Friday, November 28, 2008
"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' 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."
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 us a good one." 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 mi 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. 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 reasonably 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 bed 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 silvery hair and 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.
After the evening meal, I went back to my new room and laid 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 easy going 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 D8 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 was shot, 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 theYanks, Arthur?"
"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 mate 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'd 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."
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
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 blood running out of mi 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 uncontrollably 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 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 numb."
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 dirty.
"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 Nellie. "Get outta' my kitchen and be more careful up the Paddock."
Digger and I drove back up the Paddock. 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, will ya.", 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 sit 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 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 here?"
"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 Cockeys 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 many people around the Lake so if you can find me some more work that'll be great for me."
"Hey, Yorky mate, take a quick run up to one of mi boundary paddocks with me, will ya? Ya can get get the gates for me."
"No worries Dick. What are we gonna do?"
"Nothing mate, I just want to do a quick check on old Tommy Clark and his sons."
"Who's Tommy Clark?"
"He's an Abo from out at the Mission. He does a fit of fencing for me, every now and again."
Once we arrived at the boundery line, Tommy was nowhere to be seen.
"Hop in the Ute again Yorky. I know where they'll be."
A couple of hundred yards away, near a few Malli trees and a patch of scrub was a dilapidated old shed. The small shed was on its' last legs. Lumps of rusty, corrugated iron sheets were hanging off of it and some had fallen off completely.
Pulling up a few yards away, we got out of Dicks' Ute and he yelled out,
"Clarky, ya old bastard, where are ya? Clarky!", he yelled even louder. "Git ya black arse out here!"
There was no sound or movement. Dick walked up to the front of the shed where the door used to be. I followed close behind as he stuck his head in the shed opening. What I saw was quite upsetting to me. Tommy and his 3 sons were all flaked out in a pile on the dirt floor. There was a couple of ratty, old blankets in a pile that were not covering anyone up.
"Git up ya lazy black bastard!", said Dick, as he shook Tommy with his work boot.
Tommy slowly rolled over and tried to focus his squinty, bloodshot eyes which I noticed were bright blue colored.
"Git up ya bastard.", said Dick again, as Tommy came alive. "You're supposed to be putting up my boundary fence, ya lazy good for nothin' bastard!"
"G'day Dick, how are ya mate.", he said in a soft-spoken voice.
"How d'ya think I am? I thought you'd have mi bloody fence finished by now, Clarky!"
Tommy was now on his feet. He turned around and gave each of his sons a good kick in the arse with his worn-out work boots that had no laces in 'em.
"Git up ya Black bastards!", said Tommy, as he gave 'em all another good boot in the arse.
Slowly, his sons started to stir.
"How are ya boss.", said Tommy as he became more awake.
"I thought ya were gonna be finished today Clarky. What happened mate? Did ya git on the fucking plonk again last night?"
There were two empty half-gallon flagons laid on their side with no tops in sight.
"Yeah boss, I thought so too but we ran into a couple of problems."
"Ya mean ya ran into a couple of flagons Clarky!"
"Yeah, we had a bit of a party last night."
Tommys' old, dirty clothes were practically hanging off of him and his sons clothes were in no better shape. One of 'em had on a shirt that only had one sleeve. Another son was using a lump of bailing twine for a belt. The other one had on a pair of worn-out thongs and his trousers were way too big for him. As each one of them slowly got to their feet, they did their best to say, "G'day boss." and flashed a smile that showed less teeth than more.
Tommy introduced me to his sons by name. I shook each of their bony hands in turn and said, 'G'day.'
"So when are ya gonna finish me boundary fence Clarky, this year or next?"
Tommy thought this was a good joke. He started to giggle. Soon as he stopped giggling he said, "That was a good one boss. We should be finished this week."
"That's what ya said last week mate. If ya did more fencing and less drinking of that cheap McWilliams plonk, you'd be finished in no time."
"No worries.", said Tommy, "It won't take too long now."
"I hope not. I want to run a few ewes in this paddock. I saw a good bit a' feed on the drive over."
When I shook Tommys' hand, I noticed half of his thumb was missing and a bit of bone was sticking out of the end.
"Hey Tommy, what happened to ya thumb mate? D'ya have an accident on the fence line?", I asked him.
"No mate, I did it out at the Mission. We've got a big, long rope tied to an old gum tree so we can swing down the bank and out over the river and then let go."
"So how did that take ya thumb off?"
"Once I swung out as far as I could and then I let go of the knot in the end of the rope, not knowing that mi thumb stayed in the knot."
"Jesus Tommy, that must of hurt."
"Not really mate. I was full a' plonk. I didn't know till someone told me."
"Fucking hell, did ya get it sewn on at the Docs?"
"Nah mate, I tied some fishing line around the end of it, to stop the bleeding."
"Why's the bone sticking out?"
"After the end had come off, the rest of the skin shrunk up. That's how it healed."
"Jesus mate, does it still hurt?"
"Nah mate, only if I knock the end of it.", he said, as he giggled.
"Alright, we're off Tommy. I'll check on ya in a couple of days.", said Dick.
"Hey, before ya go boss, can ya give us a twenty? We need to go into town tonight to grab some tucker. Were out!"
"A twenty? Are you fucking kidding Clarky? If I give ya a twenty, you'll buy a couple a' gallon flagons and then I won't see ya for a bloody week!"
Dick put his hand in his pocket, pulled out his wallet. He withdrew a tenner and handed it to Tommy.
"I'll give ya the rest of what I owe ya when you're finished the job mate."
"There's four of us."
"I know, that's why I didn't give ya a fiver."
"I guess ya know me too well.", said Tommy, flashing Dick a toothless smile.
As we drove off across the paddock, I said to Dick, "I can't believe they sleep on the ground in that rusty old shed. Did ya see their clothes?"
"Yeah Yorky, they can live like that cause they're black fellas. They'd rather drink plonk than buy some clothes and put some good tucker into themselves. I'm buggered if I know how they can eat those bloody Goannas without getting the shits. I couldn't."
Back home at Skippys, I was thinking, 'Here I am in much the same position again. I've worked miself out of another job! I decided not to let it make me as sad, this time.'
As I walked through the backyard at Dick Skipworths' homestead, his wife Nellie was 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 eatin'."
"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 Nellie 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 Nellie 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, Nellie 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 almost a year 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, Nellie 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 old fag holder.
"Where to sport?", said Kevin with a smile on his face.
"Arthur Auberrys' place and don't switch the meter on mate!"
"Where's Arthurs' place Kevin?", I asked as we drove along the 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."
Monday, November 10, 2008
After a few minutes of shining the spot around, I picked up a pair of bunny eyes. I tapped lightly on the roof of the cab.
Jim stuck my new .22 out of the window. He took quick aim and squeezed off the trigger, 'BANG!', the bunny fell over in the light and never even kicked.
"Ya got him mate.", I said, quietly.
"Give me the spot, Yorky and go an pick him up."
When I picked up the rabbit, I saw that Jim had him him in the head. When I got back to the Ute, I said, "Good shot mate! Straight in the head."
"That's where I aimed for. This rifle of yours is a real piss cutter mate. She's accurate as hell."
"That's what I wanted to hear.", I said as I put the rabbit in the back of the Ute and then climbed in myself.
"Ya see that stick in the back, Yorky, the one with the bent end that looks like a hocky stick? Well, stick it in the corner so it's handy, 'cause if I miss a shot you run up along side the beam and whack him on the head with the stick!"
That's the way most people git a lot of rabbits. They fire a hollow-point right next to 'em so it makes them sit up. They're easier to whack in the head then.
At one point in Australia, rabbits were considered a plague. They destroyed a lot of crop and made burrows all around the place. The cocky was not too happy when one of the wheels of his plow or combine sunk into a large burrow and bust one of the axle. In the end, there was such a plague of rabbits that the Government sanctioned the use of a poison that was specially developed to rid the land of rabbits. The name of the poison was called Miximotosis. Were you ever to see the devastating effects of this poison you'd understand why head-shooting a rabbit was the most humane thing to do.
After about an hour of shooting we would stop and gut out the rabbits and then pair them up size-wise by their back legs and hang them across the steel posts which were sitting cross-way on the back of the Ute.
That particular evening we shot 400 pair of rabbits and in the morning when it started to warm up and the blowflies came out we covered the rabbits over with a large mosquito net and took of to the Chillers which was situated in a scrub paddock just outside of Lake Cargelligo. In those days, we got 2 to 3 Shillings a pair, so for 1964 that was a profitable evenings work.
Sometimes Jim liked to go trapping rabbits with steel-sprung leg traps. I was not as keen on this way of hunting because I didn't like to see the rabbits caught by their leg in the trap.
One morning, as we were walking around Jims' trap line, a fox had gotten himself caught by the back leg. When he saw us approaching him he was obviously scared, so he went back to trying to chew his leg off as he had been doing before we interrupted him.
"What the hell is he doing?", I asked Jim.
"He's chewing his back leg off so he can get out of the trap."
I couldn't stand to see this sight. I said to Jim, "I'm going to let him out of the trap!"
"Be careful!" warned Jim, as I walked up to the fox. When I was only about 3 feet away from him, he lunged at my outstretched hand and tried to bit it which made me recoil in fright.
"He won't let me get him out of the trap!"
"I could have told ya that mate, before ya tried. He'll take ya hand off if ya get too close to him."
"How are we going to get him out then?"
"If I were you mate, I'd hit him on the head with the rabbit stick 'cause you'll never git him out any other way."
I tried to get close to the fox again to get him out of the trap but as soon as I got close to him, he stopped chewing his leg and made another snarling lunge at me. This time I could see that Jim was right. My response to the situation was an incorrect response because it did not alleviate the foxs' suffering and pain. The only other option left open to me was to hit the old fox on the head. This action put him out of his pain.
I didn't feel too good with myself after killing the fox. After a while Jim said to me,
"What's the matter mate? You don't look real good."
"I felt the pain the fox was in and I also felt the pain of killing him too! It felt like I was the one who was caught in a trap!"
"Yeh mate, I know just how ya feel. I've been put in that position a few times miself. It's a hard one, especially on the heart. You'll git over it mate or you'll never survive in the Bush. No one promised ya an easy life or ya wouldn't be out in the Bush in the first place. Come on Yorky, let's git these traps cleared and reset again."
One morning, Jim said to me, "We're out of mutton Yorky. Ya feel like getting a room for us mate?"
"If ya like. Where's the best place to go where it's not too far away mate?"
"You'll probably find a few in the Bush, the other side of Burgooney Road, but mind ya look where ya going mate 'cause it can get pretty dense in there and I wouldn't want you to git bushed or you'd never find ya way out."
"No worries Jim. I'll just follow the fence line. That way I'm bound to find mi way out to the road again."
"That's the story mate! Make sure ya git a half-grown one. Don't shoot a big old buck 'cause they're as touch as old boots and mi teeth aren't in real good shape these days. Fill that small canteen up with some water before ya go. Ya never know, ya may need a drop if you're out there for a while."
After I'd filled the small, tin canteen up, I slung it over mi shoulder and grabbed mi rifle and a box of hollow-points and last of all, I grabbed mi new Akubra Squatters had that I'd bought from Chamens the last time were in town.
The dark brown Akubra had a wide brim which kept the hot sun off mi shoulders. I'd put the traditional Squatters crease in the top of it so it sat on mi head real comfortable.
"See ya later Jim!", I said as I walked out of the yard with the rifle in mi left hand, hanging down at mi side.
"See ya later Yorky. Good luck Mate!"
Once I got out to Burgooney Road, I took mi bearings from the position of the sun and made mi way off into the Bush.
The trees and bush weren't too thick for the first couple of hundred yards but after the landscape changed to thick bush which was now all around me. Every now and again the Bush would give way to a natural clearing which was dotted with large rock formations.
After about an hours walking in silence, I sat on a rock in a clearing for a bit of a spell. The Bush birds were hopping from bush to bush as they played and looked for small seeds to eat. A few feet way from me I saw the track of a wall-eye snake which disappeared under a large round rock. He was probably sleeping there, out of the hot sun.
The air was crystal-clear and not a cloud in the deep blue sky. There were no such things as airplanes and helicopters flying around the skies. Every now and then a Wedge-tail Eagle would call out to its' mate as it hovered and glided on the warm air currents.
Wedge-tails are very beautiful and graceful to watch as they circle the clear blue skies looking for young rabbits or mice to take back to their nests. They nest high up in the branches of dead trees. Their nests are quite large because a full-grown Wedge-tail could, quite easily, have a 6-foot wingspan. Usually one of them will hunt while the other feeds the young with whatever was caught for the day.
I walked for about another half-hour before I spotted a small mob of Roos laying and sitting under the shade of a big Eucalyptus tree. 'I had better keep downwind of them', I thought, 'so they don't pick up my scent or I'll never git close enough to get off a good clean shot at one of 'em'.
While most of the mob sleep in the shade, a couple of sentries are left to guard the camp. The sentries usually walk around looking for bits and pieces of things to eat and then they sit back upright, check out the landscapes and then put their heads down again.
Very quietly, I moved slowly from tree to tree until I was in decent range of them.
A .22 is not considered a big rifle, especially where Roos are concerned but a good hunter can always bring one down with a well-aimed shot. I decided to try and make it to the next large Box tree before attempting a shot. Very carefully, I moved ahead. Once I was leaning against the large Box tree, I took a slight breather because now my heart was pumping and banging away from the concentration of sneaking up on them. As soon as I felt steady enough, I very quietly turned around and leaned against the tree which made good support. There was already a bullet up the spout 'cause I'd pushed the bolt home when I first saw them. Very slowly, I eased off the safety catch so it didn't make a clicking sound. I raised the rifle to mi shoulder and leaned mi left shoulder more against the tree. Taking my last deep breath, I sat the bead of the front site smack in the middle of the back V shape and took careful aim at a half-grown Roo who had his head down in the bush grass, eating. I aimed the rifle about half an inch above his shoulder 'cause I was still a long distance away for a .22. The two sights of the rifle were now as steady as I could hold them. I carefully started to squeeze the trigger. 'Careful Yorky', the inner hunter said to me, 'don't pull it or it will pull the rifle off target.'
Squeeze, squeeze, BANG! The Roos were up and off as the sound of the rifle cracked the silence like a big stock whip. A flock of grey and pink Gallahs flew into the air, squawking out their warning signals. The mob of Roos were now thumping out a retreat paradiddle as they headed off deeper into the scrub. (All except for the half- grown one that was kicking its' last, under the tree.) It was almost dead when I reached the spot, so I put a bullet between it's ears for good measure.
The Roo was a young gray male. He was not too big or too small. The first bullet had gone straight through his chest, right under his armpit. It was a fast, clean kill which was the only type of kill that was acceptable to me.
I waited for a few minutes until the adrenaline had subsided from the run across the scrub from my hiding tree. As soon as the body had calmed down to its' natural, unexcited state, I re-loaded the rifle and pushed the safety catch firmly forwards into the on-position and then I leaned the rifle against the tree. Although the Roo was not full- grown, he was, by no means, light as I grabbed the butt of his thick, sinewy tail and slung him across my shoulders. As soon as the Roo was comfortably positioned, I grabbed mi rifle and started back the way I'd come.
Back-tracking was always the hardest because now I was a good few pounds heavier. Over the last 3 months I'd spent with Jim, I'd gotten a good Bush education so I was able to find my way back out to Burgooney Road, no problem at all. I stopped for a rest as it was now really hot. I took a small sip of water and rolled miself a Drum.
Although the body had acquired the habit of smoking, I did not smoke a lot. Not because I didn't want to mind you, but it is always more difficult to smoke in an environment that has clean, pure air. Smoking in the city was much easier because of all the lead pollution and various other contaminations.
I was glad to see Burgooney dirt road because the Room was now getting fairly heavy and the sweat was streaming down from under the brim of mi squatters hat. When I got back to use the house yard, Jim was busily building a new Avery that looked like it was going to be 5 times the size of his old one.
"Yorky mate!", he said as I got close to him. "Ya got a real beaut there mate! He's the perfect size for eating. Fetch him over in the shade and we'll clean him up. The Missus will make us some Roo-tail soup. We'll git enough steaks off of him for a couple of weeks mate. We'll make a Bushman out of ya yet Yorky, ya Pommy Bastard!
It was about 3 weeks later when Jim said to me, one morning after we'd got home from spot-lighting, "Well Yorky, it's too hot to fence and there's not enough money in the rabbits now, so I've got no more work for ya mate. I'm gonna have to find a job for miself now."
"Oh shit", I said, with a sad feeling in my heart. "What are ya gonna do for work Jim?"
"Oh, I'll probably git a job driving a header for the wheat season. There's a couple of wheat Cockys' that I drove for last year have asked me to come back again. I'll either do that or I'll git a job driving a wheat truck to the Silos in Lake Cargelligo, mate."
"What am I gonna do? I don't really know anyone, only you and old Burt and I'm certainly not going backwards Jim."
Jim had a bit of a laugh at this and then said, "Don't worry mate, I've got a job lined up for ya already for 10 quid a week."
"Oh, this is a bludge, mate! You'll git to ride around on a header all day in the wheat paddocks."
"About every hour you'll jump off and grease a big automatic header for the driver while he's emptying the bin into one of the semi's. After that, you'll git back on and ride around for another hour. Ya can't git better than that, mate!"
"Who'll I be working for?"
"The Cockys' name is Dick Skipworth. He's got a big place out on the main Lake Cargelligo West Wyalong road. He's a pretty decent bloke and he's got a couple of sons. One's called Colin and the other ones called Kevin. They're real hard doers, mate. You'll like 'em."
"Isn't that where Peter Smith works?"
"Yeah mate. Peter's on Fred Harzeys' place just down the road aways so you'll probably get to see him. He usually drives the wheat semi for old Fred."
"When do I start?"
"I'll take you over to there place tomorrow morning mate. Give ya time to pack up ya gear and I'll pay ya up all the money I've been saving for ya Yorky. It's no good hanging around here mate. Ya not makin' any money sitting on your arse."
I was still feeling a bit apprehensive at leaving Jims' place because once again I was off into the unknown. That evening as I lay in the darkened bedroom, I was thinking of all the things I'd learned from Jim about the Bush when I heard the voice of silence whisper to me, 'Don't worry Yorky, everything will be all right for you. It's necessary for you to move. Don't forget, what pleases you holds you back.'
The next morning, Shirley made me some breakfast and gave me a couple of items of clothes that she'd very graciously washed out for me.
"Thanks for all the meals and washing you've done for me Shirley."
"That's alright Yorky, I'm glad to have been of some help to you. Don't forget to stop in if you're ever passing by. You're always welcome here Yorky."
I loaded my 2 cases, the trumpet and mi rifle into Jims' old blue Holden Ute and waved goodbye to his small kids as Jim and I drove out of the dirt yard, down the Bush track and out onto Burgooney Road.
We drove in silence that sunny morning.
Monday, November 3, 2008
As well as learning how to shear, I had a slight handicap to work with. The wool-classer was a mongrel-bred bastard who tried to make it as hard for me as possible by saying to Freeman that my learning to shear was interfering with my board-boys job. The only reason I could see why he was acting like this was, he fancied himself a shearer. He, himself, could shear a sheep in about 10 minutes, and by now, as long as it was a good-combing sheep, I was down to 8 minutes. Freeman was very supportive. He offered to do my job while I was learning, plus the fact that he was aware that the wool-classer had bet against me, the Victorian bastard!
Each Friday night we would all drive back to Lake Cargelligo for the weekend. The first, and only stop, was at Giltraps Hotel. I was now, very slowly, starting to be able to hold a fair amount of grog. (It goes with the territory!)
The whole team, except for the wool-classer, would party on at Giltraps. After the bar closed down we would all move into the Sow Pen where we'd play the jukebox and generally have a good time.
Jimmy Kelly, who was one of the shearers, was also an Aborigine. He lived at the Mission, about 10 miles out of town. Johnny was a pretty decent bloke, (when he was sober) but like most Aborigines that drink, he would get a bit argumentative when he was full.
Most Abos, around the Lake, did not like to work very much which meant they were always short of money for grog. Every Friday night, all of Johnnys' relations would be trying to bum his hard-earned money from him for a flagon of cheap plonk. I used to sit and watch Johnny quite a bit. It must have been very difficult for him, 'cause he had one foot in the white fellas' world and the other in the black fellas' world. By then end of the evening Johnny would have given away, probably, a third of his weeks' money. This money would only be returned months later, probably when he was out of work. Saturday morning, I used to see Johnny in town in his fairly new Ute. He and his wife and children were always clean and well-dressed. Although in my eyes he was a really good bloke, most white fellas' still saw him as a 'Bung'.
Since I'd been working in the sheds, I had decided to live at Giltraps Hotel, not because I didn't like Twitcheys, but Giltraps was cheaper and a lot of the shearers used it as their watering hole. Giltraps wife was a very small lady. She was about 5'2" and weighed about 115 pounds. She had blondish-gray hair, a very pleasant face and a good, kind nature. Besides running the domestic side of the Hotel, she also worked in the bar whenever necessary. If that wasn't enough to keep her occupied, she had a swag of kids of various ages. Cath Giltrap was always polite and cordial with me. Whenever possible,
she would not put anyone else in the room with me. She understood and respected the fact that I was a 'loner'.
Even though I spent a good deal of my time in the bar, sometimes, when I was short of money, I would say to her, "I've had a slack week Cath, d'ya mind if I pay you for the room next week?"
"That's alright Yorky. I trust ya' but don't let it get too far behind."
As soon as money came in, Cath Giltrap was the first on the list to pay.
One week, the Hotel was unusually full, so she said to me, "I've gotta put someone in ya' room Yorky, in that spare bed. We're all full up this week."
"No worries Cath. I know you always fill up the other rooms first."
The new bloke who lived with me for the week was a half-Abbo from Uabalong. His name was Kennedy. He was a pretty quiet, clean and polite bloke until he was on the grog. At those times, he was hopeless!
On Saturday afternoon, I came back to Giltraps. I'd been doing a bit of shopping that afternoon down the main street. The window in my room looked out onto the main street of the Lake. As I passed it, I got a funny sort of feeling. Instead of going straight to the bar for a game of pool, something pulled me to the left, down the corridor to Number 9. When I pushed open the door, the room was full of smoke! As I looked around the back of the door, where the spare bed was, Kennedy was fast asleep and snoring! Six-inch flames were dancing around the edge of the mattress and a burned-out fag was stuck to his fingers.
"Wake up ya fucking bastard!", I roared as I shook the shit out of him. He was still as drunk as a monkey. I ran to the shower room which was at the far-end of the corridor and filled up a large bucket of cold water. When I got back to the room, he was trying to get out of bed, still in a drunken state. I heaved the bucket of cold water over him and the bed. Kennedy coughed and spluttered as he became conscious. Once he realized he was not dreaming, he jumped out of bed. It took a couple more large buckets of water to put out the fire. When Cath Gilbert found out that the bed had been charred, she was not too pleased let me tell you! Kennedy, got his marching orders and I was left, once more, in peace.
Once all of Giltraps locals found out what happened, the jokes were on me.
"G'day Yorky. I heard ya tried to barbeque a 'bung' this afternoon!"
"Very funny,", I said as they cracked up in laughter.