Tuesday, November 18, 2008
9 FINGERS LEFT ©
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 red blood running out of my 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 uncontrollable 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 red 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 quite numb yet."
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 dirt in.
"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 Ruby. "Get outta' my kitchen and be more careful up the Paddock."
Digger and I drove back up the Paddock and 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.", 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 dit 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-olive 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 that?"
"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 Cockies 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 may people around the Lake so if you can find me some more work that'll be great for me."
Here I was in much the same position again so I decided not to let it make me as said this time.
That evening, as I walked through the backyard at Dick Skipworths' homestead, his wife Ruby was in the backyard 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 eating."
"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 Ruby 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 Ruby 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, Ruby 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 almost12 months 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, Ruby 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 sunburned fag holder.
"Where to sport?", said Kevin with a smile on his face.
"Arthur Auberrys' place and don't switch the meter on!"
"Where's Arthurs' place Kevin?", is asked as we drove along 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."