with. The wool-classer was a mongrel-bred bastard who tried to make it as hard for me as possible by saying to Freeman that my learning to shear was interfering with my board-boys job. The only reason I could see why he was acting like this was, he fancied himself a shearer. He, himself, could shear a sheep in about 10 minutes, and by now, as long as it was a good-combing sheep, I was down to 8 minutes. Freeman was very supportive. He offered to do my job while I was learning, plus the fact that he was aware that the wool-classer had bet against me, the Victorian bastard!
Each Friday night we would all drive back to Lake Cargelligo for the weekend. The first, and only stop, was at Giltraps Hotel. I was now, very slowly, starting to be able to hold a fair amount of grog. (It goes with the territory!)
The whole team, except for the wool-classer, would party on at Giltraps. After the bar closed down we would all move into the Sow Pen where we'd play the jukebox and generally have a good time.
Jimmy Kelly, who was one of the shearers, was also an Aborigine. He lived at the Mission, about 10 miles out of town. Johnny was a pretty decent bloke, (when he was sober) but like most Aborigines that drink, he would get a bit argumentative when he was full.
Most Abos, around the Lake, did not like to work very much which meant they were always short of money for grog. Every Friday night, all of Johnnys' relations would be trying to bum his hard-earned money from him for a flagon of cheap plonk. I used to sit and watch Johnny quite a bit. It must have been very difficult for him, 'cause he had one foot in the white fellas' world and the other in the black fellas' world. By then end of the evening Johnny would have given away, probably, a third of his weeks' money. This money would only be returned months later, probably when he was out of work. Saturday morning, I used to see Johnny in town in his fairly new Ute. He and his wife and children were always clean and well-dressed. Although in my eyes he was a really good bloke, most white fellas' still saw him as a 'Bung'.
Since I'd been working in the sheds, I had decided to live at Giltraps Hotel, not because I didn't like Twitcheys, but Giltraps was cheaper and a lot of the shearers used it as their watering hole. Giltraps wife was a very small lady. She was about 5'2" and weighed about 115 pounds. She had blondish-gray hair, a very pleasant face and a good, kind nature. Besides running the domestic side of the Hotel, she also worked in the bar whenever necessary. If that wasn't enough to keep her occupied, she had a swag of kids of various ages. Cath Giltrap was always polite and cordial with me. Whenever possible,
she would not put anyone else in the room with me. She understood and respected the fact that I was a 'loner'.
Even though I spent a good deal of my time in the bar, sometimes, when I was short of money, I would say to her, "I've had a slack week Cath, d'ya mind if I pay you for the room next week?"
"That's alright Yorky. I trust ya' but don't let it get too far behind."
As soon as money came in, Cath Giltrap was the first on the list to pay.
One week, the Hotel was unusually full, so she said to me, "I've gotta put someone in ya' room Yorky, in that spare bed. We're all full up this week."
"No worries Cath. I know you always fill up the other rooms first."
The new bloke who lived with me for the week was a half-Abbo from Uabalong. His name was Kennedy. He was a pretty quiet, clean and polite bloke until he was on the grog. At those times, he was hopeless!
On Saturday afternoon, I came back to Giltraps. I'd been doing a bit of shopping that afternoon down the main street. The window in my room looked out onto the main street of the Lake. As I passed it, I got a funny sort of feeling. Instead of going straight to the bar for a game of pool, something pulled me to the left, down the corridor to Number 9. When I pushed open the door, the room was full of smoke! As I looked around the back of the door, where the spare bed was, Kennedy was fast asleep and snoring! Six-inch flames were dancing around the edge of the mattress and a burned-out fag was stuck to his fingers.
"Wake up ya fucking bastard!", I roared as I shook the shit out of him. He was still as drunk as a monkey. I ran to the shower room which was at the far-end of the corridor and filled up a large bucket of cold water. When I got back to the room, he was trying to get out of bed, still in a drunken state. I heaved the bucket of cold water over him and the bed. Kennedy coughed and spluttered as he became conscious. Once he realized he was not dreaming, he jumped out of bed. It took a couple more large buckets of water to put out the fire. When Cath Gilbert found out that the bed had been charred, she was not too pleased let me tell you! Kennedy, got his marching orders and I was left, once more, in peace.
Once all of Giltraps locals found out what happened, the jokes were on me.
"G'day Yorky. I heard ya tried to barbeque a 'bung' this afternoon!"
"Very funny,", I said as they cracked up in laughter.
Friday, October 31, 2008
One evening, at dinnertime, I asked Jazzer the cook if there was any more dinner. I had been working really hard and my appetite was growing.
"There's plenty left in the kitchen, Chummy. Help ya self mate."
I filled my plate as full again as the first round. When I got back into the dining room everyone joked about the amount of food on the plate.
Roy James said, "I think I'll have another plateful myself."
He came back into the dining room with a huge amount of food on his plate.
Freeman said to me, as a joke, "Hey Chummy, ya think ya can eat more than big Roy can?"
Just for the fun of it, I said, "Course I can. Anyday! Why?"
Gundy said to Freeman, "Here's 5 bucks that says he can!"
Freeman said, "Here's 5 bucks that says he can't!"
The other shearers and shed hands all placed their bets and the eating contest began. Roy and I took our places at opposite ends of the table. We stared at each other for a couple of seconds then started to eat our platefuls."
Gundy gave a running commentary as we ate. Speed was not a factor; volume was what bets were based on. Roy and I finished off our second plate of food; mashed potatoes, cabbage, carrots, mutton and gravy. After the third plateful we ran out of the main course. Then we started on the sweets! We ate a large bowl full of Apple Strudel each and then the bowls were filled up, ready to go again. Halfway through the second bowl, big Roy said, "Fuck this for a joke! The pommy bastard's too good for me! He must have hollow, fuckin' legs."
"Come on Chummy, you've gotta' finish that bowl to win!", said Freeman.
Very slowly, I finished off the bowl of Apple Strudel and then sat back in mi chair and relaxed. The winners of the contest collected their bets and then cheered.
"Are you full yet, Chummy?, asked Chummy.
As I sat there, I began to think, 'I don't want to have to do this again so I'd better seal up my win a bit safer.'
"Not really Gundy. I could eat a big, tasty bowl of cornflakes with milk and sugar."
No one believed I could eat another morsel so the bets were all on again. Freeman filled up a large bowl of cornflakes. I sat there and loosened mi belt. After stretching mi arms over the back of mi head, I slowly started on the cornflakes! The going was much slower now since big Roy had dropped out of the contest. 15 minutes later the bowl was clean!
The winnings were all collected and Gundy was all smiles as he helped me to my room. Strangely enough, I slept quite well that night and the following day it was like it never happened.
Monday, October 20, 2008
On Friday night, after the shed had finished, Don Freeman said to me, "We're starting a camping-out shed on Monday Chummy, so we'll be leaving the lake on Sunday, lunchtime. Make sure you've got enough gear for the week, including booze and fags 'cause we'll be way out in the bush, miles from nowhere."
"Where we going Don?"
"Down towards Hay, on the One Tree Plain. I contract that shed every year. We'll be there for roughly three weeks mate."
"OK mate, I'll be ready."
That evening, being Friday night and the end of a shed, Gundy was firing on all 8 cylinders already.
"Hey Chummy!", he yelled. "Come over and meet Cyclone. This is our pommy roustabout.", said Gundy to Cyclone. "This is Cyclone, chummy. He's a gun shearer!"
Cyclone was as bad, if not worse an alcoholic than Gundy. Once he had a few bucks in his pocket he would not shear another sheep until it was all gone. Cyclone, like Gundy, was a hell of a good-natured man but the booze had him. He was his worst enemy. Very seldom in the Bush will one man tell another man what he should do. Everyone figures that as soon as a boy starts to work, he's old enough to be his own master. 'cause for one thing, he's working and living in a mans' world.
When Sunday lunchtime arrived, Don Freeman picked up Boney and me, Gundy and Cyclone. We drove a long way down to the One Tree Plain. Boney and I had to sit in the back of the Ute 'cause there was no room in the front.
The back of the Ute was filled with stores for the cook. A section of the back was reserved for me and Boney, along with the cartons of beer and numerous flagons of Brown Muscatel wine.
Freemans' dogs had to balance on top of all the boxes. They almost fell out a couple of times as we sped along the Bush roads at 80 miles an hour. After a few hours of driving, we arrived at the shearing shed. There it was, a big, corrugated iron shed sat on wooden pylons out in the middle of nowhere!
The landscape was almost barren as far as the eye could see in all directions. The ground was hot and dry and every so often there was a clump of rough, dry bush grass. It was called the One Tree Plain because nowhere in sight could anyone point out a tree of any size or shape. It was so hot that numerous whirly winds chased each other round and round in circles as they sped across the barren land. There was nothing edible that Merino sheep could live on and how they survived had got me beat!
The yards were already full of big, rough-necked wethers and a few hundred were packed in under the shed in case of a freak rainstorm. Miles and miles off in the distance was a cloud of red dust. This was probably the Jackeroos mustering another large mob of sheep. It would take a full day to bring them in to the shed to wait for their turn for shearing.
The shearers' living quarters were about a hundred yards away form the shed so Freeman drove the Ute in that direction. There was no shade to park it in so it just stayed where it was stopped until it had been unloaded.
Most shearers quarters at camp-out sheds are pretty clean and have good mattresses and beds. The beds, are in most cases, two to a room. Boney and me selected a clean room at the end, before any of the other blokes arrived.
The Shearers Union, which is called the A.W.U. was very supportive towards the shearers. That's the reason the quarters were in such good shape. If it was left up to the Cocky, he wouldn't care if the shearer had to sleep on the floorboards because, by his reckoning, the quarters were only used once or twice a year at shearing and crutching time, so why bother to make them livable.
Each room had a small set of cupboards between the beds for our clothes. The one window had a fly screen to keep out he bush flies and mosquitoes. There were no fans to keep it cool and at nighttime it could be around 90 degrees in those tin rooms. There was no electricity so the two refrigerators in the kitchen ran on kerosene. Half of one fridge would be used o keep the beer cold and the rest of the grog would be wrapped in wet hessian bags and stuck under the floor outside. Whatever bit of breeze there was would keep the beer slightly cool but nowhere near cold.
Boney and I helped Don to cart the stores from the back of the Ute to the kitchen, After we'd finished, Boney said, "Come on Chummy, let's go over to the shearing shed and check it out mate!"
It was about 5 O'clock now and the heat was still stifling. Mirages of water appeared everywhere as we walked across the windy plain. The hot breeze made doing anything hard work so we took our time, laughing and joking as we walked.
We got to the big shed and walked up the steep wooden stairs, hanging onto the steel railing. I was in front, so I pushed open the small corrugated door and we went inside.
"Gaw'd fucking hell!" said Boney as we stood in the shed and looked around. "Just look at all that parrot shit on the floor! It'll take us two or three hours to clean up this mess!"
"Yeah. Just look up there Boney!"
The shearing shed rafters were packed tight with Galahs.
(A Galah is a grey and pink parrot about 9" high. They are very common around NSW and make an awful racket when they sit around on the trees. Bush people even call each other 'silly Galahs.'.)
As we walked around I said to Boney, "Why are they all hanging around in the shed, mate?"
" 'Cause there's no fucking trees around Chummy so they've taken over the shearing shed."
The shed had been closed for months on end so due to the heat inside and the layers of parrot shit all over the place the stink was awful.
"Fucking hell Chummy, we've got to get rid of these bloody Galahs and clean up this board before we can even start shearing."
"Yeah, it's a real mess Boney. How d'ya reckon we should go about it?"
"We'll kill as many of 'em as we can because if not they'll come back at nighttime and shit all over the place again."
"How we gonna' do that mate? If we shoot at 'em and miss, the bullets will put holes in the roof."
"Ya probably right Chummy. Give me a minute to think, mate."
There must have been at least 300 Galahs in the shed. Some were sitting while others were flying around and squawking like hell. As I looked around, there was shit on the floor, shit on the wool table, all over the wool press, the wool packs were covered in it and it was even in the wool stalls.
"Tell ya what we'll do Chummy. Let's take that full bale of wool and roll it over to that end of the shed."
After that was done, Boney said, "Alright mate, grab that end of the wool table and we'll carry it over to the opposite side."
As soon as the table was in place, he said, "Here Chummy, take this."
"What's the straw broom for?"
"It's not a fucking straw broom!" he said with a big grin on his face.
"It looks like a straw broom to me, mate."
"Use your imagination Chummy. It's a double-handed shuttle-cock racquet!"
"Where's the shuttle-cocks?"
"Up there stupid!" as he pointed to the Galahs.
"Now, I've got the picture mate! I'll use the table and you use the bale."
"That's the idea Chummy. You scare 'em down to my end for a while and I'll smash 'em with the broom. We'll take turns at batting. Let's see who can get the highest number."
He drew a line in the parrot shit and said, "That's your half and this is mine. We'll count up later."
I shooed all the Galahs down to Boneys' end of the shed and as they approached him, he swung the straw broom with a double back-hander.
'WHACK!' He knocked three Galahs out of the air in one blow. A double-handed forearm smash sent two more crashing to the floor.
"Alright Chummy, your turn.", he said as he giggled out loud. "I'll shoo 'em down to your end now mate. You take a couple of serves. The double-handed forearm smash seems to be a good point-scorer!"
As I stood on the table at the ready, the long-handled straw broom was over mi shoulder, cocked and ready to serve.
"Here they come Chummy!", yelled Boney.
Three hundred Galahs were now squawking like hell and flying straight for me. As soon as the live shuttle-cocks were in range, I let fly with a powerful over-head serve! One large Galah was knocked out of the air. An unconventional, two-handed upward reverse stroke sent two more to the deck. A clumsy double-handed sideswipe sent three more crashing through the ether!
"OK, your serve Boney!", I yelled, amidst the loud squawking.
I shooed the Galahs back down to Boneys' court. A well-aimed sideswipe sent three Galahs to bird heaven. A single-handed clumsy shot missed altogether and Boney fell off the big wood bale into a pile of Galah shit.
"Fault!", I shouted from my end as he slipped around in the white shit trying to scramble back up on the 'baseline' pack. Another mighty double-handed backhand sent three more Galahs to the deck.
"Alright Chummy, your serve!", yelled Boney as he shooed them back again.
After half-an-hour of strenuous badminton on center court we called 'Time-Out'
for a rest and cleanup. It wasn’t' too bad but Boney was covered in Galah shit and feathers as he walked up to me, smiling from ear to ear.
"We'll take a breather and swap ends Chummy. That wool pack is a bit hard to balance on. You've got the advantage on the table."
"Alright mate.", I said as we laughed. "We'll swap ends and play one more game and then we'll open the doors and chase the rest out. I don't think they'll come back in a hurry.
At the end of the game, we counted up the Galahs and then opened the two large doors. The remaining parrots flew out and were never seen again. It took Boney and me three hours to scrub the floor with hot, soapy water we'd boiled in the outside copper.
By this time all the other blokes had arrived. The cook made up some tucker and after dinner we sat around in our rooms reading, talking or playing cards. Gundy and a couple of the other shearers sat around drinking plonk till about 11 O'clock.
It was pretty hard to sleep that night 'cause it was so hot. We just lay on our backs sweating like hell, drifting in an out of sleep.
The following morning being Monday, everyone was up bright and early. Even Gundy didn't look too worse for wear. Breakfast was at 6 and Dons' brother Jazzer was doing the cooking. Jazzer was a few years younger than Don, which would have made him around 40. Don was a fairly handsome sort of bloke which was more than could be said for Jazzer! He was about 5'9" and a thick-set bloke. Most of his bulk was comprised of fat. He had a mop of black, curly hair and a pretty large beak for a nose and a ginormous set of choppers on him. His teeth would not have looked too bad had he have cultivated the habit of cleaning them. Instead, they were a greeny-yellow color. He had a habit of standing with his mouth open and the teeth could easily be seen protruding below his top lip. He was also quite a heavy smoker. He used to grip the ends of the tips in his large teeth. Have you ever seen a horse with its' lips peeled back as it chomps on the bit? Well, stick a fag in-between the horses teeth and there you have Jazzer!
As far as his cooking skills went, he was rated at half-a-star. Jazzer was also able to shear. When he pulled into gear his named changed to Jabber. (That's another story!)
After breakfast, we all made our way over to the shearing shed. As we entered the shed Gundy noticed a large pile of dead Galahs off to the side of the steps. When Boney related the game of Badminton, Gundy had to smile which was unusual for him at 6:45 in the morning.
Saturday, October 18, 2008
I was sat on the curb outside Twitcheys' at quarter to six waiting for the contractor. As I sat there wondering what shed life would be like, a car horn beeped and Don Freeman pulled into the curb.
"G'day Chummey. Hop in mate. we've gotta pick up the other blokes."
As I got in the front of the Falcon Sedan he said, "I hope Gundy's sober this morning. He was pissed as a chook yesterday. It took him a couple of hours to sober up. He only shore 15 sheep the first run."
"Isn't 15 sheep a lot to shear in one run?", I asked.
"That's nothin' for a shearer of Gundys' capabilities, Chummey. When Gundy's sober and he feels like working, I've seen him shear a couple of hundred in a day and not break out in a sweat. 'Course he's very rarely sober!"
We drove around Shamans corner where all the blackfellas hang out and there was a couple of them sitting on a bench, swigging on a half-gallon flagon of plonk.
"I don't know how those blokes do it!", said Don. "I've seen 'em sat there in the hot sun
all day getting' full on plonk."
"Where do they git the money from?", I asked,
"They get a government check every week and most of 'em spend the whole lot on cheap plonk."
We pulled into the curb again and a young bloke about my age hopped in the front beside me.
"G'day Freeman, how ya going mate?", he said.
"G'day Boney. D'ya know chummey?"
"I've heard of ya mate. Mi brother Kenny told me about ya."
"Good to meet ya Boney.", I said as we shook hands.
"How's Kenny doing?" asked Don.
Boney, who was a small, thin bloke with jet-black hair and a cheeky smile, said with a laugh, "He's fast asleep in the front seat of his car. He got full as a boot again last night. We drove home from Twitcheys' but he was too drunk to make it from the car to our front door.
"How long till she has the kid?", asked Donny.
"About a month, I think. I asked Kenny the same question and he said, 'what kid?"
Boney had a real good laugh over this little joke.
"This is gonna be Chummys' first day in the shed Boney so teach him all the ropes, eh mate."
"Ya haven't worked in the sheds before Chummy?"
"Only for half-a-day at old Burt Booths' place."
"They tell me old Burt's a bit of a hard man to work with.", said Donny.
"That's an understatement!", I said.
Everyone had a good laugh at that. Shearers and Roustabouts are always trying to take the piss out of each other, probably 'cause it makes the day go by easier and relieves the tension from the hard work.
The car pulled up in front of a weatherboard house and Donny Freeman honked on the horn. After a few minutes a bloke appeared at the door and called out, "Be right with ya!"
"Jesus!", said Don. "Old Gundy doesn't look too good to me this morning. I heard he was as full as a boot up at Giltraps bar last night."
"He doesn’t mind a drop now and then,", said Boney with a giggle.
"Ya not wrong there. It's a bit hard to say anything about it 'cause he's such a good shearer. Even when he's crook from the grog he's cleaner and faster than a lot of blokes."
The front door of Gundys' house opened and Gundy walked out. He looked a bit sick and unsteady on his feet as he walked over the dead, patchy grass of his front lawn.
Just before he got to the car, his old lady came running after him with a packet of fags in her hand. He took the fags from her and never said a word. As Gundy reached the back door of the car, he tripped over a crack in the cement and nearly crashed into the window.
"Open the back door for him Chummy before he hurts himself.", said Don.
Leaning mi arm over the back seat, I pulled up on the handle and pushed on the door. The door almost knocked Gundy over and he took a couple of steps backwards. Very carefully, he maneuvered round the open door and slowly got in the back of the Sedan.
"Ya tryin' to knock me arse over head?", said Gundy as he made himself comfortable.
"No, it was my fault for shoving the door so hard.", I said.
"What's your name?"
"What kind'a fucking name is that?", he said, with slurred speech.
"It's a nickname, 'cause I come from Yorkshire."
"Fucking hell!", said Gundy. "A pommy fucking bastard! What ya doin' in the sheds?"
"It's Chummys' first day. We're gonna teach him to roustabout.", said Don.
"Chummy eh! That's not a bad fuckin' name. I think I'll call ya Chummy from now on."
"Did'ya have a hard night at Giltraps, Gundy?", asked Boney.
"I sure fuckin' did mate. I never got home till 1 O'clock this morning and the missus was as cranky as hell with me. She made me sleep on the couch all night. She was still cranky when she woke me up this morning. Oh shit, mi head's not too good either. Hey Freeman."
"What d'ya want Gundy?"
"Can ya go a bit easier on those fucking corner mate? Mi brain's sloshing around in last nights grog!"
"How many are ya gonna shear today, if I slow down?", said Don in a joking way.
"How many did I shear yesterday?"
"A hundred and two."
"Alright, I'll shear 140 today. How's that?"
"Could you do 150, please?", said Don, taking the piss out of Gundy.
"You fucking contractors are never satisfied?", said Gundy as he pulled a fag out of his packet. "Give us a light Boney."
"I haven't got one Gundy."
"Here ya go Gundy.", I said as I flicked the lighter.
"Good on ya Chummy, ya pommy bastard. Me and you are gonna git on real well mate!"
Gundy was a very funny character. He was about 5'10" with dry, wavy hair. He had a bald spot in the middle of his head and the hair was starting to thin at the front. His eyes were blue and his broken nose shot off to the side at a very acute angle. He was dressed in the usual shearers' garb which was a cardigan, blue singlet with a reinforced patch on the left front side, double-legged, heavy duty blue denim shearers dungarees which helped, slightly, to keep the thistles out, woolly socks and shearers boots. The trousers were held up with an elastic belt made out of good-quality surgical elastic.
"Where's that fuckin' Athel Cook this morning, Freeman?" asked Gundy.
"We're gonna pick him up now. Suppose he was with ya at Giltraps' last night, was he?"
"Yeah. The bastard tried to miss out on buying a round before he left. He can be as tight as a fishes arse sometimes."
The car ground to a halt at the far-end of town and another shearer was sat on the curb, smoking a home-made. He was a thick-set bloke with a whiskery face. Not a very good-looking bloke at all. His thick, wavy hair was plastered down on his large head and he had a sweat towel around his neck like a scarf.
"G'day, ya fuckin' bastards.", he said as he got in the back beside Gundy.
"G'day.", said Don. "This is Chummy Athel. He's roustaboutin' for us today."
"G'day Athel.", I said as I leaned over to shake his hand.
"A fucking pommy bastard eh? I've never seen a good one yet!"
"This one's a fucking beaut, so go easy on him today Athel. It's his first day."
Don let the clutch out and the Sedan sped off out of town onto the dirt road heading for the Cockys' shearing shed.
"Have ya ever had ya balls tarred Chummy?" asked Athel as were were driving along.
"No. Why d'ya ask?"
" 'Cause that's what we do with first-time Rousies!"
"Not this time Athel.", said Don. "I told ya already, leave him alone mate!"
Athel Cook was not a pleasant character. He seemed to take an instant dislike to me.
As we were driving along, Boney leaned across and whispered, "Take no notice of Athel. He's a fucking yabo."
He must have had quite good ears 'cause he said to Boney, "What's that ya fuckin' say Boney?"
"Nothing mate.", said Boney with a giggle.
Athel leaned over and twisted Boneys' ear and Boney, small as he was, got really pissed at him.
"Keep ya fuckin' hands to ya self Athel or I'll fucking job ya one mate!"
"You and whose fucking army?"
"Just try it again, ya fucking yabo and I'll show ya!"
"Come on you blokes.", said Freeman. "Ya worse than a pack of mongrel shed dogs!"
"Yeah, that's right. You tell 'em Freeman.." said Gundy. "Give us another light Chummy.",he said with a twisted grin.
The rest of the drive to the shed was done in silence as we sped along the dirt track road at 70 miles an hour. Half an hour later we pulled off the main Rankin Springs road and turned into the Cockys' property. Boney jumped out and opened the gate, Once it was closed again, we drove up a narrow, winding bush track and stopped in front of a big, old, somewhat dilapidated shearing shed. There was another two shearers cars parked out front and the yards were chock-a-block full of unshorn sheep.
When we got inside the shed Don introduced me to all the other shearers and rousies and Boney filled me in on the 'board-boys' job.
Gundy was a really fair-dinkum bloke, even though he was a chronic drunk. I stood around and talked and joked with him as we waited for the bell to ring at 7:30.
In a four-stand shearing shed there are usually 4 shearers and one board-boy, a wool-classer, a rousie to help skirt the fleeces, a wool-presser whose job it is to press the wool into large bales and sometimes a 'penner-uppa'. His job is to keep the shed pens full. The contractors job is to grind up the combs and cutters, count the sheep out of each shearers outside the pen at the end of the run, which is 2 hours and make sure everything runs smoothly between the shed-hands and the farm-hands,
"Will ya teach me to shear, Gundy?", I asked.
"Oh, I might do Chummy. Lets see how you go at roustabouting' first mate. Maybe you won't like the shearing sheds!"
"I already like 'em and when I can shear I'll be working for miself. That's what I want to do."
"Alright Chummy. Look out mate the bells about to go!"
The bell rang right on 7:30. All the 4 shearers went through the pen gate to grab their first sheep. Gundy was the last to finish and when he let his sheep go down the shute, he straightened up and I noticed the look of pain on his face.
"Jesus, Chummy, It's going to be another hard day for me."
The board-boys job, which I was doing, could be pretty hard at times. I had to pick up the fleeces from 4 shearers and keep the shearing board swept clean of dags and loose pieces of wool. At the end of my first day I was pretty tired of running about so much but I knew, more than ever, I was going to learn shearing no matter what it took.
The shearers were always in a good mood on the way home from the sheds. They laugh and joked about the days work and talked about the first cold beer they were going to have at Giltraps Hotel when we hit town.
All the blokes from the shed drank at George Giltraps Hotel that evening, George Giltrap was a big man. He had shortish hair that was combed straight back with a touch of hair oil on it. His face was always pain-ridden from the amount of beer he drank. It was easy for him to drink 'cause he owned the Hotel. Sometimes he would start drinking at 5 in the morning and at 12 O'clock at night he would be still going strong. Although he was a heavy drinker he was not lazy. He always did his job behind the bar. He was a tall man with wide shoulders who always had a fag hanging out of the corner of his mouth as he pulled the beer. When he ash on the fag got too long he would simply to the side and blow down the cigarette. The ash would fly forwards and land on the tile floor. The barroom at Giltraps was an L-shaped room with a pool table in the far corner. The bar was always stocked with shorts and liquors of all types.
Giltraps was commonly known around town as the Blood House. It got it's name from the amount of fights that took place in the bar. The fights at Giltraps were usually conducted by the Abbos or in a lot of cases, a feud between the white fellas' and the black fellas'. There were many stories floating around town about those brawls. A lot of the local people were not too keen on drinking at Giltraps in case they got sucked into one of the evenings fights.
"Isn't Giltraps a rough house Gundy?", I asked as we walked up the front steps.
"She sure is Chummy but it's not as boring as those as those other two places mate."
Giltraps was packed to the max as we entered.
"Who's buying the first round?", said Gundy as we pushed our way to the bar.
"The first one's are on me.", said Don Freeman. "What'll you have men?"
Once the orders were taken by Don, he called Giltrap over, who was busy drinking in three different schools.
"What'll ya have Freeman?", asked Giltrap.
Don gave the order, including a 5-ounce beer for me.
"How old's the young bloke?", said Giltrap as he looked at me.
"Oh, that's Chummy.", said Don. "He's old enough. He's working out in the sheds with me now."
"Whatever you say Freeman but if he isn't and the old Sarg comes in, tell him to hide his beer or I'll git in the shit!"
Drinking grog was a part of the shearers world. It seemed to go with the job. Shearers lose gallons of sweat every day so they put it back in, of an evening, as fast as they can.
We all sat or stood around for the next three hours bull-shitting and making jokes; taking the piss out of each other and generally having a good old time.
The wool-presser at our shed was Roy James. Roy James was a big rough bloke who no one put shit on. He was about 6'4" and weighed about 280 pounds and not an ounce of fat anywhere on his body. Roy was a good bloke who had a big heart although he was not overburdened with brains. His hair was swept straight back and covered in lanolin from picking up big armfuls of wool. He had a big cauliflower ear and a nose that had been broken too numerous a time to remember. His good ear had a lobe missing. The jagged line that was left resembled a half-moon. He usually wore a blue singlet, stubby shorts and a pair of elastic-sided Williams riding boots, the flat-heeled type.
As the evening progressed and everyone got drunker, I found myself wondering what had happened to Roys' ear.
"Hey Roy, what happened to your ear-lobe mate?"
A few people standing around must have heard me ask the question because our end of the bar suddenly went very quiet. Roy casually downed his beer. The glass was not too visible in his huge calloused hand.
"What did you say, Chummy?"
He sort of turned side ways to glare at me.
"I was just wonderin' what happened to ya ear-lobe, Roy."
As he stared down at me, he said, "I've killed bigger men than you for askin' much less than that!"
"Alright Roy.", I said. "I didn't mean to be disrespectful to ya but what did happen to your ear-lobe?"
"I was in a fight at the Hotel in Bourke and a little bloke was takin' the piss out 'a me and as we struggled on the bar-room floor, he bit the end off mi ear and then spit it out."
"Why didn't you git it sewn back on?", I asked with great interest.
" 'Cause when the bloke spit out on the floor, the publican Jack Russell ran over and grabbed it and then swallowed it."
"Fuckin' hell Roy, did that hurt?"
"I was too drunk to feel a thing but I felt it next morning after I'd sobered up! Whose round is it?", he asked as the tension in the room started to dissipate.
Roy walked out to go to the toilet and while he was out, Freeman said, "I never knew that's what happened to his ear."
Gundy said, "You've got more guts than anyone else in this barroom Chummy. There isn't a man alive in Lake Cargelligo who's had the balls to ask Big Roy about his ear and he's been comin' to the Lake each shearing season for years now."
Everyone started to laugh as they joked with me.
"It's not that I've got guts.", I said to Gundy. "I knew there must have been quite a story behind his ear 'cause it caught my attention. So much so that I couldn't help but ask."
George Giltrap came around the bar to where we were all in a group and he said, "Here Chummy, have a middy. It's on the house, mate. That's the best bit 'a fun I had for ages."