Tuesday, October 7, 2008


Jim's old place really was a humpy, the house was falling down around his ears. The corrugated tin roof was brown with rust and the trough was literally down in places. The wood board sides had panels missing so that one could see into the rooms. The inside floor-boards were warped in all directions and in some places dry rot had eaten large holes in them. But for all of this, it was hanging together by the unspoken love between himself and his family.
When we got inside he said, "Look out Yorky, don't walk there or ya foot will go through mi floor mate!"
"G'day Shirley.", said Jim as we walked into the kitchen.
"G'day Jim.", She said to him. "This must be Yorky, is it Jim?"
"Yeh, this is Yorky, Shirl. This is mi missus, Yorky. Best little cook this side of the Black Stump Mate. Not a bad looker either, eh mate?"
I shook Shirleys' hand and said, "Pleasure to meet ya, Mrs. Smith."
"The names is Shirley. It'll go to mi head if ya call me Mrs. Smith. Even mi kids call me Shirl."
"Alright, Shirley it is."
"D'ya want some smoko, Jim?" I've just boiled the kettle.", she said.
"Yeah, why not. We'll have some smoko and then I'll help Yorky bring his bags in. We've got a nice room for ya mate. It's even got it's own air-conditioning built in."
"Oh stop it Jimmy!", said Shirl. "He's just kidding ya Yorky. What he means is, one of the boards fell off the side wall of your room and Jimmy hasn't had time to nail it back up yet. We don't even have electricity at this place, let alone air-conditioning."
"Yeh, just joking mate. It's what makes life tolerable, eh? A good joke once a day at least!"
The temperature outside now was probably around 90 degrees inside the kitchen. Shirley had a wood stove going so as to make the tea for us. As you may well imagine it was pretty warm in that old kitchen.
Just then, Jims' oldest child who couldn't speak too well said something to Jim I could not understand.
Then Jim said to Shirl, "Ya shot a snake in here this morning Shirl?"
"Oh yeh, I forgot to tell ya, with all the excitement going on."
"What happened then?"
"He was stretched out in front of the stove when I came back in from hanging out some washing so I went round the front way and got the .22 out a' the bedroom. I walked up the passage and he was still in the same place so I let him have it."
"D'ya get him?"
"Have you ever known me miss yet, Jimmy Smith? Course I got him. I blew his head clean off with one shot. Ya see that stain over ther where I tried to clean it up?"
"Oh yeh.", said Jim. "Don't get on the wrong side of her Yorky. She's got six brothers all older than her and she could beat 'em all in a shooting contest. She used to got rabbit spotlighting with her Dad when she was only 7 years old. She's been shooting for 50 years mate."
"You stop that Jim Smith! I was only 20 when we got married and we've only been married for 8 years."
"Is that all? Streuth, it felt longer than that."
"I'm warning you Jimmy." Said Shirl, with a mischievous smile on her face.
"Alright. Enough's enough. Have a cigar Yorky. Ya can buy me a pack when we go to town again."
"Thanks Jim, I'll buy ya a couple of packs so I'm not in debt."
"Just one pack will be enough mate or you'll put me in debt!"
"Can I see your .22 Jim?"
"Yeh mate. First door on the left, down the passage. It's leaning against the wall near mi bed. Check it first and make sure there's not one up the spout."
"Great!", I said, as I took off down the passage.
The rifle was right where he said it would be so I opened the bolt and checked to make sure that it was empty and took it back to the kitchen with me.
"How d'ya git the magazine out Jim?"
"Press that catch under the back of the mag, mate. It should fall out on its own then. Not a bad little pea rifle Yorky, eh?"
"It's a beauty Jim. Would you mind if I bought one for myself while I'm here?"
"Why should I mind Yorky? Long as ya careful with it. I'll help ya pick out a good one if ya want me to. When it gets really hot we can go rabbit shootin' of a night. I made big money at it this time last year, eh Shirl."
I put Jims' .22 back in the bedroom where I found it, then went back out to finish mi tea. I was feeling really happy now. I already felt like one of the family so I promised myself that I'd work hard for Him so he'd make as much money as possible.
"Come on mate.", said Jim. "Let's go outside. I'll show ya mi Avery I'm building."
"Toe, toe, tu?" said Tony.
"Alright mate, you can come as well."
"What did he say Jim?"
"He said he wants to come with us. All my kids, except the youngest have got a speech problem Yorky. We've had 'em to specialists all over the place but no one has been able to help so far. The last bloke said he's pretty sure they'll grow out of it as they get bigger. Once you've been around a few weeks you'll be able to understand 'em as well as me. Their IQ's have all been tested and they're well above average. I sometimes think they prefer their own language to English. The only time I can't understand 'em is the odd times when they have a blue and once they get shouting and yelling at each other, I haven't got a bloody clue what they're fighting about so I have to separate 'em and get each individual side, so I know what to say."
"Toe, toe, pa pu.", said Tony, who was about 5 years old.
"Yeh mate.", said Jim. "That's your Wee Juggler."
"Here ya go mate, said Jim, as we walked towards the Avery. "It's only small so far but this year I'm gonna make it much bigger 'cause I got mi eye on a lot of nests now and with your help Yorky we'll git a lot more mate, 'cause I'm too scared these days to climb as high as I used to."
"No worries mate.", I said to Jim, testing mi new-found Aussie accent on him.
I'd only now Jim for a few hours so he hadn't known my full-on broad Yorkshire accent.
"Ya see that Wee Juggler mate? He's also called a Major Mitchell. Well those blokes nest up in high, dead limbs of Gum trees so they're pretty hard to get at and that fella there is a Sulphur-Crested. They nest even higher."
"What's the others, Jim?"
"Well, there's a couple of Ring Necks, 4 Blue Bonnets, half-a-dozen Grass Parrots, 2 pair of Quarry-hens, that's those pink-cheeked ones over there. The rest of 'em are various Rosellas and Lorries."
"This is a great Avery Jim."
"Oh she's not bad mate but after the summers over she'll be a lot bigger. Anyway Yorky, lets git ya gear inside and ya can make ya self at home. I'm gonna chop a bit a' wood for the missus this arvo, 'cause once we start this contract we'll be pretty busy mate."
We carried my cases into the bedroom that was reserved for me.
"Grand Streuth!", said Jim. "What ya got in these bloody ports? You'll have to stack one each side of the room mate or they'll fall through the floor."
"Are ya serious Jim?"
"Na mate, just kidding. But I'm not kidding about the weight! You've got enough gear in here to look after a bloody army, mate!"
"It's what the Big Brother Movement told me I had to have out here."
"Sounds to me, mate, that those blokes have never been out a' Sydney."
"They probably haven't.", I said.