Childhood memories

I was at Moonambil for about three weeks, and by the end of the visit I was a reasonably proficient rider. One afternoon near the end of my visit we had to take some sheep in for crutching. This involved riding several miles to the paddock with the sheep, rounding them up and taking them several more miles to the shearing sheds, then riding home again. It was a very sultry thundery afternoon, and when I looked over to the girls I was amazed to see that their hair, and the horses manes, were standing straight out from their bodies, so strong was the electric field in the air. The country was dead flat, and there was no cover of any sort, so if lightning had struck we would have been sitting ducks. There was nothing to do but go on, but the horses were most uncomfortable, and rather hard to handle.

After we had settled the sheep in the holding pens we set off for home. When we came to the first gate I went through first, and then I let my horse have his head. He was not supposed to be galloped, but he took off full bore. I had never ridden a horse at a gallop before, and it was a most exciting ride. It was surprisingly comfortable, and I was sufficiently confident in the horse that I was not at all worried, though the girls were terrified that he would not stop at the next gate. However by then he worked off his excess energy, and happily stopped when I asked him.

This was at the peak of the Korean War, and wool had reached the astronomical price of 240 pence per pound. All the cockies (sheep farmers) had paid off their overdrafts for the first - and last - time in their lives, and were rushing out buying new cars. Despite this they resented the demands of the shearers, and my uncle complained bitterly that the shearers had inner spring mattresses on their beds (which they occupied for three weeks a year) but the family still didn't have them in the homestead. They also expected steak and eggs three meals a day, while we lived on elderly mutton.

The shearers were there for several days for the crutching, and I was surprised when they announced that as I was going to University I could work out the pay. I was even more surprised when nobody made any attempt to check my figures. I think the pay rates were something like £10 per 100 ewes, and five shillings each for rams. Each shearer put in his tally, and I had to work out all their pays. I don't think there were any taxes or other expenses to deduct, so the maths was fairly simple.

Shortly before I was due to go home my father discovered that Engineers had to start their course two weeks before everybody else, so he arranged for me to fly home. The first leg was from from Coonamble to Tooraweenah, over the Warrumbungles, and the plane was a little seven seater plane with a row of cane chairs down one side of the aisle. Then I flew to Sydney, and on to Melbourne in DC3s. There was a strong west wind blowing and there was a lot of turbulence as we flew at a low height over the Blue Mountains. It was the first time I had flown, and the journey took the better part of the day. Naturally my cranky digestion lived up to its reputation!

As we flew into Mascot Airport (just out of Sydney) the Harbour Bridge towered above everything else, but 30 years later when I flew into Sydney one morning there was a low ground fog, which completely hid the bridge, but all the new skyscrapers stuck up through it.

 © Roger Riordan 2004-2019