My father, who I had only seen once, (at the wedding) since I was seven, out of the blue, made contact. I was surprised, when I picked up our phone and heard him inviting us to come for a visit. It also threw me into a quandary about what to do, as long ago, I had decided not to ever bother with him. However, mostly out of curiosity, I decided to accept his invitation.
Now re-married, to the ‘tramp’ as Nana called the one he ran away with, they were living with a new baby, my half brother, in a house-bus on some land at Paraparaumu. He was still doing his poultry moneymaker, raising turkeys, and planning to build a new house.
On our next Sunday break, we took our little boy and spent an awkward, rainy afternoon, crammed up together in his house-bus. With nothing in common to talk about and heaps unable to be said, to be polite, I sadly felt no connection with my now stranger father. In my head, I couldn’t get past how he had left us to grow up alone and poor, while mum struggled working two jobs to raise us.
As we were leaving, he asked me to stay in touch, but I thought this would be a slap in mum’s face, hurting her feelings. It just didn’t seem right to me, that after all the hard times mum and us kids went through, he got to just come back into my life, as if nothing had happened. I knew he was alluding to his deserting us, his first family, when he told me, ‘an old head on young shoulders can’t be put’. It was as if he was hinting, I was too young to understand but he had an excuse for abandoning us.
On the drive home, my childhood prayer to God to get him to return, came to mind, and I felt sorry that after all this time, it was too late.
Having a hard time making ends meet on Farmer Fred’s wages, we decided at the end of the milking season, when the cows were put out to pasture to await their new calves, we would have a change. Geoff applied for and got a new position with slightly more pay on a farm called, ‘Mahoe Stud’ up the line a bit, at Turakina. The manager’s name was Ivan and as well as doing milkings, they bred highly prized stud bulls.
Our new older and rougher workers cottage, made Farmer Fred’s corrugated iron box look like a palace, which I wouldn’t have thought possible until I saw it. The rodents had well and truly taken over, having had the run of the place to themselves for some time.
After we moved in, we set about cleaning up the house and property. My husband laid out mouse-traps and bait in the cupboards where the mice had made themselves at home. Checking out the water tank supplying the house revealed a possum who had come to a sticky end, floating on top of the water. He must of fallen in through the hole, and not being able to get back out, turned up his toes.
My husband also dug over the garden and planted some veggies. Our little boy just beginning to toddle, liked standing at a low window looking outside to watch his father working in his garden.
Along with the usual farm duties and milkings, my husband helped care for their magnificently, impressive, looking, newly imported pedigree bull. It was a bit scary to me that our cottage was directly across the road from the paddock, where, this massively over sized big black boy lived. I just hoped he never got the idea in his head to go walkabout.
A lot of time and effort went into keeping this very high maintenance beast looking his best. His grooming had to be top notch each time he was paraded around the Agriculture and Pastoral show rings all over our area. Having him strutting his stuff and winning ribbons was the best advertising they had to keep the orders for his services and highly prized calves, rolling in.
Following in the footsteps of whoever long ago, decreed ‘Mondays’ to be ‘washday’, I similarly embarked on this weekly, day long boil up of linen and clothing, marathon. At the end of the day, I finished, soaked to the skin wet, and exhausted by the hard work.
Alternating between trips back and forth to the woodpile to feed the fire hole under the large round copper tub in the wash-house, with using the long wooden pole, to stuff batches of clothes under its bubbling, red hot, steaming water was hard going. Also difficult, was avoiding the hot splashes when doing the poking under or fishing out of the clothes.
After their cook up, they got dropped into a concrete tub, full up with cold water for a rinse. A sizzling steam explosion was set off every time a load of the red hot clothes hit the cold water.
Whites, had to be given an extra special second rinse, using ‘Reckitts’ little blue bags. Whatever they had inside, these little bags tied up with string turned the water blue, making the whites appear whiter. An essential trick to avoid every housewife’s shame, grey colored whites. The ‘old wives tales’ also reckoned the bags were good for putting on bee stings.
It was beyond the development of my muscles to turn the handle of the wringer attached onto the tub, to feed big stuff, like our ‘Evans’ double linen sheets, through. I just had to lug all the bigger items dripping wet to the clothesline.
Each year, Turakina, put on a day of highland games, traditional Scottish activities, at their local sports ground. Not only the locals – who declared it a day off – but a large crowd of outside visitors turned out to enjoy a popular fun day and picnic under shady old trees in lovely country surroundings.
The background music, rather hard on the ears as the day wore on, was provided by Kilt, skirted men, blowing, pumping and squeezing bagpipes, their squeals setting the tone for some rather unusual fun activities.
Costumed, Scottish and Irish lasses were, tippy toe, thumping away, on raised wooden stages doing traditional dances. Big brawny men who fancied their luck, were giving it a go, with some of the weird Scottish games.
Tossing the caber was one event, I recall, not for sissies they reckoned, it required, picking up a power pole look alike, running with it flat tack to build up momentum, before tossing it with an almighty, exhaling shout to send it flying through the air end over end, to land as far away as possible. Another challenge involved, what looked like very large as dinner plates, flat river stones. The contestant spinning round and round on the spot, before letting go and chucking it as far as possible.
The highlight of the day was a ‘tug of war’ between two teams of the biggest and weightiest men to be found. They faced off, by lining up on opposite ends of a thick heavy rope, surrounded by their mobs of cheering supporters loudly egging them on. The menfolk, not wanting their egos dented, struggled desperately, straining and grunting, to not give up any ground, while attempting to drag their opposition side over the center line.
Once more, at the end of the milking season we moved on for a bit bigger pay packet. This time to a dairy farm in the Wairarapa, at Featherston, which was on the opposite side of the Rimutaka Hill road from the Hutt Valley. This gave me a bit more support as our Wellington rellies had the opportunity to visit more.