Tuesday, January 24, 2006
FIRES and MEMORIES
Fires and Memories In Australia we are in the midst of a very hot Summer, and also have quite a few bush-fires burning. We have lost a lot of National Parks, some houses and buildings, many, many animals and 3 lives so far in Victoria. One of these was a 42 year old volunteer fire fighter, trying to protect us from these awful fires. I remember vaguely the terrible fires of 1939 when a great number of homes were burnt and many lives lost. We were lucky as we did not lose our home, but neighbours across the road and close by did. We lived on a small farm, and there was a very deep well there with goldfish in it. My mother wanted to take us down a ladder into the well, but my father thought we may have been boiled alive. Instead we went to another farm near to us and waited the fire out there. I was nearly 5, Peter nearly 3 and our older half-brother Jack was 14. I remember his dressing gown was hung on a branch of a tree, and I think it survived. Jack had TB and died the next year aged 15. Apparently his father was in World War I and was gassed in France. He developed Tuberculosis and then passed it on to Jack. He used to sleep on a covered front veranda, as fresh air was good for him, and also to protect Peter and me. I remember the three of us used to walk along the road to gather what Mum called “morning’s wood” – (kindling to light fires with). I guess this was before he was bedridden. He spent time in Melbourne in a hospital, which Mum visited. We had to sit in the car with Dad. I remember her saying that she used to buy boiled lollies occasionally, as we were very poor, and give Jack more than us because we had our lives ahead of us and he didn’t. We spent a lot of years with just Mum, Peter and me. My father went to live in Melbourne to get work. He drove double decker buses and came home when he could. Mum used to read us books and possibly that is when we both developed our love of books. We lived opposite a fruit orchard and Mum had permission to pick and use any she wanted. I remember one time she had picked an apron full of plums when she met up with a tiger snake about to strike. So she let it have the apron full of plums and I guess both she and it raced off in opposite directions. The house on this farm was destroyed in 1939. We went to a very little school, and I had to start at four and a half to keep it open, and Peter did the same 2 years later. We had a long walk to school through paddocks with lots of steers in them. They used to watch us, and vice versa but never did more than that. One afternoon after school, Pete and I stared the trek home and as usual threw our school-bags through a fence. About to go after them, when we saw an orange coloured snake crawling along the fence-line. We high-tailed it back to school and the teacher drove us home after checking we had not been bitten. NO just scared half to death. Poor Mum later had to walk all the way back to retrieve our bags. I remember one year for Christmas Peter and I badly wanted bikes and on Christmas morning got quite a few presents but no bikes. After a while Dad said let’s go for a walk ( which was very out of character) and we went, probably a little sulkily. Lo and behold, behind a tree we found our treasured bikes – where Dad had hidden them. So then we rode to school about 2 miles, but no more cattle or snakes. One more snake story, walking home with Mum we saw a snake crawling into a hole on the bank by the road. Well my mother grabbed that darned snake, pulled it out and killed it. I was only small and said “Mum, don’t you ever do that again”, and we never spoke back to her ever. The darned thing could have swung around and bitten her, which would have left us in a mess. Nearest doctor about 10 miles away. And no transport. Well I hope I haven’t bored you folks. It is all June’s fault!! with her memories of her mother. Unfortunately I cannot write a poem of praise. One last word – we used to listen to the radio (on a battery) no power then, and listen to country music, again may have started our fondness for it. Also listened to serial stories on the wireless as it was then called. Mum used to milk a cow, separate the milk and make butter from the cream. Memories Peter.