I was born in a small town – population 2500 – in central NSW Australia and I lived there until I was 15. It was hot in the summer and cold in winter, the dirt was red, the ground was flat and the horizon went on and on and on.
Here is Emjay inspecting some red dirt. This was our main road into town which was about a twenty-minute drive – I’m guessing they were preparing to tar it here, it must have been a hell of a drive in wet weather before they did.
We farmed sheep and harvested sorghum and we had a pretty good life as kids. We ran wild on the farm, we worked in the paddocks and we always had plenty of dogs and cats to play with, lost sheep to feed and old cars to drive.
We used to play a game called taxis – Emjay would drive an old car around a paddock and we’d all stand positioned around the edge and she’d pretend she was a taxi driver and pick us up and let us off where we wanted to go. I can only just remember this so if I was about five she would have been 12, so that’s a nice safe children’s game. I think I actually remember being in the boot at times because the car had the back seat that had an arm rest that you could lift up and it went straight into the boot.
Look, here we are being worked like slaves pumping irrigation syphons. Off we’d go with a plastic bag in our pocket for a few hours work in the paddock. You’d wrap the plastic over the end of the syphon then pump it back and forth until you felt the water coming up then throw it over the side of the channel so the water could flow into the crop. I had some good muscles from all our farm work – I used to arm wrestle the boys on our school bus.
There’s Emjay working hard at the front and I’m the little grubby one in pink. These photos always scare my daughter because she says we all look as if we’ve just stepped out of some redneck horror movie scene.
Here we are inspecting all our hard work down the track. We always had to wear red jumpers when Papa took these photos of us in the crops so we would stand out. They used to go into the local paper if the crop was good.
When I was 15 my mother, father, brother and I moved to the northern region of the Hunter Valley – my sisters had left home by then – to another metropolis of 5000. Here it was all green grass and hills and valleys and when we unloaded our cattle from the trucks they looked around and said – You have got to be joking! and refused to walk up the hills. They milled around being lazy bastards on the flats for about three months before they ventured up the mountains.
I only lived there for three years and when I finished school I moved to Sydney where I drifted about for the next few years starting in Neutral Bay then on to Hurstville, Kogarah, Bexley, Turramurra then Paramatta. We had the opportunity to leave Sydney through work so when my first daughter was 6 weeks old we packed up and moved back to the Hunter Valley but this time to a different region, Muswellbrook. Four cats, two dogs, a budgie we found in the backyard and a 6 week old baby – quite a trip.
We were renting then and after a year the landlord sold the house and there were no other places to rent in town so we had to move to the next town which was about a 30 minute drive away and apparently the heart of The Hunter and there we stayed for the next twenty years until two years ago when we moved here to Newcastle.
I don’t know what the plan is from here on. I’m on a five-year plan at this place although after being here for two years and after having done some work on it the house is growing on me. I like Newcastle so I’ll probably stay but I’d like to get in closer to the beaches – although of course that will probably require more money than I have but I’m saving hard. Even if I do save up the money I find it hard to justify spending so much on a house – I could move to Queensland and buy two houses for the same price. Or I could go on about 15 fabulous overseas holidays. Or I could buy a camper van and travel Australia.
I like the idea of going back to the farm, I am a farm girl. I’d like to have a little cottage on some land but after seeing how inadequate medical and health services are in remote areas while trying to get help for Dad I realise that as you get older you need to move as close to the city as you can not move further away from services available.
But of course I’m still a spring chicken so maybe I can go away for a while then come back again in twenty or thirty years.