The Mooloo farming experience (see previous blog) turned out to be a disaster for our family. Eric had purchased the farm believing a rural atmosphere would assist in recovery of his health. After all he’d engaged share croppers to do the hard yards during his recovery period. But the army still had to be fully demobilized in the late 40’s and there was an acute labor shortage Australia wide. Our share croppers got a better offer and left soon after their having moved in. Eric the city slicker became an instant farmer!
Now there were some good outcomes from that experience. Eric later commented it was the sudden exposure to hard physical work that snapped him out of his health crisis. Unfortunately these were drought years and the family anxiously watched as drought, low prices and inexperience began a slow erosion of family fortunes. Two years into drought Eric’s long term friends in the banking community gently broke the news he was heading for a credit crunch they’d not be able to help him through. Having been a successful businessman before our farming fiasco Eric decided to trade his way out of the looming crisis.
As there was no money to be made in keeping animals or growing crops in those years it was a surprise to learn there was still a good demand for rural property. He decided to sell his 270 acre Mooloo property, downsize to a smaller property through trading, pay off debts, stock and crop the new property and sell it off for profit. We moved to Macintosh Creek 7 miles from Gympie. That turned out to be a formula for success so he added a pineapple plantation at another rural community Kin Kin to his collection and purchased a timber hauling business going cheap at the time. Our family fortune was on the up and up once more and Eric was enjoying himself immensely.
It was while we were located at Macintosh Creek I made it into High School. Each day I’d cycle the seven miles to Gympie High. I’ve some vivid memories of my High School experiences. One of my teachers was a shell shocked ex army officer who delighted in telling us his war experiences. Stories of impaled soldiers who’d fallen onto sharpened bamboo dugouts prepared by the enemy got him most animated. He had a violent temper and was a total fruitcake even if he knew his stuff scholastically. Like I said there was a labor shortage, and in today’s world he’d never be employed. We were terrified of him, the slightest noise would have him glowering over us and pulling a student by the scruff of the neck from his desk to be thrown outside the classroom. I’d often find myself standing outside the classroom nervously glancing at the long line of others who were standing rigidly at attention waiting to be summonsed back inside.
It was with a great deal of relief we came to the end of the year and were transferred to the next level. We students discovered a knot hole in the wooden floor while playing under that school classroom at recess. This hole permitted entry of the long broom handle used to clean cobwebs. We further discovered that inserting the handle and giving the desk above a good knock would send our violent former teacher into a towering rage. Unfortunate students who happened to occupy that desk would try desperately to prevent the broom handle from doing its evil work, but to no avail. The combined push of all of us hidden under the school classroom would eventually prevail, and another student would fly out the classroom door.
I have to confess I lacked maturity in those mid teen years and continued to look for any opportunity for mischief. Our chemistry classes proved to be of interest. We learned certain combinations produced foul smells and checked our findings in other classes we attended, watching with interest as students evacuated to the nearest door or window gagging trying to escape those noxious fumes. We also learned certain chemical combinations produced a magnificent explosion. That we tried on the Principal’s letterbox and were rewarded by the first launch into space of a letterbox. Who said the Russians were the first to launch into space?
Now there were two ways for me to return home from High School each day. The first was via Jones’ Hill, and the second was through a developing suburb called Southside. Both routes crossed the Mary River. Soon there was only one choice for me. On the Jones’ Hill side lived a feral family whose children must each have been kicked in the head by a horse at birth. They were plentiful, and ranged in age from 6 to 21. Their sport was to wait for the returning High School kids late evening, rush out and poke sticks into the spokes of bicycles slow enough to be vulnerable. Everyone did their best to avoid the family, and it’s doubtful their children went to school. We could usually rush past them kicking out as we went to fend off sticks, but eventually one of the early teen ferals caught me and my wheel imploded. It was a very long walk back home pushing my wounded bicycle over those dirt country roads. Eric made a quick trip to town with the bicycle and bought me a new wheel. I was advised to pedal faster next time.
The Jones’ Hill route was the shortest, so we High Schoolers from Macintosh Creek decided to give that route another try next day. The chief attraction of the route was a shop at Jones’ Hill where we could satisfy our thirst at this half way point. Well we managed to whiz past the ferals on the way, but to our horror on emerging with our ice creams from the shop there they were waiting outside for us with big grins on their faces. A glorious fight ensued in the middle of which my peace loving Father Eric arrived for some household provisions. He preached a sermon on tolerance and forgiving, promising that if each of us made friends he would buy all a round of drinks and ice cream. The ferals responded with a four letter word which shocked his puritan upbringing to the core. He departed offended, leaving us to settle the matter between ourselves.
While we managed to survive the battle with minor wounds, the word was put out that the ferals’ big brothers would be waiting for us next afternoon. That ruled out Jones’ Hill and the ice cream shop for the rest of my High School days. We took the long road too and from school from then on.
While Eric’s purpose in acquiring the Macintosh Creek property was to fence, stock, crop and sell, we did have chores to do each day as children, and there were interesting sights to see. I remember the birth of twin calves which were tiny because of their premature delivery. Eric named the first calf to be delivered Atom, which because of size made a lot of sense. Sister Jan wanted to name the second one Eve. In her child’s mind it made sense; Atom and Eve!
Our stay at Macintosh Creek was a relatively brief one. Once the property had been improved and sold Eric moved us back to town where he could more easily direct his growing timber hauling business.
“© Copyright Ian Grice 2011, all rights reserved”