Sunday, August 10, 2008
THE VISITOR ©
I was not happy at Burts' place and that week, to my surprise, I had a visitor whom I had never met before.
One weekday evening, after work, I was sat in mi room writing a letter home to mi mother when I heard the sound of a vehicle coming along the track. When I opened my door I saw a blue Holden Ute pull up in a cloud of dust outside Burts' garden fence.
The two dogs were barking and making a hell of a din. It was not long before old Burt came out to investigate. I saw him go up to the young stranger and shake hands with him and after a minute or so old Burt pointed to where I was standing.
The young man, who was quite well-dressed in elastic-sided riding boots and the usual Cockies type of clothing which was light fawn pants, belt and checkered bush shirt with an Akubra Squatters hat perched on his head, walked over to where I was standing. As he approached, he said in a thick Aussie accent,
"G'day sport. How are ya? My name's Peter Smith."
"Hello.", I said, as I shook his hand. "My name's Richard."
"Yeh, I know mate. Let's go for a walk sport. We'll be out of earshot of Old Burt then. Can't have him eavesdropping, can we sport?"
"No.", I said, with a tone of wonder in my voice as I had no idea whatsoever who this young man was and why he would want to speak with me.
Once we were down the track a-ways, he said "So, how d'ya like it in Australia so far mate?"
"I love Australia. But I'm not happy at this place."
"Why's that sport?"
I told Peter all about Burt and how hard on me he was.
"Ya don't have to tell me anymore mate. I was just checking. Old Burt will never change. He's a real hard old bastard. It's not the first time I've been out here and it probably won't be the last."
"Why are you so interested?"
"Oh sorry mate, I forgot to tell you. I'm from the old country misen. I've been out here 10 years now. I'm ya Big Brother, mate."
"What do you mean?"
"Well ya see, I came out here ten years ago with the Big Brother Movement and after I'd been here for 5 years they made me the Big Brother for all the new chums that they send out to this area, so it's my responsibility to make sure you're not getting ripped-off or abused mate."
"Can you get me another job somewhere else Peter?"
" I probably can mate but this is how it works see. Ya don't tell old Burt anything about our conversation 'cause if he knows I'm going to get ya another job, he won't let me on the property anymore, alright?"
"Alright Peter. Ya sure you can help me?"
"Course mate, I know everyone around these parts. Does he feed ya parrots and Kangaroo meat?"
"I thought so mate. He's not changed any in all the years I've known him. You leave it to me sport. I'll have ya out of this place as soon as I can. You'll have to hang on for a couple of months till I line up a new job for ya. Can ya last that long?"
"If ya can get me out before then, I'll be alright. Just as long as I know you're gonna help me will make it more tolerable."
"Good on ya mate. How's Bill Defoe going? Is he still running the training farm out Liverpool way?"
"He sure is. I really like old Bill. He's a good, kind man."
"Were all good blokes in the Bush mate. There's just a few mongrol-bred bastards like old Burt and his brother but that keeps us on our toes mate. We'd have it too easy if not, eh mate."
"I suppose so.", I said,
"Alright sport, I'll be on mi way now so don't you go worrying yourself about a thing. Here's my phone number. If old Burt gives ya too much shit give us a call mate and I'll have a word with him."
By this time we were back alongside of Peters' blue Ute.
"How much did ya Ute cost Peter?"
"Five hundred pounds brand new. She's a beut, eh?"
"Yeh, she sure is a beut Peter. I would like to have a new Ute like that one day."
"No worries mate. You'll have one before ya know it. Ya rooted in the Bush without a good Ute 'cause it's too hot and dusty to walk and there's no such thing as buses out here. Not like the old Countr, eh mate?"
Peter hopped in his Ute, put it in first and spun the wheels in a cloud of red dust as he took off.
"See ya soon sport. Hang in there mate."
Now I was feeling more happy because I knew I had found a good friend, or should I say he found me. I finished mi letter then blew a few soft tunes on mi old trumpet which I didn't play much at all these days 'cause life had changed so much. The position I was in now would have been unimaginable a few short months ago.
A couple of months went by in the usual manner at Evergreen, (that was the name of Burts' property.) One day whilst we were Emu bobbing in the paddocks, (Emu bobbing is slang for picking up stumps), Burts' older brother Dick came over to see him. He was taller and more skinny than Burt was. The first thing I noticed was that he had bad asthma and could hardly breathe. The Bush pollens must have really gotten to him. Dick wore a one-piece green boiler suit, no matter how hot it was. It could be 115 degrees and Dick would still be in his boiler suit. In this case the suit was aptly named. Dick had a thin, hooky nose the same as Burt had and his face was sunken and gaunt-looking. Dicks' jackeroo, called Michael, had come over with him so while Burt and Dick talked to each other, Michael came over to see me.
"G'day sport. My name's Michael. Yours is Richard, isn't it?"
"Yes. How d'ya know?"
"I heard old Dick talkin' to Burt one night on the party line. Ya like the Bush mate?"
"Yeh, It's better than England."
"Anyplace is better than England mate. Why d'ya think so many pommies leave it?"
"You're probably right.", I said.
"Course I'm fucking right mate. Here, have a fag mate."
"Why? Don't ya smoke mate?"
"I do but if old Burt sees me smoking in working hours he said he'll dock some of mi pay."
"What!", Michael said. "The old Bastard can't do that. He's pulling the wool over ya eyes mate. He's just bunging it on. Tell him to go fuck himself! Here have a smoke sport, If old Burt says one word, I'll back ya up mate."
"Alright Michael. I'm just about sick of him telling me what to do, anyway."
"Good on ya mate. That's the way. Ya gotta stand up for ya rights in the Bush, 'cause if ya don’t, no other bastard will and as soon as Burt sees you're not gonna take anymore bullshit from him, he'll ease up a bit on ya."
"Is that your dog, Michael?"
"Ya, that's the bastard."
"What happened to his balls?"
"He kept wandering off the property looking for bitches on the next-door neighbours place. I told him what would happen if he didn't stop but he took no notice of me whatsoever. So one day, when we were marking lambs I put a rubber ring over his balls and a week or so later they fell off.
"Does he still go wandering off?"
"No mate. He never even thinks about bitches now and he's a much better worker. He keeps his mind on his job now, instead of his dick."
"Doesn't it hurt?"
"No, only if ya get the rubber ring caught on ya finger!"
This made me laugh mi head off and for the next half-hour we stood in the mali paddock telling each other jokes.
After Dick and Michael left, old Burt said,
"Come on, we've lost an hours work now. We'll have to work later tonight to catch up."
About an hour later, I stopped and rolled a Drum cigarette. As soon as Burt saw me smoking he said,
"Put that smoke out! Ya can't work and smoke at the same time."
"Fuck you Burt! I'm sick of you telling me what I can and can't do! You've got no right to tell me where and when not to smoke! If I hold the fag in mi mouth while I'm shoveling coals, how's that gonna affect mi work?"
"I said, put that smoke out!"
"Fuck you Burt."
"Alright, I'll call the BBM and get you deported back to England!"
"Call whoever you fucking like Burt 'cause I know you can't do that. I've been talking to some people in Lake Cargelligo and they told me you're full of shit! so fuck you!"
I lit up mi fag, picked up mi shovel and set about starting some new fires. Old Burt was no red-faced and cranky but he knew the game was up now. from then on, open warfare was silently declared.