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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