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Running with cows

I admit I was pleasantly surprised that my stories of growing up on Kangaroo Island were so well-received. Inspired I am, dear reader, to offer two more.

Running with cows

A young boy can find plenty to do on a farm of 1500 acres, but nonetheless I jumped at the chance to go with Mum to another farm, I don’t remember whose (I’d never been there before – or since), where a dozen or so other kids my age would be gathered. The occasion, I think, was a Country Women’s Association (CWA) meeting, of which my mother was the regional president.

Hours of fun beckoned me.

I didn’t know any of the kids as they went to a different school. I never saw them again, and for that I am grateful.

The resident kid suggested we all go down to the river and play whatever game came to mind. We boys thought it’d be fun to have a mud fight, while the girls decided to sit this one out.

I wasn’t having much fun. I felt somewhat left out and was convincing myself that it would have been more enjoyable to stay at home.

But I gave it a go …

I learned, that day, that my mud-throwing skills scored a rating of 2 out of 10, so I came up with a little trick. By putting a few little sticks and stones into my mud ball it should hold together for its full flight, and with any luck would go a little further than my previous attempts.

I created the mother of all mud balls. I stared at it a few moments, congratulating myself for having the genius to produce such a magnificent mud-missile.

With all my might I threw the masterpiece blindly over the stone bridge. A bit off course, but …

The scream alerted me that I’d had a direct hit.

I peered under the bridge. Some poor lass had her whole face covered in mud, one of the stones must have been a little too heavy for blood trickled down over the mud, and her Sunday-best dress was a wee bit more soiled than her mother would have liked.

I gulped, knowing it was I who caused this calamity. I knew, too, that I was going to be in more trouble than my mind could ever imagine.

Where moments earlier I had glowed with pride for producing such a magnificent missile, I now felt a wave of guilt and regret for being stupid enough to launch it.

It was time to escape. If I ran back to the farmhouse quick enough I could say I wasn’t down the river at the time. Yes, good idea, so off I took. No time to run back along the road … I’ll dash through the paddocks. But as I started along in great haste, I knew deep down that I would be found out and a terrible fate awaited me.

So there I was, running along at a record speed and bawling my eyes out at the same time. The crying was uncontrollable.

I didn’t notice the cows, let alone the bull in the paddock.

Now, anybody who lives on a farm knows that you don’t go running past a herd of cows. They start to chase you. If you slow down to a walk … they also slow down. But that fact was lost on me.

So there I was, running along as fast as my legs could carry me, while bawling my eyes out, and being chased by a herd of cattle with the bull out in front. I was convinced that they wanted to kill me. Despite my crime I did not deserve to be mauled to death by these determined cows.

I could see the house.

The gate! Where’s the gate? Bugger looking for the gate … situation desperate … I was going over the fence.

That was the first time I’d ever touched an electric fence, let alone being tangled up in it! “This isn’t my day,” I bawled.

I am sorry to disappoint you, dear reader, for I can offer no conclusion to this story. I don’t remember escaping from the fence. I don’t remember reaching the farmhouse, I don’t remember the long drive home. I don’t even remember if I got into any trouble let alone any punishment I might have received.

All I remember is the my run with cows.

The next story is somewhat different. A family tale that has survived the decades:

The washing day from Hell

Washing day was a long, long day at the best of times.

In Summer – if you start early enough – you could get the washing, drying and ironing completed on the same day.

Sounds easy, doesn’t it?

But easy it was not.

All the clothes after washing had to be run through the wringer – one hand feeding the clothes between the two rollers, the other hand turning the handle that turned the rollers, squeezing out the water as the clothes passed through them.

The easy part was hanging the clothes on the line. Once dried, the really hard work begun: the ironing.

We didn’t have the luxury of an electric iron. Our iron was placed on top of the wood stove to heat and once heated enough to use, a wooden handle was clipped over the iron and off you went to iron one or two items. (Striking while the iron’s hot, literally). The process of heating the iron could have been repeated a couple of dozen times during the ironing process.

So there would be Mum, on a hot Summer’s day, doing all the ironing in the kitchen with the wood stove cruelly belting out punishing heat.

Now I must introduce my little brother Geoffrey, aged about 5, and my sister Trish, who would have been about 3.

But back to Mum …

On one particular day she’d done the whole lot, from go to woe. The tedious job of washing, hand rinsing, hanging out the clothes, and the arduous and time-consuming ordeal of ironing.

There, sitting on the kitchen table were the ironed clothes, all folded into neat piles of which clothes belong to who. It took a whole day to reach that point, and with much relief I might add. And, I expect, content with her efforts too.

Job done, Mum left the room for a while to attend to something else.

Upon returning to the kitchen she was horrified – yes, horrified – to see all the clothes in one big, messy, screwed-up heap on the kitchen table.

”Who did that?” she roared to young Geoffrey and young Trisha, the only ones in the room.

”I did, Mum,” answered Geoffrey quite proudly and beaming a huge smile. (If anything ever went wrong Geoffrey was usually the culprit so his admission came as no surprise).

Geoffrey copped the full roar of Mum’s discipline. She shook him so vigorously that his ears nearly fell off.

“Why? Why did you do it?” Mum roared again.

Trying to talk while at the same time as crying mournfully, pride shattered, he confessed to his crime …

”Trisha knocked them off the table, so I picked them up for you.”

Yeah, Mum felt bad. A monumental day’s work had ended with a slap to her conscience. (But oh how we laughed about it the next day).

Anyway, that’s nothin’. Running with cows ain’t much fun either.

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12 comments

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  1. New England Cocky

    Electric fences?? We had an excuse for a working dog and fences that allowed our lambs to graze next door, much to our neighbour’s chagrin. One day a lamb strayed next door and being down the paddock with my three year old son (now a middle aged adult) I did the correct thing and went through the fence with the dog to retrieve the lamb. However, the lamb was having none of being chased s-l-o-w-l-y by any dog and eventually ended up belly deep in the shallow dam with the dog on the bank, unwilling to get wet.

    Muggins wades into the dam grabs the lamb and lugs it to the boundary fence which the neighbour in frustration, had electrified. Oh well, I will just step between the live wire and the fence and throw the lamb over the fence ….. easier said than done.

    As I stepped forward and due to the load, short, treading upon the electric wire, I got whacked and heaved the lamb over the fence and I swear the lamb flew a further ten yards!! Properly shocked I quickly stepped clear to avoid repetition, indulged in some loud swearing before looking over at three year old son ….. who had the lamb held in the shearing position waiting for Dad to get his act together.

    Reader should also know that our Suffolk ewes sensed that this new fangled addition to the fencing had something about it, so once installed, instead of just pushing through to feast on the abundant green pastures next door, they sent the smaller lambs through the fence first, and watched to see what happened ….. then pushed through themselves. Maybe I should have been as smart as those sheep!!

  2. Carol Taylor

    There’s something about a little city lass being yelled at by her much older cousin: Don’t run or else the cows will chase you! I’m afraid instinct takes over. However, even more terrifying is being chased by a flock of turkeys..it’s clearly the “gobble, gobble” that makes you believe that you’re in mortal danger.

  3. Jean

    Wonderful! Both stories! So mine.
    I have a brother who was a walking time bomb – he was younger than me and I must say he did provide a good stooge for me to try my various experiments e.g. jumping off the shed roof to see if an umbrella would act as a parachute (it doesn’t)!

    However, this story had nothing to do with me this time.

    He was still primary school age, and turned up one day with a horribly bruised lower arm. When our mother noticed it she was rather concerned and asked what he had done to get his bruising? My brother wasn’t saying anymore than he had to so mumbled that he’d hit it with a hammer. So he was asked how it got bruised right up his arm? He hit it again! His arm was watched, the bruising faded and all was forgotten.
    Until washing day.
    My mother had a wringer washing machine as described above too. Next washing day she went outside to the wash house to do her laundry. Might I add, we lived behind our general store so she also had to mind the store at the same time. To her surprise she found the wringer very grubby and a hanky wrapped round and round one of the ringers. She certainly hadn’t left the wringer in that state last washing day, so my brother was rounded up and asked if he could explain.

    His explanation possibly had to be encouraged but when he finally told the story, he explained had decided to wash his hanky – can’t remember if he used the washing machine to do that, but he tried to use the wringer to get it dry. So why did he end up with the hanky wrapped around the wringer and a bruised arm? When he tried to put the hanky in the wringer, he got his fingers caught – up to the elbow! Our mother asked how did he get his arm out, so he told her – he turned the wringer backwards so he wound it out! He obviously didn’t know if he lifted his hand he’d hit the release bar and the wringer would have popped open.

  4. Michael Taylor

    One thing I enjoy as much as telling these yarns is reading the wonderful comments that follow.

  5. Carol Taylor

    Wonderful story Jean. I remember my mother getting into so much bother whenever anything wound around the wringer. You had to take the whole thing apart in order to retrieve the offending hankie or tea towel. And then it would be covered in grease from the wringer and had to be soaked in White King to get it clean.

  6. Michael Taylor

    How can anyone be scared of turkeys? 😳

  7. Michael Taylor

    Though I must admit I can top that …

    My sister heard her 3-year-old screaming, so she raced outside to see what the problem was.

    There was 3-year-old standing near the chook pen, sobbing in fear: “A chook looked at me.”

  8. Kerri

    Your mudfight tale reminds me of a similar story when I was young. But a little different?
    Dad was the local grocer and for a while he had no one to help him in the shop so mum had to.
    Which left the 4 of us, after school, stuck in the yard at the back, amusing ourselves until the shop closed.
    Next door lived an Italian family who ran the fish shop as was quite common back in the ‘60’s. The daughter, whose name I don’t remember but whom I will call Mary was the same age as my brother which was 2 years older than me. There was a fig tree in the back yard along the fence between the fish shop and the grocers. I don’t remember which yard it was in.
    The Italian family lived upstairs above their shop. We lived a couple of kilometres away.
    Being good little WASP kids (White Anglo-Saxon Protestant) we did not recognise the worth of the figs and chose instead to regularly partake in a fig fight with Mary and her brothers. There would be be an initial armistice while each family picked as many figs as they could carry and then we would take cover behind the nearest bush or whatever and the fig pelting began.
    One afternoon in the midst of battle my brother screeched in pain and suddenly the fig fight was over as he went out of range rubbing his head.
    Mary had run out of figs.
    The recipient of the rock was too scared to let mum or dad know as he knew we would forever be forbidden from fig fights and Mary would probably get in big trouble so he sucked it up until we went home.
    I had a similar experience a year or so later with the neighbours over the back laneway, that was filled with a mixture of mint and stinging nettle. One of our pet challenges was to dare each other to jump into the mint and hope like hell it wasn’t nettle.

    The joys of childhood.

  9. wam

    A great story and perfect to switch attention from arseholes like christian porter and stuart roberts.
    We all have many mini-cockups in the days before homework and TV.
    Some with inquisitive mouths get more than others. but bashings aside my fondest fear was to avoid getting caught looking at Mrs Boss.
    She was dad’s bridge partner. She was always up the duff and breast feeding. This was real not national geographic and as hard as I tried to concentrate and look at the cards I failed and strayed and mum would say whose bid is it?

    ps Michael and Carol. I have redirected my errant letter hope it gets to wodonga.

  10. Anne Byam

    You’ve hit all the buttons Michael …. the stories are fun and funtastic, and again remind me of things from my younger days on my grandparents farm. And farming elsewhere later.

    Loved the run of the cows in particular, as – although they don’t worry me one iota now, I do remember when I was about 4 or 5, a very inquisitive calf ran full pelt at me while I was standing near a fence, far too high for me to even think of climbing. Frightened the living daylights outta me, and I think I cried for at least a day. Poor little thing – only was curious and wanted to play.

    Loved the comments too – all good and bringing smiles – as yours did Michael.

    You could probably write a book … but dare I hope to happily settle for many more stories from your childhood days.

    Thank you –

  11. Andrew Smith

    Resonates; on electric fences we had a sow (briefly named by our father after our mother…) whose grown up piglets could pick the time of the pulses to jump the fence, then dig up house garden….

    Younger brother picked up an orphaned lamb, but kept her on for a year+ as a pet who would hang with the sheep dogs, leaving them quite confused. After being eventually returned to a mob of 1000+ ewes he would ride down on motor bike with her favourite Salada crackers then when approaching entire mob would run opposite direction, except one who would run towards him, that was Mabel 🙂

  12. DrakeN

    …but no-one had told me that the loudly honking flock of geese running towards me were doing so in the hope of a feed of grain.

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