“Te Whare”… Maori for “the home”.
We all grew up on a mixed farm in Central NSW, Australia, not too far from a little town called Bethungra. By mixed, I mean: sheep, cattle and crops and plenty of unwelcome rabbits. Blessed to have a father who didn’t let gender get in the way of job delegating! Dad taught me very valuable lessons, none of which included milking a cow. Mum insisted I refuse to learn. I’m pleased about that. She was a good egg. I was also never asked to kill an animal – though I did kill a couple of snakes from the safety of a vehicle in my time.
Dad shot a snake at the back door once, narrowly missing me as I stepped across the garden armed with a shovel. The shotgun blast nearly gave me a heart attack (or was it the snake?). The storage fridge at the back door was smattered with shot gun pellets, holes in the flyscreen door just beside it and half a snake on the foot path! The dangerous end had managed to slither under the house. I put myself to bed for a couple of hours to get over the shock of not shitting myself! We saved what was left of the snake for my boyfriend at the time, so he could take it home and put it in the freezer – apparently it tastes like chicken. To this day, even in China, I’ve not eaten snake! Rog had no fear when it came to snakes. I’m more like my brother-in-law, Jeff. Reckon I’m more likely to die from heart failure at seeing a snake than being bitten by one.
The Holden HR and my first drive….
Dad patiently taught me to operate all the machinery on the property, the old Dodge ute, which I learnt to drive in, and the tractors and truck. I got my truck drivers license when I turned 16 and became a wheat carter during harvest, which was always at the beginning of our summer school holidays, and a hay carter while the sun shone, along with my older sister, Anne. We made a good team – both on the farm and in later years, the social circuit! My first memory behind the wheel was when I was about 4 though. I was entrusted with the family car. A pale blue Holden HR station wagon, license plate DPF-910 – why oh why can’t I remember important stuff?!! Dad planted my feet firmly on the drivers seat and my hands firmly on the wheel, put the car in gear and told me to head for the shed! Running beside me momentarily to tell me to switch it off, when I got close to the shed – I had a death grip on the wheel and then on the key! How close is close, in a 4 year olds head? The car came to a coughing, jumping, noisy stop when I turned it off some distance away. It’s still a vivid memory – which isn’t bad given my age. Come to think of it, then or now! Saved Dad a long walk to retrieve the second vehicle, I think the tractor.
In recollecting that thought I think its more than a little bit special that I was with him in the first place! Anne must have been at school and I guess Helen was home challenging my mother. She was good like that. Remember, she’s the one I wanted to kill. I must add here that we have made our peace and enjoy each others company – most of the time. We steer clear of subjects that we know we have a difference of opinion on – most of the time. Helen’s done it pretty tough over the years and I respect and admire her enormously for her strength – all of the time! Helen and I were known to have “fisty-cuffs” on the odd occasion and I remember Dad just letting us go at it once. We drew blood on each other and I think it was the last time we ever got physical. Good decision Dad!
Apparently I was the placid one… clearly the look on my face was the beginnings of “how do we get rid of this noise” and clearly the look on Helen’s is well, self explanatory! She didn’t want to be there either! Pity we don’t have early photos of our brothers – I think we must have broken the camera!