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' house yard.
Arthur was chopping up a few logs when we arrived and as soon as the dogs started to bark, he turned and gave us a wave. Sticking the axe into a log, he casually walked over to the drivers side of the Ute.
"G'day Skippy, how'ya goin' mate?"
"Not too bad Arthur. Ya got all ya wheat in the silo?"
"I finished a couple of weeks ago, Skippy. We're not all big landowners like you blokes are."
"We might have a lot of land but we got a lot of headaches that go along with it, Arthur."
"Yeah, ya not wrong there.", said Arthur.
I brought ya new man over for ya Arthur. He's a pommy bastard but not a bad one. Every now and again they send a good one for us.", he said with a laugh.
We got out of the Ute and I walked over towards Arthur and held out mi hand.
"Arthur Auberry.", he said. "Good to meet ya'."
As we shook hands, I said, "Richard Swindells. Good to meet you Arthur."
"His fucking name is Yorky, Arthur. He's from Yorkshire so you can forget that other name. It's too fuckin' long anyway.", said Kevin.
"Yorky will do me if it suits you.", He said to me.
"Yorky's fine.", I said with a smile.
"Are these ya ports Yorky?", said Arthur.
"Let's take 'em to where you'll be staying then."
The 3 of us grabbed my gear and walked across the dirt yard to a small corrugated tin hut. Arthur pushed open the door and to my surprise it was a very clean little place.
"This is where you'll be staying. Ya can have ya meals over at the house."
"Jesus Christ!", said Kevin. "This place is a fuckin' palace Yorky. It's too good for a pommy, mate!"
"Don't you believe it mate. After old Burts place, nothing is too good for this Pommy."
"Shit Yorky, the walls are lined and there's even wallpaper on 'em and you've got lino and a big rug in front of the bed. Ya even got a mirror to look in. You'll be able to see ya rough head in the mornings before ya go out and scare someone, mate."
"My head is nowhere near as rough as that bastard of yours Kevin.", I said with a big smile.
"I take it you two like each other, the way ya abuse one another.", said Arthur.
"Oh, he's not a bad, poor Aussie bastard."
"Fuck you, ya pommy bastard.", said Kevin with an even bigger smile.
"How d'ya like married life Kevin?", said Arthur.
"Pretty good mate. Just look at the gut I'm getting' on me. It won't be long before I gotta put a mirror on the end of mi work boot so I can see mi dick."
"She must look after ya then, does she Kevin?"
"She sure does Arthur. She's the best little sort in Lake Cargelligo."
"She better be Skippy. They don't improve with time!"
"All right Yorky, I'm off mate. I'll see ya around town sometime."
"Thanks for bringin' me over here Kevin.", I said.
"No worries mate. I'd do the same for a white fella."
We all walked back out of mi new room and Kevin hopped in his Ute and I gave him a wave as he spun the Ute in the dirt and tore off, up the road.
"He's a wild boy, that Kevin is.", said Arthur.
"Yeah, but he's a real fair dinkum friend.", I said.
"Make ya self at home Yorky. We'll be eating about 7 O'clock, so I'll give ya a shout a few minutes before."
"Thanks Arthur.", I said, as I headed off back to check out mi new room.
Arthur Auberry was a middle-aged man who wore a canvas Karkie jungle hat. He had pleasant features and the usual deep lines from a life in the bush. He smoked Log Cabin rollies and always had one stuck out of the corner of his mouth. Once he stuck it in the right-hand corner, he never removed until it was a quarter of an inch away from his lips.
He wore the usual clothes of a wheat cocky and there was nothing on the surface which would reveal the devastating past this man once had to live, (which I came to hear about as we developed a good, respectful relationship.)
The room where I was now living in was just as Kevin said. It was clean, comfortable and reasonable large. I took a few work clothes out of mi case and stuck 'em neatly in the chest of drawers. The .22 was placed next to the bedhead and the trumpet, which I very rarely played, now claimed the far corner near the wardrobe.
I met Arthurs' wife that evening at the dinner table. She had dyed, silvery hair and had gaunt, tight features. She appeared to be very high-strung when she communicated with her children,
Arthur Auberry had 5 children; 2 girls and a boy, who were away at boarding school and a lot younger boy and girl who were still at home.
Over dinner, she asked me a few questions about my past life but I could tell she was just being polite. She seemed, to me to be tightly wound, as I watched her.
After the evening meal, I went back to my new room and layed down on the bed for a rest. About half an hour later Arthur came across and said, "D'ya know how to milk a cow, Yorky?"
"Sure do Arthur. I've had plenty of practice at that."
"I've only got one old milker. D'ya mind milkin' her of a mornings for me?"
"Don't mind a bit Arthur. D'ya wanna show me where the shed is, and the setup?"
"Good idea Yorky."
After we'd walked around his cow yards and he'd shown me where the butter-churn was, he went back inside and I walked along the lakeside for a while before I hit the sack.
I did a bit of land clearing with Arthur for the next few weeks. It was pretty easy work 'cause Arthur was a real easygoing man to work with. Most of the time we'd work away in silence as we walked around his paddock, stacking up small timber which had been missed by the large D.8 bulldozer that stacked the bulk of trees and roots.
As we got to know each other, Arthur would ask me questions about England and what it was like living in Yorkshire. In turn, I'd make inquiries about his past, growing up in the Aussie Bush.
One lunch time, as we were sitting in the cab of his flat bed truck, he had just finished telling me a story about his younger life. Then he said, "Course that was before the war, mate."
"What war?", I said to him.
"The bloody second world war Yorky!"
"Were you in the war Arthur?"
"Yeah mate, unfortunately. I was also in the Korean war as well."
"Fuckin' hell, that must have been pretty fuckin' scary for ya mate, was it?"
"Well it wasn't too fucking pleasant mate, I can tell ya that much."
"Tell me what it was like Arthur.", I asked with great interest. " Mi dad was in the first world war. He got mustard-gassed and had dysentery twice but that's all he would tell me about it."
"He probably couldn't handle remembering some of the things that he'd seen Yorky. Same as most people who were in a war."
"Yeah, but tell me a story about it, can ya?"
He pushed his old Bush hat to the back of his head and rolled another Log Cabin. As soon as he was puffing away at the smoke and was satisfied that it was going all right, he stared out of the window and said, "All right Yorky, I'll tell ya what I saw. I was on a troop ship going over to New Guinea 'cause the japs had landed there with a sizeable force and our job was to get the bastards out 'a there 'cause it was too close to Australia for comfort."
"Were there only Aussies in New Guinea?"
"No mate, the fuckin' Yanks were there as well as us blokes."
By the tone of his voice it did not take a genius to hear he had no respect for the Yanks.
"Don't ya like Yanks?"
"They're alright in their place, mate but ya can't keep 'em in the shithouse all day."
"What d'ya mean Arthur.", I said.
"They're the worst fuckin' Army of men you'd ever come across. Sometimes our lot would get sent out on patrol with them so we got to know them pretty fuckin' well. Ya never go out on a patrol in the jungle with the Yanks backin' ya up. You've always gotta' keep the bastards to the side of ya or up front 'cause they're undisciplined and a gutless set a' bastards. They accidentally shot more of their own men and ours than the fuckin' japs did put together!"
"Why'd they do that?"
"No disciple mate and bad communication, plus the bastards were so jittery from lack of training that they'd shoot anything that fuckin' moved. The other thing is they were pretty fuckin' soft. They couldn't go anywhere without their home comforts. They had more luxuries than the whole fuckin' Aussie army put together. Now the Diggers mates were a different story altogether. If ya got into any sort a' trouble which we did at times, the old Aussie would dig in. We never let each other down like those pack a' bastards did. We were all in it together mate, as one unit. We were all prepared to die for each other and sometimes we did.", he said as he rolled another smoke. "Then there were the 'fuzzy-wuzzies.", he said as he drew a deep long drag on the handmade. "Now those big, black bastards were a different kettle a' fish altogether."
"What are fuzzy-wuzzies Arthur?"
"They're the New Guinea natives mate. They were usually big, tall black fellas' with a mop of black bushy hair. That's where they git their name from. They all chewed this stuff called beetle nut. It's a root that grows in the jungle and when they chew it, it makes their gums and teeth go dark red. Even the women chew it."
"Did ya ever screw a native women Arthur?"
"Na mate. I'd have had to be pretty bloody hard up to take on one of those Sheila's but some of the blokes did. We used to use the fuzzys as guides because those blokes were born in the jungle and they knew it as well as the backs of their hands. Sometimes, when we were out on patrol, they'd be a few yards in front of us carrying their machetes. All of a sudden they'd stop and raise one of their long, black arms."
"What for?", I said, with great interst.
"I'm just gettin' to that part Yorky, give us a go mate.", he said.
"Off they'd go, through the jungle out of sight, so our blokes would sit on our boots and wait. We didn't have to wait long because a few minutes later we heard a rustling in the bush and next minute the old fuzzy-wuzzy would appear, on the track, right beside us. He'd have a big red toothy grin on his face and in his left hand he'd hold up a japs head by the hair."
"Fuckin' hell Arthur!", I said.
"Yeah mate. The fuzzies could smell those fuckin' japs a mile away. At one time we used to give 'em 2 bob for every jap head they'd bring us, and many's the time I saw 'em walk into our camp with a big sack slung over their shoulder. They walk right up to the middle of where we were sitting, with a big red toothy smile on their face, then they'd drop the bag right in the center of us blokes. They'd grab the bottom corners of the bag and lift 'em up and 10 or 12 japs heads would roll out on the ground in front of us. This made a few of the new blokes jump like hell. We stopped givin''em 2 bob a head after that 'cause 12 japs' heads cost a pound and 2 bob. We would a' gone broke at that rate!"
"Is it true that the Fuzzy-Wuzzies still head-hunt in New Guinea?"
"Yeah mate, far as I know, they still do a bit up the Northern end of the island where the dense jungle is but most of 'em live on the outskirts of the city now. They're pretty fucked up by alcohol though, just like our Abbos. Anyway Yorky, let's git crackin' on those sticks. We've done fuck-all work for the past hour. We'll never git finished clearing at this rate."
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 red blood running out of my finger, he said, "Fuckin' hell Yorky, I'm real sorry mate! The weight of the auger caused the handle to turn the other way. Let me see ya finger, mate."
The second finger on my right hand was trembling uncontrollable as I stuck out my hand.
"Fuckin' shit! The fuckin' nail is ripped clean off mate! Jump in the Ute Yorky, I'll take ya home to Mum, she's got a first-aid box in the kitchen."
Tears of pain were slowly making their way down my dusty red face as we drove flat out across the paddock towards home. A look of compassion and concern was on Diggers' face as we broadsided down the dirt road about 40 mph around the corners.
"Does it hurt a lot Yorky?"
"Yeah mate, but it's still quite numb yet."
When Diggers mum saw the finger she went straight to work on it. She cleaned it up first and then wrapped it in a clean gauze and last of all she put a finger stall over it to keep it from getting dirt in.
"Do you want to go to the Doctors in the Lake, Yorky?", she said.
"No thanks Missus Skippy. What can he do that you haven't already done?"
"He may want to give ya a tetanus shot, Yorky."
"No thanks, you cleaned it up real good. I watched how ya did it."
"Alright Yorky. It's not bleeding as bad now. We'll change the bandage tonight so we can keep it clean."
"You alright Yorky?", said Digger.
"Yeah mate, don't worry about it. At least I've still got mi finger left. The nail will probably grow back soon enough and I've still got 9 more."
"Oh you boys!", said Ruby. "Get outta' my kitchen and be more careful up the Paddock."
Digger and I drove back up the Paddock and we arrived just as Dick was pulling up under the auger.
"The fuckin' augers too low.", said Dick. "Get Yorky to hold that lever out and you crank her up a bit while I get the truck closer in!"
"You hold the lever out Dick.", I said as I held up mi finger for him to see.
"Fucking hell Yorky, how d'ya do that mate?"
"He was holding the lever and the wheel slipped the other way when I went to crank it.", said Digger.
"Fuckin' hell, you hold the lever then Digger and I'll crank the handle and watch ya fingers Digger or you'll end up like Yorky. He won't be able to pick his nose for while with that finger!"
That same evening, when we got home, Mrs. Skipworth said to me, "There's a parcel for ya Yorky. It came in the mail today.
"A parcel for me?", I said with surprise.
"Yeah, it's on the table over there."
"Open it up for me Kevin.", I said. "It looks like it's from mi mother in England."
"It's postmarked Seamail. It's got a Yorkshire stamp on it and it was sent October 9th. That's means it took nearly 3 months to get here!"
"I wonder what’s in it?", I said as he turned over the parcel.
"Here's a declaration slip. It says on here XMAS CAKE - GIFT. Ya mother must have sent ya a cake Yorky."
It took him a while to open the parcel and when all the paper and cellotape was off, he said, "Here mate, you open the lid, it smells funny to me."
"It doesn't smell too good to me either.", I said.
When I lifted the lid of the box, there was a round cake inside but instead of being covered with cream it was covered in mould!
"D'ya wanna piece of cake Kevin?", I said.
"Jeeesus! Git it outside before it smells up mums' kitchen!"
"What will I do with it?"
"Feed it to mums' chooks. They'll love it. It'll make 'em lay more eggs Yorky.", he said with a grin.
As I laid in bed that night, mi finger really started to throb. The pain was so bad I couldn't help crying a bit. Digger, who was in his bed across the other side of the room said, "Can I git ya a painkiller Yorky and a glass of water?"
"If ya will mate.", I said in a quiet voice.
"Try to keep it raised up a bit Yorky. It may take a bit of pressure off of it.
What's it feel like mate?", he said.
"It feels like a big clock going 'throb, throb, throb."
"I'm sorry I can't do anything more for ya Yorky.", he said as we both lay awake in the darkness waiting until morning time arrived.
When I sat down for breakfast, Dick said to me. "How's ya finger Yorky?"
"It stopped throbbing Dick but if I put any pressure on it, it really hurts."
"Well don't just dit there Digger. You wound Yorkys' nail off so cut his bacon and chops up for him, ya big lout!"
In a few days, mi finger end was feeling much better. The only time in pained was when I'd stubbed it against the side of a machine or accidentally knocked it up against something but by and large, it was alright.
By the time the wheat season was over, I had developed a deep brown tan and along with that, a few more muscles to add to the ones that were already developing.
One morning, Dick Skipworth said to me, "Well Yorky, there's not much more wheat to strip. We should be done in a couple more days. Have ya got anywhere else to work after that?"
"No Dick. I was sorta' hoping to stay on at your place."
"Can't do that mate. Not that I don't mind havin' ya around but we haven't got enough work for ourselves till we start ploughing the land again. Tell ya what I'll do though. There's a swag of Cockies lined up in their trucks at the Silo everyday. I'll try to find ya a job with one of them, if ya like."
"Yeah Dick. I still don't know too may people around the Lake so if you can find me some more work that'll be great for me."
Here I was in much the same position again so I decided not to let it make me as said this time.
That evening, as I walked through the backyard at Dick Skipworths' homestead, his wife Ruby was in the backyard chasing a chook. It was quite a sight to see, in a way, because she was not a young woman. I decided to give her a hand.
"Ya trying to catch a chook, Missus Skippy?"
"Yeah Yorky but I'm not as fast as I used to be. D'ya wanna' give us a hand for a few minutes?"
"No worries. Which one are ya after?"
"Ya see that rooster over there Yorky?"
"Which one? The one near the fence?"
"Yeah, that's him. Let's see if we can get him. He looks like he'd be good eating."
"Let's drive him into the corner. We'll grab him as he tries to get away."
Very slowly, we shooed a mob of hens into the corner of the fence and shed and as soon as the prospect looked good, I said, "Let's rush 'em Missus Skippy!"
The hens flew up in the air in all directions and the rooster tried to run between us. He almost succeeded but just as he tried to get through, I managed to grab a handful of wing feathers. Once I had him by the legs, Mrs. Skippy took over.
"Give him to me Yorky. I'll make short work of him. He's led me on a right merry chase for the last half hour."
I handed her the roosters legs and she took off towards a large stump. The top of the stump had been sawn off flat with a chain saw so it make an ideal chopping block. I walked towards the veranda back door and just before I opened it, I looked back to see what Ruby was up to. She now had the roosters' neck across the chopping block and a large, long-handled axe was firmly in her right hand. She raised it just above her shoulder and said,
"I'll show you, it doesn't pay to lead old Ruby Skipworth on a long merry chase Mr. Rooster."
'THUMP!' The axe head came crashing down on the Roosters' neck just behind his head. The old rooster had no idea what had happened to him. The roosters' head lay on the right hand side of the axe, which was firmly imbedded into the flat stump. She flung the rooster down in front of her and blood spurted out of its neck stump where its head had been a few seconds before. While the nerves in the roosters body were kicking and making it jump all over the place, Ruby wiped the sides of the axe on the wood chips, which were used on the ground to keep the dust down. When she was satisfied it was clean enough for her, she stuck the axe back into the stump and went over to retrieve the rooster. As she bent over to pick it up, I heard her say,
"That slowed ya down a bit sport, didn't it!"
I always felt compassionate towards something that had to be killed, although I must and admit I dismissed the feeling when I saw the old rooster on the dinner table, his legs in the air and his skin a crispy brown color.
"Have you ever missed with that axe, Mrs. Skippy?", I asked her as she cut off a leg.
"Not since I've been married to Dick.", she said.
"And how long is that?"
"Oh about 34 years."
The next day as I was packing my cases, Kevin walked into Diggers' room and said, "G'day Yorky, ya all packed are ya mate?"
"Just about Kevin. Here, sit on the case will ya, so I can lock it. I didn't pack it as good as I usually do."
"Is that all you've got Yorky?", said Kevin as I stood the 2 cases on their ends.
"Yeah mate. One's got work clothes in it and the other's got good ones."
"Is that all the possessions you own mate?"
"Nah, don't be silly mate. I've got a trumpet and a good 22. That's about all I can carry."
"Jesus Christ Yorky, ya don't have much to slow ya down."
"Suppose you're right. I've been in Australia almost12 months now and so far I haven't even unpacked 'em."
I went to pick up the 2 cases and Kevin said, "Give 'em here Yorky. I'll carry 'em out to the Ute for ya mate. You grab the horn and rifle."
Once the cases were in the back and the rifle was sitting on the back window ledge, I said my goodbyes and thanks to Dick, Ruby and Digger and then hopped in the front with Kevin. Old Dick leaned in the window and said,
"Arthur Auberrys place is not far out of town so I'll see ya in the Lake some weekend mate. Thanks for ya help Yorky."
"Thanks for the work and teaching me to drive."
Old Dick stood back from the window and relit the Log Cabin rollie which was sticking out of the sunburned fag holder.
"Where to sport?", said Kevin with a smile on his face.
"Arthur Auberrys' place and don't switch the meter on!"
"Where's Arthurs' place Kevin?", is asked as we drove along Condoblin dirt road.
"Not too far now mate. He's only about 7 miles out and the farm is right on the Lakeside. He has a paddock of Lucen that he irrigates from the Lake, that's how close it is."
Sunday, November 16, 2008
We drove in silence that sunny morning. I was thinking about what the Cocky and his sons would be like. Jim was probably wondering who he was going to decide to work for. An hour or so later, we turned off the Lake Cargelligo road and drover over the cattle ramp into a property called Kia Ora.
As we went over the ramp I noticed the name on the 4 gallon tin mail box which read
DICK AND RUBY SKIPWORTH
We drove down the hard, dirt road which ran alongside the fence, then veered off towards a large well-built colonial house with a massive machinery shed along side of it. In the far corner of the house paddock was big, new shearing shed and yards. Further over, in the corner was a large dam with a tall windmill. The blades of the mill were squeaking as the little bit of air gently blew them around.
Jim pulled up the old Holden Ute right in front of the big machinery shed.
"Old Dick should be around here somewhere. I arranged to meet him here."
We both got out of the Ute and sat on the hood at the front. No sooner had we made ourselves comfortable, an iron gate clanked and a Cocky in a fine-quality squatters hat, walked over towards us. He was about 55 and had the usual weather-beaten lines in his face. Sticking out of his mouth was a cigarette holder with a Log-Cabin, hand-rolled in the end. He wore a pair of green King Gee overalls and a pair of McWilliams elastic-sided riding boots on his feet.
"G'day Dick.", said Jim, as he approached with a couple of red Kelpies at his heels. The dogs gave a couple of barks.
"Sit down, ya stupid bastards!", he said to the dogs. "G'day Smithy.", he said to Jim. "How're ya goin' mate?"
"Not too bad Dick."
"Bit hot for fencing Smithy, isn't it?"
"Yeah Dick, ya not wrong there mate."
"This is Yorky, Dick. He's the lad I was telling ya about. You'll like him Dick, he's a real good worker."
"G'day Yorky.", said Dick Skipworth.
"G'day Mr. Skipworth.", I said.
"The names Dick! We don't stand on ceremony around here mate 'cause we all work as hard as each other so there's no need for it."
"Who ya driving for this year Smithy?"
"Haven't made mi mind up yet Dick. Whoever's got the best gear and pays the most, I suppose."
"That's our place.", said Dick. "I'm getting too old to drive the headers so they've got me driving the semi's this year."
"Oh well Dick, do ya good to ease up a bit mate. You've earned it after all these years."
"Ease up mi arse. If I stop working I'd probably die in a few weeks so best not to stop, eh Smithie?"
"Ya might be right at that, Dick."
I took mi two cases out of the back of Jims Ute. I grabbed the trumpet and rifle from off the front seat.
"Not a bad-looking pea-rifle ya got there Yorky.", said Dick.
"Yeah, she's not bad."
"There's plenty of Roos to shoot up the top end of my place, Yorky. Mi oldest boy Colin is always chasin' them off of the crop. They're a fucking nuisance, the bastards!"
The fact that Dick smoked and swore told me he was probably a good bloke.
"Alright Dick, I'd best be getting back. Don't worry Yorky, you're in good hands here. Old Dick will look after ya mate."
"Less of the fucking 'old', Smithie!", said Dick, with a big grin across his face.
"See ya in town sometime Yorky.", said Jim, as we shook hands.
He got in his Ute and turned her slowly around and the last thing I noticed was a puff of thick blue smoke that came out of the window from the Monopole Midget cigar.
"Git out'a there ya mongrel fucking bastard!", roared Dick.
I thought he was talking to me so I snapped to attention.
"Not you, Yorky. I was yelling at that fucking dirty dog of mine."
"Why? What's he done?"
Dick pointed to something behind me and when I turned around, his old dog Tim had pissed on one of mi good ports.
"Better pick those ports up Yorky before he claims the rest of 'em. Give us the small port and the rifle. I'll carry it across to the house for ya mate."
Dick Skippie took off back towards the gate where he'd just come from. We went through the tall, tubular steel gate and into a backyard, which was all fenced in so the chooks couldn't get out. The back of the Colonial-style house had a large veranda round it. We walked up a couple of steps, through the veranda and into the large kitchen area.
Dicks' wife Ruby was busying herself in the kitchen when we walked in. She was a small, gray-haired lady around the same age as Dick. Her face was also somewhat weathered by Bush life but thankfully, for her, not as bad as Dicks' was. Although she was slight of build, she had a good strong voice when she said 'Gooday' to me.
"Ya can stay in Colins' room Yorky.", said Dick. "There's a spare bed in there and it's a big room. You'll be mainly helping the boys up in the wheat paddocks. That way you'll both be able to get each other up if one sleeps in."
Dick was right. Colins' room was plenty big enough for the two of us. I slid my ports under the bed, along with the trumpet box and stood mi rifle in the corner after I'd double-checked that it was unloaded.
When I came out of the bedroom, Dicks' wife had made me a good cuppa' tea and a plate of homemade scones were sitting on the table in front of me.
"Help ya' self to the scones, Yorky." She said as I sat down. "There's fresh butter there and a couple of jars of homemade jam."
"Thanks.", I said, as I reached for one of the scones which looked real inviting.
After a quick smoko, Dick and I went back out to the machinery shed.
"We gotta get all these headers checked over and repaired before the season starts, 'cause once we start we won't have time to stop for repairs. We'll be flat out mate, like a lizard in the Sun."
Dick showed me a few things that he wanted doing so I busied myself cleaning and greasing a PTO header. As I was working I noticed a fawn-colored Ute screaming down from the ramp, kicking up a cloud of dust behind it.
"Here comes our Kevin", said Dick. "He always seems to be in a fuckin' hurry the way he drives!"
The Holden, with a couple of red Kelpies in the back, broadsided to a halt right in front of the shed. The door opened and a young bloke of 23 got out of the drivers side. He was a younger version of Dick but with a much strong build. He wore green King Gee work pants, boots and a bush shirt with the sleeves rolled up above the elbows. His brown, hairy arms were quite thick and he wore a sweat-stained squatters hat, a slightly different style than Dicks'.
"G'day.", he said as he walked over to us.
"G'day Kevin", said Dick. "This is Yorky. He was workin' for Smithy but it's too hot for fencing now so he's gonna help us out for the wheat season."
"G'day Yorky.", said Kevin, with a big, cheeky smile. "How ya goin' mate?"
"G'day Kevin, good to meet ya.", I said.
Kevin had a good, firm handshake and something told me we were going to be good friends for a while.
"Give Yorky a hand to git that tire off, will ya Kevin. We got to fix that puncture before we can move that header."
"No worries.", said Kevin as he grabbed a large wheel wrench. "Ya from Yorkshire are ya Yorky?"
"Yeah. I've been out here since May this year."
"Is that old Smithy Bastard still chasing those fuckin' parrots mate?", he asked.
"Yeah. We got a lot a' young ones this year. He's building a big new Avery at the back of his house.
"Has he pumped another kid outta' that young missus of his yet?"
"Well, he's got 4 that I know of."
"That horny old Bastard has got a few more kids scattered around the Bush in various places."
"I don't know anything about that.", I said.
"Well, I suppose that's his business but he's a damn good fencer. He put a few miles of fence up around our top paddocks last year. Did a good job too. He knows his stuff when it comes to fencing, does old Smithy! Where did ya work before that Yorky?"
"Burt Booths' place."
"Jesus-fuckin'-Christ mate. How did ya git on with that mean ole Bastard?"
This gave us both a bit of a laugh.
"Not too good. He once chased me through the Mali with an axe. He was gonna split me in two."
"Christ mate, you're lucky to be alive! Old Burt's gone through more Pommies than shit-house paper. I know at least 4 good blokes that pulled the pin on him."
"Yeh, he made it pretty hard for me."
"How long were you there?"
"Five and a half months."
"Oh that's not too bad. There was a good Pommy called Stan Grantham, he was there at least a couple of years. Did ya slip old Kay a length or two to make up for it Yorky?" He said with a huge grin.
"Don’t be silly mate!", I said with a laugh. "She's an old woman and besides she had too many gray hairs on her chin for my liking, Kevin."
"That's no problem mate, ya could have tore 'em out with ya teeth and banged her regardless!"
"Didn't fancy old Kay Booth, Yorky?", said Dick in a quiet, joking way.
"Not really Dick."
"I don't think old Burt does either.", he said.
"He's too tight to fuck her.", said Kevin. She thought she was marrying a big-hearted generous cocky when she first started writing to old Burt but after a few years of livin' with him, she got dried up, just like him."
"She wasn’t a bad-lookin' woman for a Pommy when she first came out here.", said Dick.
"Anyway, hurry up and git that tire off. I've gotta go into the Lake to order some spare parts so we've got a few on hand for the wheat season. Ya might take a quick run around those sheep across the road Kevin. I noticed a couple of flyblown bastards in 'em when I drove aqround last time."
"Me and Yorky will have a look as soon as we've got this puncture fixed."
"That'll do, the bastard!", said Kevin, as he tightened the nuts on the wheel. "Unless you can tighten 'em a bit more Yorky."
I put the large cross wrench on the nuts and gave a good heave on the handle. The nuts turned about a quarter of a turn each.
"Grand Streuth Yorky! You're a strong little bastard for a Pommy.", he said in his joking way.
"I'm gitting there Kevin.", I said with a smile.
"It must have been all those Grass Parrots old Burt fed ya mate."
"How d'ya know about that?"
"Peter Smith is a mate of mine. He just lives down the road aways. He was telling me about ya a few months ago. C'mon Yorky, that'll do mate. Let's go and have a look at those sheep that the old man was talking about."
As we drove over the ramp, a gray Holden Ute turned into the driveway.
"Where ya going?", said a tall, rough-looking, whiskery man of about 30. He wore a Squatters hat that was on its last legs. The crown had a large hole in it at the front and the sides were stained with sweat and oil marks.
"Going over the road to check on a few flyblown sheep.", said Kevin.
"Hang on till I park mi Ute and I'll come with you."
"Hurry up then!", said Kevin. "I ain't got all fucking day Sport!"
The man drove past us and parked his Ute alongside the fence.
"Who's that?", I said to Kevin.
"It's mi older brother mate, his names Colin."
"He's a rough-lookin' character."
"Yeh, he's an ugly looking bastard too. He's not as handsome as I am nor as modest for that matter but he doesn't scub up too bad when he goes to town."
"How old is he?"
"Oh, he's about 33."
Just then, my side door of the Ute opened.
"Slide over, ya bastard!", said a loud ocker accent.
I slid over into the middle of the bench seat.
"G'day Sport!, My names Colin. How ya goin'?"
"Good.", I said. "My name's Yorky."
"I know.", he said.
"How d'ya know."
"Everybody knows your name mate. All the Sheilas in town are talkin' about ya."
"Are they really?"
"No mate, I'm only jokin' with ya. I just past the old man on his way to town and he told me ya name."
He slammed the door of the Ute and we took off down the West Wyalong dirt road where the paddock gate was. As we were driving, the Kelpies in the back started to fight. Colin stuck his head out of the window and yelled, "Sit down ya mongrel fuckin' bastards. There's plenty of work for all of ya!"
The dogs went quiet as they watched the sheep.
"Get the gate Digger.", said Kevin to his brother.
"Why don't I get the gate Kevin?", said his brother in response.
As Colin got out of the Ute to get the gate, I said to Kevin, "Why d'ya call him Digger?"
"Well mate, just look at the bastard, that'll tell ya. Doesn't he look like he's just crawled out of the trenches of France?"
When I thought about it and watched him open the gate, I saw that Kevin was right 'cause Digger was wearing a pair of old stained karkie army shorts and an old blue singlet with a few holes in it.
We drove through the gateway and Digger closed it behind us.
"I'll ride in the back with the dogs.", said Digger. "It'll be easier to spot the flyblown ones that way."
"I'll drive around the outsides of the Paddocks first!", yelled Kevin. "Keep the dogs in the back till we spot one!"
Slowly we drove around the Paddock and the sheep started to run towards the center.
Digger called out, "There's one Kevin, over in that small mob."
"Send Joe out!", yelled Kevin. "He knows what to do!"
Joe was a large, young red Kelpie with a white blaze down the front of his chest. He also had a white mark which ran up between his eyes to the top of his head and a small splash of white on the end of his tail/
Joe jumped out the back of the Ute and ran across the Paddock towards where the flyblown sheep were. He split the tail-end of the small mob off from the main, larger mob.
"Fetch 'em here", yelled Kevin, who was now out of the Ute calling out orders to Joe who seemed to know exactly what he was doing.
"Come on Yorky!", He said. "We'll git behind 'em with Joe and drive 'em into that corner!"
"How are we gonna get the flyblown ones out Kevin?"
"There's only a couple of 'em in that mob Yorky, so as soon as we git 'em tight up in the corner we'll run in and grab 'em."
"I'll go around this side and grab 'em so they can't make a break for it!", said Digger. "Ya see that one over there Yorky with the flies all around his arse? When I tell ya, you grab him and I'll grab this one over here!"
"Are ya ready Digger?", yelled Kevin.
"Ready!", yelled Digger.
"Alright, GO!", yelled Kevin.
We ran towards the mob of sheep that were pushed up tight in the corner of the fence. My sheep tried to make a break for it so I dived on it as it tried to run past me. Kevin had forced his sheep up into the corner and was holding it with his knees and Digger had a hold of the back leg of another.
"Tip him over on his back Yorky and drag him over here!", said Kevin .
As soon as I was close to Kevin with the sheep, he said, "I'll hold 'em both York. You run over to the Ute and get the hand shears and that large can of sheep dip. There's an old rag tied to the end of it, grab that while you're there mate!"
The shears, stick and sheep dip were right where Kevin said they'd be so I pulled 'em out of the Ute and carried 'em over to the fence corner.
"Good on ya Yorky.", said Digger who now had his sheep on its' side, holding it down with his knee. "Give me the shears Yorky.", he said, as he rolled the sheep on its back, against his legs.
Digger started to cut the wool away from the big Whethers tail. It was a dirty, black rotten color and it started to stink more as he snipped away.
Before long, it was easy to see how the blowflies can kill a sheep if it's not caught in time. As Digger cut more wool away, it revealed a large patch of red, inflamed skin with tiny holes down into it. A few maggots were wriggling around on the surface of the skin and once Digger had snipped away all the dead-looking stinkin' wool back as far as the good wool. He said, "Give me that can of dip Yorky."
I unscrewed the cap off of the drum and Digger said, "Pour some of the dip over the bare spot and I'll dab it on with the rag."
No sooner had I started to pout the white-looking liquid on the sheeps' arse, lots of small white maggots wriggled out of the holes in the sheeps' flesh.
"That'll fix the bastards!", said Digger. "They don't like that sheep dip. Pour some more over here Yorky, there's a few more maggot holes just there."
The sheep dip worked really well. As soon as it hit the sheeps' skin, the maggots started to wriggle out.
"That'll do.", said Digger. "Stand back Mate while I let it up!"
Digger let the old Whether go. It gave a few twists of its body as it tried to regain its feet. Once it got a grip with its toes it was up on its feet and away across the Paddock to join the rest of the mob. The same procedure was followed with the remaining two sheep and as soon as they were soaked with the sheep dip, they were released to join back up with the mob.
"I can't see anymore Digger, can you?", yelled Kevin as we drove on around the Paddock.
"No Sport!", yelled Digger. "I think we've gotten 'em all now!"
"Let's go home then and have a bite to eat. It's about lunch time. Mum will wonder where we've got to, if not.", said Kevin.
After a meal of mashed potatoes, cold mutton and tomatoes, we rested for half an hour and then went back to work in the machinery shed for the rest of the day.
All that week, Digger, Kevin and myself worked around the machinery shed to get the tractors and headers, trucks and augers up to scratch for the wheat season which was due to start any day now.
One morning, Dick Skipworth said to his sons, "I was lookin' at that Paddock of wheat over at your place yesterday Digger. I think it might go today."
"Yah reckon?", said Digger. "I thought it was still a bit green."
"She's pretty close to going.", said Kevin. "So why don't we take the machinery over there and do a couple of rounds? We'll be able to tell as soon as it's in the bin."
"Good idea", said Dick. "You two drive the headers across and Yorky and me will go ahead in my Ute so we can git the gates for ya. Stick that 10 gallon drum of grease in the back of my Ute Yorky before we forget it."
Once we got up to the Paddock, Kevin pulled into line first and set off to make one round of wheat stripping to see how dry the wheat was. When he got back to the start where we were all waiting for him, Dick pronounced the golden-colored wheat to be dry enough and the season began.
Standing at the gate, looking out over a 2,000 acre wheat Paddock was quite a sight. Let me tell you. The wheat was about 4'6" tall on average and it appeared to be an ocean as the gentle breeze blew it from side to side. The breeze made the wheat look like small, rolling waves as I stared off into the distance. My view was only periodically broken by the few, large shade trees that had been left standing for the sheep, once the Paddock was stripped.
Around Lake Cargelligo, all the Cockies used to sow clover seed with their wheat so the sheep would have something to graze on after the stalk had been burned off.
"Let's go Yorky.", said Dick.
"We're off back home to pick up the Semi and the flatbed. Then we'll bring 'em back up the Paddock so the boys have something to auger out into."
When we got back to the Homestead, Dick started up the Semi-trailer which had 2 large wheat bins on the back. As soon as it was going he said to me, "Can you drive Yorky?"
"I've only driven Jims' old Bedford."
"Christ Mate! If ya can drive that old piece of shit ya can drive anything! Hop in my new Ute and go ahead so ya can open the gates mate."
"What's the gears Dick?", I said as I got in his Ute.
"Towards ya and down for 1st. Up to neutral and straight up for 2nd and straight down through neutral for 3rd. Reverse is towards ya and up."
"Does the clutch need doubling Dick?"
"No Mate. This is a fuckin' new Ute, not a fuckin' old 40s' relic like Smithy drives. We're fuckin' rich Yorky!", he said with a wink.
I closed the door of the new Ute, turned the key and it came to life. The motor was so quiet compared to Jims' vehicles that I had to listen hard to make sure it had started.
"Git a fuckin' move on will ya Yorky?", yelled Dick, out of the window of the Semi. "It'll be fuckin' dark before we get there at this rate!"
'Towards me and down for 1st.', I repeated to myself as I watched the hands pull the stick into gear. 'Clutch out slowly and give her some revs.'
To my astonishment and great delight, the new Holden Ute cruised off as smooth as butter. 'Click', 'Click', up into 2nd a few more revs and a 'Click', 'Click', down into 3rd. A big shit-eatin' grin stole across my mouth as the new Ute glided over the dirt track road.
The grin on my face turned to a big smile as soon as the Speedo hit 35 miles per hour!
Dick was right up my arse end with the big, red Semi; pushing and pulling it through numerous gears without the slightest sound of a grind. Just then, when I looked into he rear vision mirror, he was madly waving his hand for me to go faster. I took a deep breath to try and stop my happy heart pounding with excitement and pushed the accelerator
down a bit more
When I looked at the Speedo I was now doing 45 MPH. I checked the rear vision mirror again in case I was going too fast. Dick was still right up the arse end of the Ute, waving his hand madly and mouthing the words, "Git a fuckin' move on Yorky!"
So I smiled even wider now as I pushed the peddle down another half-inch. I was now doing almost 60 and when I checked the rear vision mirror, old Dick had a smile on his face.
I was so ecstatic at being behind the wheel of a new Ute at 60 MPH that I forgot about the turn and drove straight past it! When I looked in the mirror, I saw the red Semi just disappearing up the turn off behind the row of pine trees.
"Oh shit! Scungy, fucking Bastard.", I was so happy for a few seconds that I'd missed the turn off! What will old Dick say now? He's probably opening the gate right this minute!
"Where the fuck have you been Yorky? I thought you'd decided to go to Sydney in my new Ute!"
"No Dick.", I said. "I missed the turn."
"Is your foot sore Yorky?", he said to me.
"No Dick. Why?"
"Then tread on the fuckin' accelerator a bit harder! Ya not gonna hurt the fuckin' thing! We wanna' got there today, not to-fuckin'-morrow!", he said, grinning slightly around the cigarette holder.
At last we arrived back in the wheat Paddock. The timing was perfect. Kevin, who had m ade a full round of the Paddock was just coming down the last side. Pulling alongside the Semi with the 2 large wheat bins on the back, he brought the Auto-header to a stop and pulled the lever to activate the Auger. The cogs snapped into place which started the worm drive and a stream of golden Insignia wheat grain gushed into the bin making a sound like hail on a corrugated tin roof. As the golden wheat was transferred into the bin, the excess dust flew in the direction of the slight breeze.
Once Kevins' header was empty, he pulled out into the wheat again and Digger, who was not far behind him, pulled the tractor-drawn header alongside the bin and the procedure was repeated.
Dick and I brought the other flat-top truck with one large bin onboard up the Paddock and positioned it a hundred yards away from the Header.
"Climb aboard, Yorky!", said Kevin, after he emptied his load. "Ya can ride around on the header and keep me company Mate, until it's time to grease her up."
For a while we chatted about our backgrounds and lives. He told me he had been married for about a year now and that he lived in the Lake at a one-story house that his Mother-in-Law owned. Kevin was an easy-going young man who had been brought up on a wheat property all his life. He learned to drive as soon as he could see through the windscreen, which he said was around 8 years. He was a very adaptable character who seemed to be able to take things as they came. Once he said me, "What d'ya smoke those stinkin' fags for Yorky?"
"Body habit Mate. I've been smoking since I was 8, just around the age you learned to drive."
"Now I understand Mate. I learned to drive and you learned to smoke."
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.