Last night was not good for me, but I had over done it all again. I enjoyed a few visitors, family and Palliative care people who all wanted a chat. By 7 pm I was exhausted. The night was rough for me, and the annoying ‘kennel’ cough as I call it, wore me out. By 4 am I was no good for anyone. It has taken me most of today to recover, and I’m much better now. Hoping for a good day tomorrow where I’ll be able to walk to the foyer and sit in the sun.
Below are some of my memories again. I hope I don’t bore you all rigid.
Above… my Uncle Greg and Uncle Jim…the most gentle and caring men I have met.
My three bachelor uncles, Greg, Joe and Sonny all lived and worked on the farm which, over the years as Grandfather bought adjoining farms, had become the biggest dairy and cattle property in the region. The boys remained single in spite of there being plenty of girls who showed a keen interest in them wherever they went.
Uncle Greg was the horseman and took care of the beef cattle side of things. This included trips to the monthly stock sales held in various yards dotted around the State. This meant quite a bit of travel for Uncle Greg, sometimes with overnight stays. He was not willing to miss out on a purchase of a top grade bull that would pay for itself hundreds of times over in the production of fine offspring. Usually there would be calves, steers and at times young colts to sell; his livestock was well known for their high quality and rarely failed to fetch good prices.
He was my favourite uncle. The eldest of the family, he had served in the Second World War in New Guinea long before I was born. His hair had turned from a shiny black to a silvery white during that time; on his return from war, Gran didn’t recognise him as he ran down the gang plank to where she and Grandfather were waiting for their boys’ return. They had two sons-in-law to welcome home also. Malaria plagued him for years afterwards. The sight of his sweating but shivering body was upsetting for me and I wished many times I could make him better. Unbeknown to the family at the time, he was suffering from Post-Traumatic Syndrome also. In hindsight, I can recognise the symptoms of stress and anxiety causing severe headaches and the longing to be alone for long periods of time.
His time at war had been cruel fighting the Japanese who invaded New Guinea in the quest to take over the northern Pacific and eventually Australia. Uncle Greg was in charge of a platoon assisted by the natives through the jungles and mountains. Most of his platoon was killed in front of his eyes and being the kind soul he always was, it proved to be too much for him to comprehend and accept.
On the days he had to succumb to his bed for rest, I carried iced water and light snacks every few hours to his cottage. The uncles lived in a small cottage on the property, a short walk from the main house. They shared breakfasts and dinner at the house with everyone else, but their lunch was usually either a packed lunch with enamel mugs and a Billy tea can, or they prepared their own in the cottage.
Tea was everywhere in Gran’s home, as it was in ours too. It was deemed the great healer of all ailments and woes. If someone cut a finger, a pot of tea would be brewed; if someone died the first thing to be seen to was the pot of tea. My uncles all drank big mugs of the life-restoring nectar, sweetened with generous spoonfuls of sugar and whitened with creamy milk. From the first day I was finally allowed my own cup of tea, I preferred with neither sugar nor milk, and still do.
The Billy tea can was an excitement for my cousins and me. We were not allowed tea or coffee, except when out in the paddocks with our uncles helping with the crops or rounding up cattle for branding or dipping. An open camp fire was built in a cleared area, and the Billy can hung from sturdy sticks stretching across the flame. Once boiling a handful of tea leaves were thrown into the Billy can. One of our uncles would then swing the can around in a wide arc to brew the tea. Tea has never tasted as good to me as it did in those beaten up enamel mugs sitting round the fire in all types of weather. Usually hot and humid weather but the heat didn’t seem to bother us.
A treat often enjoyed was when Uncle Joe brought along some damper dough wrapped in wet calico. Rocks were placed in the fire and as soon as they were hot enough the damper was placed on them, covered with leaves and branches and left to cook. A large pat of Gran’s homemade butter was the finishing culinary touch for us, spread liberally on a chunk of damper broken off while steaming hot. One of the best smoko foods anyone on the land can wish for!
I recently found this newspaper report of my parents’ wedding. Sounds very pretty to me.
Till next time…..I hope this doesn’t bore you all. Goodnight, much love and big hugs. Here’s to a better day tomorrow.