1950 Mooloo property

Steve sat on a rock looking out over his domain. This was the same rock he’d rested on when the real estate agent had finished walking him over the three hills gracing this property five years earlier. He smiled as he let his imagination take over.

The property had been lush green. He’d hardly contained his excitement on that initial visit looking out over herds of cattle contentedly munching on that expanse of grassland. On the hill opposite he remembered lingering to sample the fruit of macadamia and mango plantations. On the last hill had been a substantial banana plantation, now overgrown and unattended but standing bravely in the midst of cursed thorn bushes. Could that be revived he’d wondered hopefully?

It had taken more courage than he’d imagined he had to ride the steel wire flying fox from that hill to packing sheds just to his right. The agent had cheerfully set the lead laughing as he went. In the past it had been the primary vehicle to move produce from each hill to the packing shed. The agent had been raised in this area and retained his love of the land and spirit of adventure.

Steve was one of the casualties of the second world war. Well he hadn’t been to the fighting front and he hadn’t been wounded but he had been damaged by the day and night work during the conflict. This was to be his peaceful haven, a place to regain his strength and will to face the brave post war world.

He shook his head with disbelief as he recalled that fateful decision to buy into farming. It was something he’d never done before but anyone who could survive the turbulent depression years followed by equally turbulent years of war could handle anything he’d reasoned. It all looked so peaceful, an ideal place for healing to begin.

He glanced down the first valley to the earth dam he’d constructed. It had taken weeks to complete the project and in the process he’d nearly lost his life. The tractor rolled throwing him only inches from its path down the slope. He’d limped to the neighbouring property for help in getting that tractor righted. It was the dry season and Steve had waited anxiously for the first rains. They came with unusual force that year and he’d watched as a powerful surge from the hills swept his hard work into a neighbour’s property.

But Steve was a survivor. When the rains finished that year he rebuilt the dam, and he’d learned by trial and error how to manage herds. The hard physical work preparing farm products for sale had improved his health but learning the trade had been costly. His life savings had taken a hit when he purchased this property, and hit a downward spiral as he learned to farm.

Neighbours had helped all they could in that process, sometimes shaking their heads privately at his lack of knowledge in this new venture. They’d learned their techniques from family who’d done this for generations and knew it was hard enough for them, almost overpowering for a novice.

And the dam had held tight during next seasons flood from the hills. Steve had stood in the rain watching his dam fill to just under the brim. The carefully constructed channel had taken surplus runoff away from and around the dam to protect it this time. His chest swelled with pride as he viewed his handiwork. This would protect his farm from the ravages of drought.

Steve came back to reality. That was then, this was now.  He focused on his three bare hills now devoid of grass. These hills had enticed him to purchase the farm some years earlier in happier times because of their luxurious growth. The drought had ravaged his land and affected crops. Irrigation had to be restricted now. Cattle that hadn’t been sold off had to wade through a lengthy knee deep mud to get to the brown water remaining in the centre of the dam. A couple had bogged down in the process and had to be retrieved with ropes and the help of neighbours. The last crop of vegetables had been rejected by wholesalers as not good enough quality to entice buyers. And to cap it all off his bank was talking about pulling in the overdraft.

Steve was a survivor. All he needed was time, and that being grudgingly given by his banker friend he cast around for a way out. And by some miracle it happened. An entrepreneur brought by the agent saw this property not as a place to produce but a place to sell off in parts at a profit. He had money, he could wait out the drought and make more money out of the deal.

So this was the last time for Steve to sit on his rock. It had served him well over years orienting to farming. He’d rested on it in better times looking over his property with satisfaction as he considered improvements made. While farming had taken his money it had yielded something of much greater value, his health regained.

He’d learned a valuable lesson too. Without money good seasons are not enough to tide you over bad.

To be sure of future survival he’d taken note of the philosophy of his entrepreneur benefactor. From that point forward he’d build his wealth again by buying, improving, stocking and selling to those who had the staying power to weather floods and drought, because they were born to that life and knew no other.

“© Copyright Ian Grice 2016 All rights reserved




12 thoughts on “Steve

  1. Grandpa owned a large herd of cattle in Johore, Malaysia, before the Japanese war robbed him of his wealth and more. I grew up in a kampong (village) in Singapore. Hard life but a happy life – or perhaps, I’ve merely retained the flowers and discarded the thorns. I’ve always mused that I would buy a hobby farm and retire in Australia, until the writing bug got to me.
    A simple story, unpretentious, about Steve who has done well for himself. With good health, he has opened a new chapter in his life. I’m happy for him. In some ways, I can relate to Steve.
    As usual, I enjoyed some turns of phrases:
    ‘lengthy knee deep mud’ – very visual
    ‘a powerful surge from the hills’ – kinetic
    Thank you, Ian, for this serving,

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Eric. While the story is fiction I’ve drawn on what I observed while on a farm growing up. The scenery I used as a backdrop was our farm. Three mountains! We got a lot of good exercise climbing those hills to the far reaches of the property. As you can imagine heavy rain produced some powerful surges and we did have an earth dam wiped out. I do remember cattle being bogged down and having to be taken out with ropes. I have some good friends in Singapore who were raised in kampongs. They are excellent cooks and great fun to have around.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. My husband grew up on a farm in South Dakota. All his relatives were farmers and managed to survive (only just) drought and other weather calamities. Regardless he had a happy fulfilled childhood and parents who were content. Yet my husband’s generation, including him, left the land and the few who remain farm as a hobby alongside another “real” job. There are a number of Mennonite colonies in the area who are flourishing and buying up land. It makes me wonder if today’s generation of independent farmers want to much and take too much; or did the increase in life expectancy in childhood mean that when there were so many children that most had to leave as the farm could only support one family. I feel for Steve, no WWII success story like “A Town Like Alice.”

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Competition in the supermarkets whereby they feel they have to screw their suppliers down to the point where it is not possible to cover costs is one problem. The only way for farming to be cost effective now is the large industry style farming complexes so that knocks out the little guys again. Yes most small holdings are hobby farms now with the owner having that real job you referred to. 🙂 I spent some time growing up on a farm and it was a great life for kids. We didn’t mind chipping in to help the family survive in those days.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. this a realistic story of farming as it seems to be today. I couldn’t help but feel for Steve as he sat on that rock and re lived the past. There must be many Steve stories like that. You have portrayed it in a realistic way. It was a good read.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Barb. Watching scenes like this as one grows up gives a deep appreciation of the resilience of those who live off the land. They are the backbone of any country.


    1. In today’s world the small farmer can’t survive if he makes that his living. The supermarket chains screw down prices for farm products to the point where he just can’t make it. So we are seeing farming industrialised to gain economies of scale that make it worthwhile and profitable.

      Liked by 1 person

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