Three in a Week

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Memoir  |  House: Footsteps, yarns and little fibs

We lost three people this week, and if I didn't write this people will forget.

Three in a Week

 

It happens to us all, and more often than not it isn’t easy, but in the end, the result is the same. This week three people have died, and although I didn’t know them that well, they all left an impression on me simply because I knew them for a time.

Sid was 81, a local farmer’s son who I first met when he applied for a permit to cut firewood in the forest. Now, I never knew a firewood cutter who became rich from cutting firewood and he was no exception, but his main income was from sheep and cutting the firewood with his brother Ray was more of a hobby. His school mates had a name for Sid, I was never enlightened as to why they called him ‘Grubby’, so it raised all sorts of connotations for me, but had nothing to do with the other thing he was locally famous for… at primary school. He used to invite the girls to go into the shrubbery with him, ‘to see his blue rabbits’. Well, these days I know there are blue rabbits, but there were none in our country at the time, which begs the question, ‘what did he have to show them?’ Story tellers tell me that no harm was done, and nobody was left the shrubbery unhappy… so I accept that. Anyway… these days Sid and Ray would have the law on their tails if they were caught cutting Manuka. Back in the day it was a preferred firewood and known as scrub, which had to be cleared for farming or forestry. A hard firewood that took two seasons to dry properly, it burnt hot leaving not much ash. These days the tree is protected under conservation law, simply because it’s an indigenous species, but over recent years Manuka honey has become a goldmine, not so much because it’s pleasant to eat but it has many health and medical benefits. So much so the Aussies are trying to pinch its name! So we find that attitudes change, and after all, Sid and Ray didn’t cut much firewood. They loved old tractors and owned dud chainsaws, so they were broken down most of the time. Sometimes I did a bit of mechanicing for them, or watched them doing it, and it’s fair to say that they were folk of the ‘40’s. They were great to yarn with, worked physically hard, and were honest as the day was long. Mind you, tea must have saved a lot of trees, because they were either drinking it… or peeing it out.

Keith worked in the seed cleaning and bagging plant in town. It was mainly wheat and barley but also clover and grass seeds too. He was always known for his quality of work, and his expertise with a bag needle. Rarely was he seen without a half-burnt roll-your-owned smoke hanging out the corner of his mouth… mostly dead. His missus, Nanette used to come into the nursery shed to talk to one of her mates who worked for me. She was a polite, tiny woman who always smelled of flowers. We, the district’s menfolk, had raised money and built a new community hall, where I had a role in the sports bodies group to engage the kids in badminton, gymnastics, table-tennis and volley ball. While Keith and Nanette lived beyond our boundary, they brought along their three kids. The middle girl had a growth problem, so was smaller than everyone else who came along, the other kids liked to have her on their side… but she couldn’t play on the table tennis table, we had no way of lowering it. Old dark horse Keith turned out to be an ace badminton player. He came along on the seniors’ night and although he wasn’t very fit, he couldn’t be beaten by any of the other club members. He was a crafty bugger. But what made us all respect him for was that although he could win 21 – 0 at the blink of an eye, he’d never do it, he always made a game of it and made sure you’d win a few points. He could flick that blimmin’ shuttle just out of reach, but if you focused, you could sometimes get it back to him. He was also prepared to coach, especially the younger kids. Although Keith smoked all his life, he knocked up 84 years, although the last few were pretty substandard.

Joyce was my sister’s bridesmaid, well to put a finer point on it, matron of honour, although surely, six months married could hardly make her a matron. My sister and Joyce were at secondary school together and have been mates ever since, so we crossed paths from time to time. For the last five of her ninety three years Joyce had her mind befuddled with that bloody mind-befuddling disease, which was so hard on everyone within her environment. But I didn’t see her like that so I have only fond memories of her. She was young and vibrant like my sister and from what I saw they were happy times… except for the Ballantynes fire which they both survived. At my sister’s kitchen evening, Joyce had me demonstrate a game where a wooden clothes peg (anyone remember them) was tied to a length of string and tied to my belt so it trailed down my bum. My job was to insert the peg into a milk bottle sitting on the floor. Well, it looked like I trying to do number two into the bottle, which made everyone laugh, and I suppose I acted a bit… but then everyone else had to take a turn and let me tell you, it wasn’t very lady-like! Joyce was interested in my tree planting career and later about our African adventures. Her husband was an electrician, so helpful for us to know, he was an accomplished bugler so was in demand during ANZAC Day parades. But he won’t be there to play the Last Post for her.

I’d like to think these were your average people, hard-working, paying their way and with a minimum of fuss. They did more good than harm throughout their lives and they raised good kids. They died not owing anything having contributed where they could, yet they’re mere shadows unless you knew them… but that’s the way life is. We’ve seen those movies and read the books about the fountain of youth and how crooks yearn the key to everlasting life… of all the people I know who have reached their dotage, none were the slightest bit interested in the concept.


Submitted: September 26, 2021

© Copyright 2021 moa rider. All rights reserved.

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