Tuesday, December 9, 2008

THE MOTOR BIKE ©


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?"

"I understand."

"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."

"Clunk!"
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 Yorky."

"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

THE RACE HORSE ©


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?" said Arthur

"Look over there, near the silos. Isn't that one of yours?" I said.

"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." said Arthur.

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?" I asked.

"No mate. You are!" said Arthur.

"Me! He's a race horse Arthur. I've only ridden stock horses mate, that were well-broken in!" I said.

"No worries Yorky. There's always a first time for everything mate!" said Arthur

"Tell ya what Arthur, you ride him first and I'll ride him after, alright?" I said.

"Sounds good to me Yorky, lets git the gear." said Arthur.

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," Arthur said.

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 and 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?" said Arthur.

"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 800 acre paddock mate, give him his head and let's see how good he really is!" said Arthur.

"Your 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." said Arthur.

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 and he pushed the ground from beneath his feet as 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 movie!', 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. 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 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." said Arthur.

"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." I said.

"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." said Arthur.

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

GONE FISHIN' ©


"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." said Arthur.

"Then how are we gonn' catch fish?" I said.

"I'll show ya when we git home." said Arthur.

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." said Arthur.

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, Cormerants 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, grey 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!" I said.

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." said Arthur.

"How long will it take to catch a fish?", I said.

"Oh, we'll check it out in the morning mate. It'll give it a chance to fill up." said Arthur.

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 at the bank.

It was a beautiful morning to be out on the Lake. The Shags and the Cormerants were already diving for their breakfasts and the birds were singing an 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 to using nets. Once I find where he got into it, I'll soon have him out." said Arthur.

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?" I said.

"Oh, he's probably somewhere around 3 pounds." said Arthur.

I could see why they were 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." said Arthur.

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." said Arthur.

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." said Arthur.

"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." said Arthur.

"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."

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.