By Christine Watson
“Hey, G’day….how’s ya chooks?”
A typical real bush Aussi greeting.
Liaising with my “new-to-Australia” friends who look at me strangely when my parting ‘farewell’ is …..”see ya ‘round the traps.”
There is a deeper colloquial language which stems from Australia’s 1930’s, 40’s and 50’s era.
A time when life seemed simpler……when my grandparents lived “at the end of the track” surrounding a small country town.
Commanding “voice” of the bullocky’s whip, resonating throughout the hills, bringing order to “the lead” (bullock), quickening of the pace and deepening the connection between man and beast.
This haunting echo too clear to forget.
Aroma of rolled ’t’ bacca”, lazily hanging from the corner of a drooping lip, a full well-worn wide-brimmed hat – all part of Pa Jim – my grandfather.
He was the last of the era of working bullock teams from Tenterfield/Northern Tablelands area of NSW.
Landowner, survivor of WW1, father of 10 children, struggled to put food on the table.
A proud man, he refused government welfare money. Thank goodness, rabbits were plentiful and healthy in those days…..before myxomatosis…….
Small framed, but tough, Alma, his wife, was the backbone of the family. Crippled much younger by arthritis, she managed to hold together a family of 6 boys and 4 girls, all healthy.
Jim was “different’ when he returned from the war. He didn’t speak of it – but it ‘changed’ him. Silence was his antidote. Post traumatic stress was a silent plague, a war-induced affliction.
A one-teacher school room encouraged education. Lucky for the first 7 or 8 children (before the school was closed). The last boys lost the opportunity for “book learning’. Careers in the bush involved truck driving, droving, fencing and mustering and shearing.
Our mother, second eldest, married a ‘City Slicker’ – a rarity in those parts. His was an academic career, but he was a ‘bushman’ also. Different though to Pa Jim. He was a bird man – an ornithologist.
Our background was learnt from the bush, even though we lived “in town”.
My first taste of town life was of my pet peach tree losing its life to plumbing pipes. Dad consoled me….that’s progress he reminded me. I didn’t like that word much – I cried.
See ya’ round – “like a rissole”.
This story was written in response to My Culture, My Story, the theme of the 2018 Australian Heritage Festival.
Image: The Hickey Family (Christine’s family).