Friday, November 28, 2008
ON TO ARTHURS' PLACE ©
"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' house 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.", said Arthur.
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 a good one for us.", 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 my 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, so 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 reasonable 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 bedhead 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 dyed, silvery hair and had 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. She seemed, to me to be tightly wound, as I watched her.
After the evening meal, I went back to my new room and layed 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 easygoing 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 D.8 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 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 Yanks?"
"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 mates 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 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."