Off in the distance, the small cloud of red dust was now beginning to get bigger and bigger and after 10 minutes or so I could see a small white dot in front of the cloud of red dust. A few minutes later I recognized the white dot as a pickup truck. Ten minutes later the pickup ground to a halt in front of me in a cloud of red dust that got up my nose and made me cough a bit. In the back of the truck were 2 black dogs with pricked ears and yellow eyes. They stared straight at me and as soon as I moved they started to bark. "Sit down ya bastards!" roared a broad Australian voice from inside the cab. The drivers' side opened and a rough-looking Bushman climbed out from behind the dusty steering wheel. "G'day." He said, "My name's Burt Booth. You must be Richard, are ya?" 'Yes, that's right." "Throw your ports in the back of the Ute mate and we'll git moving." "What about the dogs?" "They won't hurt ya mate. They're chained up to the front." The dogs lunged and growled at me as I lifted both mi suitcases and stacked them in the back. "Sit down, ya fucking bastards!" yelled Burt Booth at the 2 mean-looking black dogs. "Come on mate, git a move on!" said old Burt Booth as I arranged mi two cases so the dogs wouldn't chew 'em. "Hop in the other side." He said, so I walked around the Ute and opened the passenger door. "Christ, she's a warm one today." He said as he put the Ute into first gear.
Burt Booth was about 5'10". On his head he wore an old 'diggers' slouch hat which was covered in oil and sweat stains. The crown of the hat had two large holes in the top front crease from years of taking it on and off. His face was creased and weather-worn brown. It had long, deep lines all over it from years of working in the Sun and heat. He had a large hooked nose, just like an eagle. At each side of the nose were two small slits that I guessed were his eyes. Above the eyes were big, bushy eyebrows that grew in all directions except straight. He had dirty gray whiskers also. His clothes were old, ex-army dark karkhi. The pants were woolly and the shirts was cotton and over that he wore the karkhi battle-dress jerkhin. On his feet were a pair of big rubber-soled work boots that were covered in red dust.
Before I sat down, I dusted the seat with mi hand and when I looked at it, mi hand was a dirty red color.
"Git in mate, a bit of fucking dust won't hurt 'ya. Slam the door 'cause it'll fly open if ya don't.
Burt Booth was not a pleasant looking character and already I could feel he was mean-spirited, not at all like Bill Defoe, so I just sat there looking out of the window.
The old Ute picked up speed as it went along the bush dirt road. Red dust flew up behind the Ute as we drove along. The dirt road was covered in pot-holes and corrugation. The old Ute banged and rattled so much I thought it was going to fly to pieces before we arrived at the farm!
At long last old Burt spoke, "Ya see all this Mali country? Well, we're in the process of clearing it all so we've got some more country to sow the wheat and oats down."
"That's great.", I said, as I sat there looking at him. Then I started to think about clearing Mali country. 'Maybe I'll learn to drive big bulldozers and crawlers. That will be great!'
As we drove along in silence a few kangaroos hopped across the road in front of us.
"Oh look, there's some kangaroos!", "I said.
"Plenty of those bastards out here. They're a bloody nuisance those roos. One roo will as much crop as 10 sheep in one night."
"How do you stop 'em doing that?"
"Lead! We shoot the bastards with shotguns. We wait till it's dark, then we go out in the Ute with a good spotlight. Soon as we pick 'em up in the spot we let the bastards have it! Hop out and open that gate and don't forget to chain it back up. I don't want these sheep to get mixed up with the others 'cause I've just finished drafting 'em."
After a long drive through his paddocks we finally came to his place.
"This is the house paddock and over there behind those pines is the house."
The old white Ute pulled up in the red, dusty yard in front of his one-story house. The house had a chain-link fence around it which kept the stock out of the vegetable garden. Next to the house was a couple of large water tanks that sat on 2 tall wooden platforms.
The front door of his house opened and a porky, middle-aged woman came out.
"This is the missus.", said Burt.
"Pleased to meet you.", I said.
"I'm so glad you're here. You'll be a lot of help for Burt. We've been waiting for a new boy for about 6 months now."
"You'll be staying over in that shed. Take ya gear over there and lunch will be served in half an hour. The missus will ring the cow-bell when it's ready."
Burts' wife was at least 50 years old. Even she was ex-army, like his clothes. She used to be a nurse in England and when the second World War started she was sent to Australia to look after the wounded troops. Burt had met her after the war and once married he brought her out to the Bush. She had straight gray hair which was chopped
off above her shoulders. Her face was lined just like Burts. Under her nose and on her chin she had almost as much hair as Burt did. She also had a small dark mole on her face, out of which grew 5 or 6 long gray hairs. She had a bust like a Jersey milking cow which hung down to her waist, just about. Her waist was long gone and her arse was about 1 and 1/2 axe-handles wide. her legs were covered in dark stockings and she still wore her nurse-type shoes.
I picked up mi 2 cases and headed over to the shed where Burt had pointed. From the outside, the shed was made up of corrugated iron just like the locked shed at Burgooney Station. The door was a very faded blue with paint peeling and flaking off all over it. I put mi cases down and turned the warm, round handle. The door creaked open on its own revealing a small room about 9 feet by 7 feet. In one corner was an old rusty bed frame with an old, stained, flock mattress on it. Next to that was an ancient cupboard with three horizontal drawers in it and in another corner was a small wardrobe with a long stained mirror on the door. The floor was covered in cheap oil cloth that had been patched together. There were still large torn holes in it, as if someone had run out of patches. The small window as almost impossible to open and a faded curtain hung down each side of the frame. The walls of the hut were not lined so already I was noticing the heat as I stood there.
'This place is nothing but a dump.', I thought. 'Maybe everyone lives like this in the bush.'
I put mi thin bush coat over the back of the only broken chair in the place and then put mi 2 cases under the bed and sat on the edge of the rickety chair surveying the stained mattress.
'I hope no one pissed on that', I thought as I stared at it in disbelief. I decided to turn it over to see how the other side was but it looked like it had been turned on many previous occasions. I pulled out one of mi cases and found a couple of clean linen sheets which I promptly covered the mattress with. Then I knocked all the dust out of the pillow and dropped into a brand new pillowcase. The foisty smell still emanated out of the pillow so I gave it a couple more whacks with mi flat hand and threw it into place. The corners of the small room had large cobwebs growing across them but I decided I'd knock 'em down later. I kicked off mi good shoes which were now covered in red dust and very carefully lay on mi back on the rickety old iron-framed bed.
I lay there staring at the corrugated iron roof until I heard the sound of the cowbell ringing. When the cowbell stopped ringing I made mi way across the dusty yard to the main house. Old Burt was standing under the tank stand at a small homemade table with an old aluminum dish full of brown water washing his face and neck. After he finished he threw the dirty water over the fence into the vegetable patch.
"After ya washed up, throw the water in the veggie garden. You'll have to learn to conserve water out here mate. She's been a real dry summer this year. We've only had a few points of rain over the last 7 months. Use the tap over there, that's the washing water. It's pumped up from the dam by that big windmill next to it. When you've finished, come on inside for a bite to eat. The missus has got the tucker out on the table already so hurry up before the flies carry it away!"
I put the battered old dish under the tap and turned the tap with a pair of old pliers that were sat on a stone next to it. The water came out a dirty reddish brown color and it was quite warm. the square, rough block of soap that was sitting on the old wooden table was as hard and scratchy as hell. I found out later that old Burt made it himself. No matter how hard I rubbed with the soap no lather seemed to appear. After I finished I put mi shoes where Burt had left his and walked inside.
To my surprise, Burt and Kays' house was very clean and tidy inside and the furnishings, although not new, were in really good shape. Three large pieces of cold mutton were waiting for me at the table as I sat down. Next to the mutton was a couple of medium-sized tomatoes and alongside those were 3 cold potatoes.
Old Burt was already eating as I sat down. "Dig in mate and if I was you I'd put a heap of salt on that mutton 'cause if ya don't eat a lot of salt out here in the Bush you'll end up as sick as a mangy dog."
I put some more salt on mi meat and reached for a thick piece of hand cut bread. I put the normal amount of butter on it and before I could finish old Burt said, "Christ mate, go easy on the butter. That's gotta last a few days before I make another batch!"
After lunch, Kay Booth asked me a few questions about my life so I told her about Yorkshire, mi dads' farm and the Ellan Silver Prize Band. As I finished talking old Burt said, "I'm off back up the paddock. Ya can start work tomorrow morning. Have a look around the place this arvo and don't leave the house paddock 'cause I don't have time to look for a new chum who's got himself bushed in the first afternoon!"
Back outside, old Burt hopped in his decrepit Ute and drove away out of sight. I decided to investigate the house paddock so I took off in the direction of the big windmill. There were burrs and saffron thistles all over the place and the ends of the thistles were so sharp that they went straight through my thin work jeans and stuck in mi legs.
The dam was quite large and as soon as I got close to it a group of wild-wood ducks flew off up into the air. I walked up the small dam banks and stood there looking at the brownish murky water. Just then, a mob of wild, sulphur-crested Cockatoos landed in a big gum tree and started to squawk. They were the largest parrots I had ever seen. They had jet black eyes and a big yellowish plume on top of their heads. A few of them flew out of the gum tree and landed at the waters edge to take a drink. They did not seem to mind me standing there as they stuck their beaks in the muddy water, then put their heads to swallow it. A few moments later a large flock of Budgerigars landed next to the Sulphur-crested cockeys and took up their drinking positions. When they had drunk their full they all flew up into the pine and gum trees which held plenty of shade for them.
I noticed some old sheds at the bottom end of the house paddock so I slowly walked in that direction. The Sun was already hot now and the bush flies were a real nuisance. The more I swished them away from my eyes the more it seemed to encourage them to come. There was broken-down rusty old machinery lying all over the place. Most of it, I guess, was left over from the old horse-drawn days. Some of the old sheds housed bags of seed wheat and the others were tractors and combine sheds. At the far end of the paddock was what smelled to me like a sheep-shearing shed. I also saw a few half-full bales of wool laying open in one corner.
I spent most of the afternoon walking around to familiarize myself with the place. When I got back to my tin hut I noticed, just across the way, a couple of large logs so I went over to check it out. When I got closer, I saw what it was. Old Burt had split a large log straight down the center and the white ants had eaten the whole middle of the log away. Burt had dug a small hollow in the ground and placed the half-hollow log over the top of the hole. At the back of the log was a square piece of corrugated tin that he'd hashed into the hard ground. The tin sealed up the back. At the front was a 2-foot metal stake with a dog chain welded to it.
'What an ingenious idea.' I thought. 'The dogs can go down inside the hole into the cool earth during the day when it's hot. The dog kennel looked like a natural den which would have made them feel real comfortable.'
I spent the rest of the day putting a few work clothes I would need into the old cupboard of mi tin shed and after another meal at Old Burt's house, I went to bed early so I'd be raring to go in the morning.
I was up before the hot sun next morning waiting for old Burt to come out of the house. He was up bright and early and walked across the dusty yard to where I was sitting on the small step of mi shed.
"G'day. We've got a big day ahead of us today so we'd best git crackin'. There's a couple of bikes in that shed over there. Grab the old black one and peddle down the road to that bottom paddock. You'll see the milking cows down there and we'll get started on 'em."
I found the old, dirty bike leaning against the shed wall right where he said it would be. The bike was in worse condition than my old bike in England. I turned it around and blew the red dust off of the seat and pushed it outside.
Old Burt was nowhere to be seen now so I threw mi leg over the bike and peddled down a dirt track to where he said the cows were. It was very difficult to peddle the bicycle on the dirt track 'cause as soon as the front wheel hit a hole, which was filled up with bull dust, the bike came to an abrupt halt. At one hole the front wheel stopped dead and I shot off the seat and nearly ruptured misen on the cross bar and swearing in mi newfound Aussie language, I peddled on down the dirt road. When I reached the gate that old Burt had described to me, I got off mi bike and undid the chain. The Large tubular steel gate opened back on its own. I pushed mi bike through and stood there looking for the cows. They were really hard to spot because they were grazing way off in the middle of a 500-acre paddock.
The paddock was thickly overgrown with 4-foot high saffron thistles so I just sat on the bike wondering how I was going to reach them. There was no other way that I could see except to ride through the thistles. Twenty feet into the paddock I was cursing and yelling as the hard, dry thistles stuck through mi thin work jeans and into my soft white legs.' Fuck this for a joke!' I thought. 'At this rate it will take me all day!' I turned the bike around and peddled back to the side of the fence. When I got off the bike I pulled mi jeans down and saw 10 to 15 small, sharp barbs sticking out of mi legs. After I'd removed them I pulled the rest out of mi jeans. When I pulled mi jeans back up there was still a couple of places where I'd missed getting the thorns out but I tried to forget about it and peddled back up towards the house. A couple of thorns scratched at mi soft, white legs the hole way back.
When I eventually got back to the yard, old Burt said to me,
"What happened to the cows?"
"There right out in the middle of a thistle paddock!", I said.
"So ya just left 'em there?"
" 'course I did. What else was I supposed to do?"
Now he got really angry and I could see his meanness come up to the surface.
"Ya useless fucking, stupid pommy bastard!", he yelled at me. "Go and git my fucking bike out of the shed!"
After I came back with his bike, he jumped on it and started to peddle real fast down the same dirt track.
"Come on, you useless pommy bastard! What the fucking hell do you think I'm paying you 3 quid a week for if I've got to get mi own cows?"
I was really quite scared by now so I kept mi mouth shut and tried to keep up with him as best I could. When we got down to the paddock gate old Burt rode straight through the gate and headlong into the thistles he peddled. After a few yards I stopped mi bike 'cause by this time mi legs were burning with thistle stings again.
"Get back on that fucking bike, ya useless bastard!", he roared.
"They're pricking mi legs!"
"Ya fucking useless! You're as soft as fucking shit ya little bastard. If ya don't get back on that bike, I'll have ya deported back to England where ya bloody well came from!"
"It's alright for you, you've got real thick pants on. These blue jeans of mine are paper thin."
"Ya nothing but a winging, pommy bastard!", he roard again as he peddled off across the thistle paddock.
By this time I could take no more. The shock of the tin shed and the lack of human warmth was too much for a 15 year old boy from Yorkshire to take. I broke into tears and peddled the bike back up the dirt track. When I reached the house yard Kay Booth was throwing some feed to the chooks. I dropped the bike to the ground and headed straight for the tin shed where I lay on mi bed and cried mi eyes out.
After a while Kay came over and knocked on the door.
"Are you alright Richard?"
"Go away, I don't want to talk to you."
"Let me in Richard."
"Go away and leave me alone!", I said, between sobs.
Half an hour later I heard Burt coming up the track with the milking cows. A few minutes later I heard Kay talking to Burt and 5 minutes after that she was knocking on my door again.
"Open the door Richard."
The tears had dried up by now so I got off the bed and slid the wooden bolt back to open the door. She came in the room with a rather worried look on her face.
"You'll have to forgive Burt. He's lived and worked in the Bush his whole life and sometimes he forgets that you're only a boy."
"He's a real mean old man."
"It's not that he's mean Richard. I know he really likes you like a son but he's not got a lot of patience."
"If he likes me like a son, I'm glad I'm not his son."
"Go over to the milking shed. I've had a word him so he'll be alright now."
There was not much choice in the matter and I was scared he'd have me deported. I walked over to where he was milking the cows. As I walked past the pigpens I saw a dead, skinned fox laying half-eaten in the mud and all the small piglets had all lost their curly little tails. When I climbed over the wooden fence Burt said,
"Ah, there you are. Can you milk a cow?"
"Yes, mi dad showed me how to do it."
"Good. At least ya can do something. Come over here and milk this one and be careful 'cause she's a kicker. Make sure her leg is tied back like that or she'll put her foot in the bucket of milk."
The teats on the cows' bag were really small and it make milking her very difficult but as soon as he could see I'd done it before he said, "Your job's to bring the cows in and milk 'em 6 days a week. I'll do it on ya day off which is Saturday afternoon and all day Sunday."
Sunday, July 27, 2008
(I’ve only been resting about an hour,
when I hear Defoes’ loud Australian voice
booming and echoing through the Army-style barracks.)
Get out of those fart sacks you pommy fucking bastards! It’s time to eat, that’s if you mummies little darlings are not too fucking tired! (As he walks down the line of beds he says;)
Who the fucking hell took it upon themselves to clean up the fucking outer-dairy-yard without fucking asking first? Which one of you pack ‘a pommy bastards did it?
I did. (in a nervous voice.)
What do you mean ‘I DID’, you little fucking pipsqueak? Who the fucking hell helped you?
No one. I saw it hadn’t been done and it needed doing. I’m the one to blame.
(Defoe strides down the shed and stands in front of me.)
Show me you hands.
(I open mi hands. There are about 6 or 8 blisters on them.)
I would not have believed it unless I saw it with mi own eyes. Perhaps I misjudged you, ya scrawny looking Pommy bastard. That's what I like to see.
(He roars as he stands in front of me, looking back down the line. Then he turns to me.)
Good lad, you’re going to make it in the bush. Now go outside and piss on your hands. That’ll heal your blisters and toughen ‘em up. Where’s that ugly little bastard called Morris, and that big curly-headed pufta called Dave? Ah, there you are. You two can take the little bastards job in the kitchen and if you can work as good as him I’ll git ya a job in the Bush. Now fucking move you limey bastards, ya dinners getting cold!
(After the meal we all sit around a bit. Some of us talk and some of us write letters home to our families. At about 9 O’clock the lights in the large Nissan hut are turned out and we all try to get a good nights sleep.)
(Early the next morning I can no longer rest so I get up and dress myself in mi work clothes ready for my first days work. Just for a joke I grab mi old trumpet from under the bed. I pop the locks, put the mouthpiece in, then with a great lung full of air I blow the morning Reveille.)
Oh shit! Put that fucking trumpet away Titch. It’s only 5 O'clock!
(A few seconds later 2 or 3 pillows come flying across the room in my general direction. Then a large work-boot with a rubber heel bounces at my feet.)
Alright boys. Just a little joke, but don’t let Defoe catch you in bed ‘cause he’s likely to do anything, you know.
(At 6 O’clock we were all in the kitchen tucking into a large plate of lamb chops, eggs, bacon and toast and a tin mug of piping hot tea. Defoe comes into the kitchen, gets himself a large plate of breakfast, then disappears back outside again. After breakfast we all go back to our beds for an extra few minutes lay down while our big breakfast digests. It is not long before Defoes’ big, rough head appears in the doorway.)
Alright you Pommy fucking bastards,on your fucking feet. Time to go to work! Who blew that fucking trumpet this morning?
Get it out and play me a tune, Squirt.
(I pull out the trumpet and play Defoe a couple of Trad songs, then just for fun I play the theme music to the Lone Ranger. Defoe seems to love the trumpet and when I put it away he comes over and says)
Why do you want to work on a farm in the bush ,squirt?
‘Cause I can’t get it out of mi head. Ever since I knew it was possible for me to come out here to Australia, that’s all I ever wanted to do.
I’ll get you a job in the Army Cadets and after that you’ll get bumped up to the regular Army. You’ll make real good money and you won’t have to go through any shit in the Army band. You could make yourself a real beaut career out‘a music, Squirt. So have a good think about it, alright?
I can tell ya right now Mr. Defoe, I don’t want to join any Army band. I just want to get out to the Bush and work on a farm.
Just think about it.
(He turns and walks out of the Nissan hut.)
(That day we all busy ourselves milking cows, driving tractors, cleaning the place up and whatever jobs one generally does around a farm. In the afternoon Defoe says to us boys)
Can any of you lot ride a horse?
(A couple of the boys raise their hands).
Go and catch old Patches over there and saddle him up. You can all take turns in riding him. It’ll give you a bit of experience in case you need it some time.
(Patches is a big, strong-looking black & white Gelding. One of the boys throws a saddle across him and is trying to do up the cinch.)
Not like that ya Pommy bastard!. Go back in the barn and get me a saddle blanket.
(As soon as the boy returns, Defoe places the saddle blanket over old Patches back.Then he throw the Aussie Stock Saddle on the top of the blanket as he says,)
Don’t forget to pull the far side stirrup iron over the saddle,’cause if ya don’t, when ya throw the saddle over him the stirrup iron will hit him under the guts and that’ll spook him and make him kick. This old horse has seen more Pommy bastards then any other horse alive in Australia today and he’s not particularly fond of ‘em. So watch him cause he’s not afraid of kicking and he doesn’t mind biting a piece of Pommy arse now and again. Once the saddle is in place, once you’ve got the cinch up tight, walk him around a bit because he’s a cunning old bastard. He’ll puff his belly out to make you believe the cinch is tight and when you go to mount him he’ll let the air out and you and the saddle will go arse over head in the dirt,OK? Now after you’ve walked him around a bit, if he still keeps his belly puffed out ya give him a real good swift kick in the guts like this.
(Defoe kicks Patches right in the guts and in turn Patches kicks up both of his back legs high in the air and Defoe pulls hard on the cinch .)
Now you’re ready to mount, so watch carefully or you’ll get bit on the arse. You always mount from the left-hand side, and make sure ya hold the far-side rein tight so he can’t bite ya. Ya put ya left foot in the stirrup and then ya swing ya leg up and over in one easy movement like this.
(Defoe is now looming above us as he sits astride Patches.)
Ya give him a good, firm dig with the heel of ya boot, then away ya go, mate.
(After he walks Patches around the yard for a while, he gets off.)
Alright Squirt, hop on ‘im and have a go mate.
(I’d only ever ridden a donkey on Blackpool Beach as a kid for sixpence a ride but I take a deep breath and with great determination I stride up to Patches who put his head down as soon as he sees me approach him.
Grab those reins tight, Squirt! Pull on the far side one until he lifts his head up again!
(As I pulled on the rein, Patches swung his massive head around and tried to bite my bony little arse.)
Look out Squirt! The mean old bastard will have a piece of ya arse if ya not careful mate.”
(All the boys laugh. Patches knows he’s the center of everyones attention, He swings his head around for another go at my arse.)
That stirrup iron is too long for ya Squirt, so adjust the strap like his mate. That’s good enough mate. I’ll do the other side for ya.. Git up on him and watch out for the cunning old bastard. He’s likely to do anything. You got to be thinking one step ahead of that old bastard ‘cause if not, he’ll take over and run the fucking show on ya!
(I mount Patches just like I’d seen on the cowboy shows. I give him a couple of good kicks with the heel of mi boots and Patches starts to walk around.)
Good on ya Squirt.That’s the idea. He’s real hard in the mouth so you’ve got to ride him and show him who’s boss ‘cause if not he’ll take over. Oy! open that gate ya curly-headed pufta so the Squirt can go for a ride in the cow paddock.
(Dave opens the gate and Patches and me ride through into the paddock.)
Go down to the bottom of the paddock and keep ya wits about ya.
(Down the sloping paddock me and Patches ride.)
This is a piece of cake!
(Cowboy Dick rides along with one arm down at his side.)
What a great life it is, riding the Bush Range in Australia. Maybe I’ll get misen a job droving cattle around the Bush now that I can ride a horse.
(We reach the bottom of the long paddock. I’m still fantasizing misen as a cowboy. I almost pull out one of mi imaginary six-guns that are slung low at mi hips. Just then Patches turns around, totally unexpected, and takes off back up the paddock at full speed. All I can do is hang on as mi new bush hat flies off mi head into nowhere. Faster and faster Patches gallops up the field. I’m shit-scared but at the same time the excitement of the gallop is amazing.)
Oh oh! Now what do I do? 30 or 40 yards ahead of me is the barbwire fence where all the boys stand cheering and yahooing.
Ride the old bastard!
(The fence now looms dangerously close and my fantasies are long gone. All of a sudden Patches applies the horse brakes and I see misen flying through the air, headlong over the fence. The next thing I remember is Defoe pulling me up onto mi feet. The back of mi head has a throbbing, dull ache in it and mi arse feels like someone has just kicked it with a size 10 boot.)
Jeesus bloody christ mate! What the fuck are ya playing at! You’re supposed to stop when the horse stops! You’ll bloody well hurt ya self getting off a horse that way. Now git back up on the old bastard and try it again.
I don’t think I’m cut out for riding horses Mr. Defoe.
Fucking bullshit lad. You’ll make a fucking good jockey if ya stop eating. Now git back on him ‘cause if ya don’t you’ll end up scared of horses, and if ya scared of horses ya rooted for Bush life.
(Someone catches Patches and hands me the reins. Defoe gives me a leg up.)
Now watch the old bastard. He thinks he’s got it all over ya !
(Defoe is absolutely right ‘cause as soon as we go through the gate into the paddock Patches refuses to go anywhere.)
Give the rotten old bastard a decent kick in the guts!
(The heel of my boots makes contact with Patches sides. He did not take a liking to this command, so he decides to buck. Up on his hind legs he stands. Then he goes down again and at the same time he kicks his back legs high in the air.)
YaHoo! Ride him cowboy!
Show the bastard what you’re made of Pommy!
(I give Patches another good command. Up and down he goes, kicking and bucking for his worth. My arse and knees are now feeling the pain as Patches continues to try to hurl me to the ground again.)
Make the bastard go down the paddock again!
(By sheer willpower I get old Patches to walk forwards and down the paddock again, only this time there are no cowboy fantasies playing around in my head, only the dull throbbing ache. When we get to the bottom of the paddock I am one step ahead of Patches. I now know what Defoe is trying to teach me. Instead of letting Patches run the show, I hold the reins in tight so he can’t have his head. After a few seconds I say to Patches in mi broad Yorkshire accent,)
OK Patches, you fucking old bastard, this time I’m running the fucking show! Now move you Aussie bastard! Yahhhh!!!!”
(Patches needs no command from my boot heel but I give him one anyway just to let him know who'se boss. Off we go at full gallop. I give him another good heel and for good measure I give him a hefty slap on his arse with mi right hand. Yah! I yelled at the top of mi voice as Patches thunders back up the long paddock. We pass my new Bush hat and for a split second I think I might lean down and snatch it from the ground like a Russian Cossack but dismiss the thought at once.)
(Up the paddock we gallop, the barb wire fence is now getting closer. As we get about 10 feet away from it, Patches applies the brakes and this time I lean back in the saddle and pull on the left hand rein with mi feet stuck out at the front. Patches does not like this at all so he gives a few good bucks to show his disapproval.)
You’ve got it all over him now, Squirt. Ride him back here so one these other puftas can show off his horsmanship!
(I dismount and Patches swings his head around to bite my arse and gives me a look of disapproval)
Good on ya mate. We’ll make a fucking good Bushman out of you yet Squirt. Where ya from in England Mate?
I’m from Yorkshire, Mr. Defoe.
Well, in that case mate, I’ll just call ya ‘Yorky’ from now on and you can call me Bill. We can do away with that Mr. Defoe bullshit, ‘cause you’ve earned it lad. Now ya can lean on the fence and watch Patches give that ugly little bastard Morris a good fucking workout. Come on Yorky.
Come here Morris you ugly little fucking pufta! Up you fucking go mate and show us what ya made of!
(It felt very strange at first to call him Bill, but before long, I start to feel what it was like to be called a man.)
(That evening, after dinner, we hire a couple of taxis and go own to Cabramatta to check out the town. The Taxis arrive and we all pile in on top of each other. As we pull out of the farm Defoe appears.)
Keep ya fucking noses and cocks clean. I don’t want any of you pommy bastards coming home with a dose of clap. This is a fucking training farm not a fucking hospital! So, don’t go rooting around ‘cause there’s a few loose sheilas around Cabramatta. And don’t git in a fight with those bodgies and fucking widgies!
Fucking puftas! (He says to himself as the taxi drives away.)
GREEK TAXI DRIVER
Where ya lika go?
RALPH (Older boy)
Drop us off where the action is.
Not a problem mate. We’re overloaded, so if ya see the cops keep ya heads down or I’ll lose mi license.
(The Taxi Driver drops us off in Cabramattas’ main street. There’s not much happening so we buy some milkshakes and walk up and down the street looking in the shop windows. When we come to another café I go inside and buy misen 2 –2 oz. Packets of Havelock rolling tobacco. I can’t pass it up because it only costs 7 Aussie bob a packet. I see an Army Disposal store and I go in. I know exactly what I am looking for.)
G'day sport.What can I do for you mate?
I’m looking for a sheath knife.
No worries mate, I’ve got sheath knives coming out the Yazoo. Have a Captain Cook at some ‘a these, sport. Ya bound to find a beauty in that case. Give us a holler if ya need some help.
I’ll take this one.
That’s a good-looking knife, sport.
She’s got a beaut blade on her. That’ll set ya back 2 quid, mate.
(I pay the man his 2 pounds which leaves me with 15 shillings to mi name)
Look after yourself mate and don’t get that knife tangled up with a ‘Dago’.
What’s a Dago?
Christ, mate. Where the bloody hell have you been all ya life? Did ya just arrive on the last boat?
Yes. I’ve only been in Australia for two days.
Gawd streuth mate! You pommys are coming out here younger every year. I suppose ya all work up at the Big Brothers dairy farm, do ya?
Yeah. There’s 16 of us.
Well sport, a Dago is a greek and another name for ‘em is a ‘Grill’.
Why d’ya call ‘em those names?
‘Cause at the end of a days work they say ‘day go’ and most of them work the milk bars and they’re always grilling something or other. So that’s why they get the name ‘Grills’ from. Ya see sport? Now we’ve also got a lot of Italians in this great country of ours, so we call ‘em ‘Wops’ and the Abos are called ‘Bungs’ ‘cause if ya hit ‘em with the roo bar of the truck they make the sound ‘BUNG’. D’ya get it cobber?
(he has a good laugh to himself)
Now take you English gentlemen for example. In our country we don’t recognize your class system so we call you blokes ‘limeys’ or better still, ‘pommy bastards’ ‘cause you’ve got skin like pomegranates.
Thanks for the information.
G'day sport, see ya around like a rissole.
(We boys are sitting around on a couple of street benches outside the Post Office. It’s 9:30 at night. The year is 1964. The local kids are tearing up and down the streets in their hotted-up Holden cars. A couple of young girls are walking down the street in their stiletto-heeled boots and hiked-up skirts. They’re absorbed in conversation as they come near to the benches we’re sitting on.)
(One of the oldest of our crew.)
Hello darlings. Where are you two lovelies going?
Root ya fucking boot ya pommy bastard!
Charming, I must say.
Fuck you, ya pommy bastard!
You’re a real charmer with the Ladies, Peter.
How would you like to take those two home and introduce them to your mum?
Not bloody likely! I hope that’s not an example of the everyday Aussie chick.
(It’s getting late so we call a taxi service and head back out to the Farm. We all pile out of the Taxis and pay off the driver.)
Look what I found in Town!
(Opens a brown paper bag and pulls out a small box of fireworks.)
You’d better not set them off here Ralph or Defoe will kick your ass.
Bullocks to Bill Defoe! There’s no bangers, there’s only Fizzers and Catherine
(Ralph walks over to the fence and stuck a couple of Fountains in the cracks of the
fence post. Then he pins 4 Cathrine Wheels to the fence post and lights them all at once.)
That’s it, the shows over! Let’s go to bed. I’m knackered and tomorrow we’ve got to get up at 5.
THE NEXT MORNING
Get out of those fart sacks you pommy bastards. Who the fucking hell was setting off fireworks last night?
(Pulling the bed covers off his head.)
I was. Why? What do you want, shouting your head off at this time of night?
Get out-a bed you fucking yobo before I piss all over ya!
(He grabs Ralphs’ bed covers and rips them clean off the bed revealing Ralphs’ scrawny body curled up in the fetal position.)
Get ya plates of meat on the deck, boy, before I chuck a bucket of water on ya!
What’s the matter?
I’ll show you what the bloody matter is sport! Put ya boots on and come with me!
What about mi clothes?
Fuck ya clothes! You’ve got fuck all to brag about anyway! Come on! Hurry up!
(Ralph puts is boots on and follows Defoe out of the hut. He walks over to the fence post where Ralph had set off the fireworks. We all follow outside.)
(I see what made Defoe mad. Gray smoke is drifting out of the wooden fence post. The whole top of the post is now a large piece of black charcoal.)
Ya stupid, fucking pommy bastard! Look what you’ve done to mi fence post! Had ya have done that in dry bush country we’d have a bloody bush fire on our hands now mate! If ya had another brain in your head, lad, it would be fucking lonely, ya silly yahoo bastard! Go and get ya strides on and after breakfast I’ll show ya where the fence posts are kept. Ya can dig that bastard out and stick a new one in. Then I’ll show ya how to re-strain the fence back up!
(Ralph is standing in his boots and underpants, looking half-asleep so Defoe kicks him in the arse,)
Wake up to yourself, ya sleepy, pommy bastard. Go and get some gear on!
(Ralph gives Defoe a dirty look and takes off at the double, back to the hut to put his work gear on.)
(A few days later Defoe gives 6 of the older boys 5 pounds each
and a train ticket to a Bush town.)
The Cocky will meet ya at the station. Good luck lads’. This is Gods’ own country and with a bit of hard work and a few brains ya should do all right for ya selves.
(Later, after all the boys, except Morris and me, have left.)
What about me and Morris, Bill? Haven’t ya got a place for us to go to yet?
Ya sure ya won’t change ya mind about going in the Army?
Quite sure Bill. I’m itching to get out to the Bush. I’ve been looking forwards to that for 2 years now.
Alright mate. Ya old enough to leave home so I guess ya old enough to make decisions for ya self. You and Morris will be leaving tomorrow morning, so better roll ya swag bright and early.
(It is difficult for me to sleep,‘cause all I can think of is red dust and kangaroos. In the morning I am packed, so I make my way across to the kitchen for some breakfast.)
DEFOE (Enters Nissan hut)
Here’s ya ticket Morris and 5 quid for ya start in life. Here’s your ticket Yorky and here’s a fiver mate. Make sure you look after it, ‘cause you’ll have to work bloody hard in the Bush for a fiver.
Thanks Bill. You’re a real good bloke. You’ve really helped me a lot since I’ve been here.
Root ya boot Yorky. Ya train leaves at 2 O’clock from Sydney Central so don’t go fucking around Sydney and miss ‘em or you’ll be sleeping on the station all night.
(The jackaroos load our cases into his car and drive us both down to Cabramatta station.)
SYDNEY CENTRAL TRAIN STATION
(Morris and I sit around smoking and eating chips waiting for our trains. The train Morris was to take arrived on time and I helped him put his 2 large bags on board.)
Look after yourself Maurice. Keep practicing with your knife and best of luck to you
Same to you Yorky.
(Goes inside train to find his seat.
(There is no one left in my life now to say “don’t do this” or “don’t do that’. All I have to listen to now is the inner voice of silence that lives in the center of my heart.)
(I’m left sitting on Central Station by myself, feeling rather sad as I sit here thinking about all the people I’ve left behind, mi mother, dad and sisters, the 15 lads I’ve lived with for the past 9 weeks, Bill Defoe. They are in the dead past now. ‘O well’ I’m thinking, as I wipe away a couple of tears that are slowly trickling down mi cheek, ‘all I’m left with is what I started out with, myself’)