WRIGHT, Glory Carmen - I790

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written by Glory Wright

Glory Carmen Wright Glasscock

Note: Glory is the seventh of ten children born to Sid and Ina Inez Smith Wright and wife of Frederick Holland Glasscock.

Definitions

  • Pup is the nick-name the children used to refer to their father, Sidney Garden Wright.
  • Ina Inez Smith Wright Mum
  • Wherever a question mark is inserted it indicates the source was illegible.
  • Lillipillis--The plant – scientific name Syzygium smithii; also written lilly pilly, lilipili and lily pily, among other spellings – is grown extensively throughout Australia for shade or screen, its dense, glossy green leaves providing color and concealment year-round; it produced a tasty fruit.
  • Araluen goldfields -- Araluen was once one of the most famous gold towns in New South Wales located on the New South Wales South Coast.
  • Ingersoll, refers to Robert G., according to Wikipedia, his nick-name was The Great Agnostic; he was a popular writer. In the Humanist circuit, he is most popular with his book WHY AM I AN AGNOSTIC? Published in 1889. After reading Ingersoll’s writings Sid Wright abandoned faith in religion which greatly distressed his wife and parents.

Wallamba Childhood

Glory’s story begins in the neighbor’s orchard, near their home, Silver Fern, in New South Wales, probably about 1911, when Glory was eight, and Edgar about eleven. Glory gives a glimpse into Sid and Ina’s family life and some insight into the ups and downs they endured after Sid rejected becoming the pastor of the Reorganized Church at Tuncurry. Silver Fern, a large property he owned near the Wallamba River, was the first home he took his American bride, Ina Inez Smith, in about 1892. After a short time they moved about three miles, across the hills to Fairview, where he operated one of his father’s saw mills. The children were elated when they moved back to Silver Fern, but Ina, not so much. Even so, there they remained, even after enduring a devastating range fire. They worked hard and raised all of their ten children to adulthood, saw them well educated and settled in their own families. Glory was very proud of her family heritage and shared it with honesty, charm and humor.

A copy of this story was shared by Nancy Wright Rogers and validated by Glory’s daughter, Marcia Joan Gilbert. This excerpt is presented here with some editing and spelling corrections by [https://www.josephsmithsr.com/getperson.php?personID=I1382&tree=josephsmithsr Gracia N. Jones.

Chapter 1

“Lord I thank you, because Mr. Williams didn’t have any kids to gorge on this fruit before we came!” My brother Edgar halted a purple passion fruit before his sharp teeth and look piously toward the sky as he spoke. I giggled, “Like as if the Lord had anything to do with growing fruit or kids either!” “You Infidel!” said my brother, imitating Pup’s (our father’s) best pulpit manner, “He doth mark the sparrow’s fall!”

“What’s an Infidel?”
“I dunno, but Granma and Mum say that’s what Pup is growing to be since he started reading these new books with the baldheaded man and “Ingersall” written on the cover.”
“Yes, I heard Grandma, she was real made last time she came up from Tuncurry. She said it was bad enough when Pup left the Ministry to take up land, but to believe in such stuff was disgraceful and God would surely punish him!”
“I bet, you’d be mad too if you spent no end of money sending your son to Newington College, then America to be a minister and he goes and gets married over there, comes home and says he’s going on the land and no more preaching!”
“I suppose Granma was wild because she likes everything her own way—so does Pup—I heard Aunty Allie say that he gets more than his ginger hair and temper from her! Anyway it’s a good job he got his own way about us coming back to “Silver Fern” to live! I’m glad Mr. Williams let the place go to the dogs so Pup had to come back!”

Edgar feigned horror, “Wicked child rejoicing over the sins of another!”
“I don’t care! I’m glad now but I did some sweating on the three mile walk over today- all the time we were drinking at that truck rut, I was thinking, “What if a dingo that had been eating old Baldy’s remains had drunk there before us and some of the strychnine had dropped off his jaws into the water?”
Edgar laughed, “Silly! That water only feel there from the thunder storm in the morning before we started. Anyway, dingoes drink at quiet creeks, not on bullock roads where the scent of man would be!”
I got up and shook the empty passion fruit skins out of my pinny, “I’ve had enough of these, let’s go and try the preachers!” We walked about a dozen yards down the ridge, turning past the pig sty into a grove of peach trees all laden with fruit, pink and cream beneath its blanket of down. We climbed up a veteran tree and perching on a swaying limb we fell to with fresh zeal. From the branch of the tree I could see the flat below us, then the creek with its fringe of lillipillis, ironweeds and blossoming wattles. Beyond lay the tall trees of Uncle Ern’s paddock—a quarter-mile strip of forest land that stood between the main road and our cleared paddocks. Behind us rose the mountains, green with dense brush and here and there the scarlet of a flame tree.

The breeze caught the Kangaroo grass that stood waist deep on the flat, it swayed in tawny ripples like the water in Tuncurry bay. The warm sun was everywhere. The peach juice ran down my fingers. “God! Edgar, was there ever such a place before?” I exulted. “Fancy, Mum not liking this, not wanting to come back to it from lousy old Fairview?” Edgar’s mouth was seizing peach but he made himself audible, “Yes, but Mum came here in a bullock dray twenty years ago. She came from a big American city—there was only a little slab house stuck down in a clearing just big enough for it then. Pup was away at the mill all day and she only had that silly Jane Thomas for company. Claude and Vida were babies then and remembers the wengas feeding at the door. One day Pup came home and mounted guard with two rifles. Jimmy Govner, the bushranger was reported to be cutting across country through here then. Maybe you would have liked that—maybe you wouldn’t have been homesick and howled for your mother? Mum remembers those days and that’s why she didn’t want to come back.” “But Pup says it will be different now-she’s got we nine children to keep her company.” Edgar chuckled, “Mum says Pup mistook the word, he should have said “a hopping” anyway if he gets a good price for the next lot of fats, he is going to buy her a piano!” I wondered what a piano would look and sound like as we had never seen or heard any musical instrument except Jimmy Woody’s old concertina and the sweet music of Mum’s voice as she sang us the hymns she used to sing in the church choir in America.

“We might get a governess too, later!”
“Warren says that will be rotten – she’ll always be stuck around the place making you and him clean your teeth and wash behind your ears.” Edgar began pelting a big Berkshire sow, with overripe peaches as she lay dozing in the sun down the ridge from us – pelting as if he were stoning to death the governess in person. “She’ll make you sit down and sew instead of coming out with me and maybe it will do you good—take some of the freckles off your face and stop the sun from making your hair redder. Perhaps she’ll make you a pair of stays so your belly won’t stick out as much!” he teased.

But I refused to be downcast although my eyes stung, “I don’t care who comes or what she does, this is the place for me—I love it, I’ll never leave it and I bet we’ll have the grandest adventures ever here!” And so we came back to the selection where we were to spend a childhood so rich in adventure, laughter and tears the bouquet of it lingers vividly with me still.

Chapter 2.

The day after our arrival was Sunday, to us younger children it held a certain ordeal. Edgar, coming out of the kitchen, smiled me with disgust, “What do you think is for dinner today?”
“I dunno, I was just coming to find out!”
“Roast Chicken, Baked potatoes, and cauliflower – Rhubarb and Tapioca Custard.”
My heart sank, “Oh! Gosh, I’ll never be able to spell them—what’ll we do?” I wailed.
“Vida says if we come in now she’ll help us learn them while she is setting the sponge for the bread.”
Into the kitchen we crept and for ten minutes we struggled with “Caulifi” Not "Calli” – "Rhu” not “Ru”. When dinner time came, we were all seated around the big cedar table and scarcely had the knives and forks began on the succulent fowl before Pup eyed Warren sternly. “Warren, spell Cauliflower!”

Warren, laid down his knife and fork, turned red and blurted out “Corliflower”. The bone handle of Pup’s knife contacted Warren’s head with a crack, “Go and spit it out, look in the dictionary and don’t come back until you know how to spell it. How do you spell it Edgar?”

Edgar rose to his feet and stammered “Cauliflower” and I could have kissed Vida. Later on in the meal, Pup inquired of Mum, “What’s for dessert?” She glanced down the table, drawn perchance by the intensity of my gaze—Vida was out in the kitchen getting hot water, Mum said, “I don’t know for sure, Vida made it, Sage Custard I think!”.
Oh! Most lovely, most precious of mothers! Sang my heart as Pup’s voice reached me, “Glory spell sage!” I licked my lips got to my feet and said, “S-a-g-e-“ Across the table Edgar’s eyes met mine and they had a proud gleam in them like the day I slammed and pegged the stockyard gate behind him when the mad steer was after him. After we had finished a truly excellent meal Warren crept back into the dining room. He “wished his father had been born a bullock, who could only make his mark or we lived on bread and butter and jam!”

Small wonder Vida and Claude had won the Spelling Bee against all comers at the Catholic Bazaar! Perhaps I had better explain who, what and where we were.

We, were the nine children that comprised the family of Sidney and Ina Wright. Our paternal grandfather—John Wright—was born a poor lad in Aberdeen, Scotland. At a tender age he was apprenticed to a cabinet maker, after some years of semi-starvation and sleeping in the shavings, he shipped as a cabin boy to that land of then doubtful promise, Australia. Catching “gold fever” he skipped ship at Sydney and trudged to the Araluen goldfields. Apparently his luck was poor as he drifted North and his first permanent employment was as a foreman carpenter in charge of a gang of convicts working on a Government building at Paterson. His scotch blood asserting itself, he saved money, married Catherine Gill, worked several sawmills with partners and then set up in business for himself at North Forester—now known as Tuncurry—Central North Coast, New South Wales. At the time our store opened he was flourishing exceedingly, with two sawmills, a store and [ship building ?] yards where he built a great many of the small wooden coastal vessels that carried supplies and passengers up from Sydney and back to the city, to sell the fish, and Italian fishermen netted thousands from the teaming waters of Wallis Lake, Wallamba, Coolongelook, Wallaugat and Wang Wauk Riversway that found their outlet to the sea at Forester.

Our father, Sidney, was the oldest son of Old John’s family of eleven and engaged another sawmill at Fairview, twenty miles up the Wallamba River. In conjunction with the management of this mill for Grandpa, Pup fattened cattle on his own selection—Silver Fern—fourteen hundred acres of forest and prime brush land, three miles over the hills from Fairview. We had been residing at Fairview for some years but the time came when Pup had been unable to get a suitable manager for “Silver Fern”, so we had said Goodbye to what constituted Fairview-the twenty ugly wooden houses of the teamsters, the store, the mill and lastly but by no means least, Aunty Allie and Uncle Ted, who lived in their own house down the hill from us and ran the store with acumen and profit. So, we came to the golden day, when “Silver Fern” a house with a large addition that brought it’s rooms to thirteen with long cool verandas, smelling of fresh paint that rivaled in hue the scarlet bougainvillea at Mum’s bedroom door, opened its arms and became Home to a laughing mob of young Australians—although brothers and sister we were an outward appearance as motley as a mob of scrub clean skins mustered for the yearly branding!

Vida [1893-1929] was . . . to me far more beautiful than any princess in the stories Pup often read to us. Fair haired and gray eyed, she spoke slow and quietly. Once I came upon her standing looking out across the Knob Hill—her eyes were wet and I always knew she was unhappy but I could never bring myself to ask Edgar what he thought about it. Maybe it was because Pup was strict and wouldn’t allow her to go to dances like other girls—perhaps she was waiting for a young Lochinvar to come riding out of the West? I often wondered.

Claude [1892-1972] was eighteen, fair, blue eyed and possessing a clear tenor voice. He and Vida had many heated arguments. She said “He was Mum’s snowy-haired boy!" and so he was in every sense of the word. Once Vida tipped a plate of custard all over him and it seemed to ease Vida’s pent up feelings quite a lot. Claude and Le spent their days bush hacking, grubbing and suckering in the various paddocks.

Le [Leland 1995-1977] was sixteen, much darker than Claude, quiet and serious with eyes that danced for joy when something pleased him. He teased me often but many more times dug me out of the corn husks to dab my eyes and blow my nose when the barbs of Mavis, Warren and Edgar had gone deeper than usual. Mavis -- [1897-1960] was fourteen, petite and pretty as a doll but just as spikey as a porcupine. Warren--[1899-1980] was twelve —big headed and stubborn. Edgar always reckoned he was spoiled as just before Byron came, Warren got meningitis—local people said it was from eating moldy bread when we were camped at Black Head beach. He was taken to Tuncurry and after a period of anxious suspense when the dark angel hovered very near, old Dr. Gormley said “A miracle had happened thanks to Mum and Grand’s good nursing and a plentiful supply of ice from the fish works!”

Mum always insisted it was “Divine intervention because of prayer and Faith”. Byron was born shortly after the crisis and I bet Grandma’s house was kind of overflowing! Warren got a gold sovereign from Grandpa the first day he walked around the long dining room table. Edgar always coveted that coin—he would argue – how could we help it if Warren was picked to get meningitis and a sovereign? When we got sick, all we got was a fat does of Caster oil.

Edgar [1901-1961] was ten, tow haired, blue eyed and like a stirred ant’s nest when he got mad! He was my bosom companion most times provided Warren and he didn’t have a hunting expedition on—then I was a girl! I fetched and carried for him and gladly accepted the boxes of his comradeship when he condescended to toss them over his shoulder to me. Then came ME—Glory [1903-1968]—the ugly duckling that never grew into a beautiful swan! The rest of the family had early convinced me I hadn’t one redeeming feature. I was fat, freckled and ginger with a special aptitude for listening to other people’s conversation and spilling the beans at the wrong moment. I was a problem even to myself and had spent most of my eight years either rejoicing at the beauty of those tree clad hills or weeping over the jeers of my more handsome brothers and sisters. Byron [1906-1974] was three years my junior—Warren said “After delivering me, even the Stork thought it was time to take a holiday!" Byron was mousey colored and solemn. He had a passion for beetles and manure heaps. Pup called him “The Bush Naturalist”.

Once we had a visitor from Sydney; she found Byron gazing raptly out the window. She thought he was such a quaint wistful little chap and asked him what he was thinking? He said, “I was just thinkin’ the cows are ‘nursing that paddock really well, down there!” Last in our long family came Marian Inez [1907-1987] —known as Nez, age 3 years and the nearest approach to babies in the picture books I had ever seen. She had golden hair, blue eyes and cheeks like the best peaches in the orchard. Her chief exploits to date had been leaving wet patches on the veranda, cuddling the cat almost to death when she managed to clutch him and sinking her pearly teeth into anyone of us who dared to cross her!

Chapter 3.

Life soon fell into routine in our new home. Pup arose early, saddled Danton and after eating a hurried breakfast gave Mum, Claud and Le their instructions for the day. Then he would ride away to supervise the teamsters, select the timber to be felled for the day then go on to the hill.

We all knew there had been a bitter scene in those years long past, when Pup had declared his intention of leaving the Ministry. Grandpa and Grandma had set their hearts on being able to present their eldest son to God’s Calling. Wasn’t that the greatest symbol of their achievement—These years of slow and hard labor, of semi-starvation and lack of education faded before the knowledge they had reared a family with education who could take their place as competent citizens in this far flung spot of civilization. Grandpa had assured Pup he was quite able and prepared to keep Mum and we children with every comfort provided Pup continued to wear the Cloth. Pup had been adamant, so the dour old Scotchman had said, “Very well, I will employ you to run one of the mills—you will receive the usual salary and commission on the turnover of your mill each six months. You can run the mill in conjunction with your selection otherwise you’ll starve on that land—it’s only timber country—as farmers will never settle here—the day you neglect the mill a new manager will take your place!”

Pup being a chip off the old block, had accepted the challenge and had striven doggedly with a fierce courage to prove that this land was worthy of better treatment, than having its lovely trees torn out of the cool deep gorges and then left unwanted and unloved. No wonder he worked from early morn till the late sun threw the long shadows across the ploughed flats and brown ridges. We saw him come home in the twilight, his clothes stained with the sap from the timber. He was weary—oft times irritable as we waited to open the slip rails for him. One glance at his face gave us our cue how to behave—if his eyes were blood shot we made our selves scarce. If he lifted Byron and Nez up in front of him on the horse, we knew for sure he would read to us that night, tell us a wonderful story or recite to us from the glories of Byron, Shelley or Keats, letting his voice touch the lovely words with almost a caress.

Each day,Mavis, Warren, Edgar and I drove in the old buck board to Keribar Public School. It was a distance of five miles and we had old “Barley” the horse well trained. On the way home we generally got out of the trap and walked the top rails of the split fences or padded in all the gullies. Sometimes we chased fat goannus and black snakes trying to get close enough to belabor them with green cudgels. Old Barley would be jogging along the road and if another vehicle approached he would turn off and let it pass then resume his journey. When Claude and Vida had driven him to school, he always waited on the far side of the long Hill at Fairview, for them to catch up and get in, so Pup and Mum never knew what went on. Now, however we had Uncle’s paddock to screen us as he used to wait for us at the Muddy Gully turnoff. Once a year, when Empire Day was celebrated on good Queen Victoria’s birthday we had a school picnic. Chief item of interest to we younger ones that day was the lolly scramble, which took place in the paddock where the horses of pupils and teacher grazed during school hours. There always seemed to be a scarcity of green grass but an abundance of dead sticks and leaves in that paddock—a little horse manure was neither here nor there in the handful of retrieved lollies!

When we arrived home from school we all had our odd jobs to do but firstly we visited the pantry and after rounds of golden cake and cookies washed down with copious draughts of boiled milk we felt fortified enough to withstand the “Hollow Feelings" (which in our jargon meant we were starving) until the [mealtime] time came. Edgar and I were detailed each afternoon to gather the sticks for lighting fires and to collect the eggs. The gathering of sticks was easy, so was the gathering of eggs, if the older boys had forgotten to chain up the grey and beagle hounds, or a cunning goanna had negotiated the wooden steps that led up to the nest boxes which were located in the lemon trees Pup had planted about the Home paddock. When we had done our appointed tasks we were free to roam the hills, so long as we came home before dark. Sometimes we gathered mauve and white magpie orchids, spotted yam flowers and jack-in-the pulpits, or ate lili-pillis and brush cherries until we got a fine stomach ache. Then there was the excitement of a bundy? coat hunt in the bladey grass in the old orchard or getting a hand spike to work and showing our prowess on the cross burns in the paddock Pup would be burning off.

That first summer I remember on the selection, seemed to fly by on winged feet. Autumn and Winter followed close on its heels but no rain came to fill the diminishing creeks and green the fast browning ridges. Old timers stroked their beards and “Didna like the look a’ things” Water always carefully guarded in the tanks became doubly precious. One morning in the last Spring, Pup told us it would be branding day tomorrow and we would be able to stay at home as he was to ride Barley for the mustering. We watched from the front veranda as the red demons came surging across the flat and up the hill into the high capped stockyards. Some, wild-eyes and snorting, flung themselves against the stout rails but the hardwood never budged an inch.

Mum and Vida made lemon drink by the bucket full and Edgar and I carried it over to the parched and sweating men. Pup said we could stay for a while and watch them brand a heifer—that was just like a man I thought, make a show of a female always!

Outside the yard fence, a fire with a red hot center was burning. Old Jim Jones handled the brands for Pup. How Pup put up with his mistakes we could never understand. Perhaps it was because old Jim couldn’t read or write which was to Pup about as bad as being blind. Pup’s brand was S_W made up of three irons. Claude and Le roped a roan heifer and the rope ran hot around the corner post as she reared and plunged then came head first at the post.
“Take up the slack!” roared Pup. The boys pulled like wild dervishes.
“Woa! She’s right” yelled Pup.
“Wot’ll yer “ave—the” HS or th’ Doubleyer? Shouted old Jim.
“The S.” replied Pup peering through the rails at the brand, “ne, not that one that’s the W!”
“Right this time – here give it to me.” Using the piece of corn sacking for a holder, he seized the red hot brand that changed to a dull blue as old Jim put it through the fence. Pup held it poised for a second above the sleek rump then jabbed quickly down. The Heifer bellowed lustily and the smell of burning hair and hide rose strong above the dust and sweat. Deftly Pup handed the iron back and Jim grabbed the “W” “Right, this time” shouted Pup and the heifer reared again. A change of irons between Pup and Jim again and Pup yelled, “Let her go boys!” as the rope slipped off the heifer’s horns. She ran up the yard, licking her nose and swishing her rump madly with her tail where she carried a neat S_W. etched in brown on her silky hide. I felt sick but Edgar was enjoying it immensely.

The men stopped to drink the lemon drink and eat some sandwiches. Old Jim had a bad burn on his arm. Pup told him to put some salad oil on it. “Joel", yelled Jim to his son, “Bring that Hile over ‘ere!”
“Not Hile Dad but Hoil” he said. Joe had been to school a little and always grieved over his father’s lack of education.
When the refreshments were finished, Claude said, “Will we rope the bull calves now Pup?”
“Yes!” said Pup, “You children better get a move on now.”
On the way back to the house I asked Edgar “Why couldn’t we watch them doing the bull calves?”
He only laughed and wined at Warren who was searching for ticks on Tiny the foxy who seemed paralyzed in the back legs. That was the rottenest thing about boys—they always adopted that superior attitude to girls when it suited them. I asked Vida the same question when I went into the kitchen and she said, “Maybe it’s because they wouldn’t be gentlemen and might splash the manure about!”

Chapter 4.

Summer came again, and still no rain. The creeks were nothing but a few water holes now and the big dam was failing fast. When cattle moved across the flat a cloud of dust arose from where the green and tawny grass had waved us welcome almost two years before. One morning at dawn we were awakened by a teamster knocking on the side veranda, a terrible bush fire was raging over Cocumba way—would Pup come?

Horse saddled, breakfast completed, Pup told us not to go to school as the risk of being caught in the fire or hit by a falling tree was too great. Claude and Le were to let down all the rails in the front paddocks and drive any cattle up to the scrub behind us. Then they were to wait on the edge of my Uncle Ern’s paddock and if the fire came through, as it might because the wind seemed to be veering around, they were to light saplings and branches and try and back fire it. On no account were they to venture into the forest land. The ridge where the house stood and the flat had been burnt off for months as a precaution against fire. We were all to keep watch and if any sparks landed on the house they were to be soused instantly with a damp bag. Mum was to stay in out of the heat and not be alarmed if he did not come home until late or if the fire did sweep across the front paddocks – God knows there was no grass left to burn and the house was quite safe if we kept a watch for sparks.

He rode down the hill with three other teamsters who had unyoked and come to join the firefighters. Mum watched them go, giving a weary little sigh as she gazed down the ridge where the amber rays of the torrid sun threw up the stubbled grass stems in all their drought stricken starkness. Going up the steps to the verandah, Mum tripped and almost fell. “Gee!", I said to Edgar and Warren, “Isn’t Mum getting clumsy lately? Have you noticed what a large abdomen she is getting?”

“Why, don’t you say belly and be done with it?" Asked Edgar.
“Because Mavis told me its vulgar to use such a word—ladies never speak like that!”
Warren laughed, “it says in the dictionary—Belly—that portion of the body between the breasts and the thighs! What’s in the dictionary is good enough for me. Fancy Mavis trying to make a lady out of you!”
“One lady like her will be all the family can stand,” said Edgar, “Talking about large abdomens – did you ever hear of the pot calling the kettle black?"

The affection of my brothers bore me was remarkable but I soon forgot about it when Mum sent us to keep watch on the ten feet high stump that stood in the horse paddock. All morning clouds of smoke blanketed the horizon, the wind became hotter and laden with bits of burnt bark and leaves. All kinds of birds but mostly Rosella parrots flew out of the forest land. Some fell exhausted and perched on the flat and around the house, others flew on in a desperate effort to reach the sanctuary of the mountain bushes. The wind changed for a brief few minutes and we saw Claude and Le with burning branches running along the edge of the parched trees and undergrowth that fringed the forestland. The leaves lit like tinder and the fire tore towards the win road. They had only got the quarter mile below the house lit before a fiery column of new smoke appeared at the far end of the trees.

We rushed into the house yelling to Mum, “The fire is coming through Uncle’s Paddock!” The wind changed again and in a few minutes, Claude and Le, seat soaked and blackened, appeared out of the smoke cloud that engulfed us all! The windows and doors had all been kept shut but inside the house was almost as bad as outside.

We younger ones watched; when our watering eyes and smoke choked lungs permitted us to—from the drawing room windows. Claude and Le thumped and banged with wet bags at sparks and burning bark, that landed on the hardwood walls and verandas. Where the bags couldn’t reach a well minded pannikin of precious water was flung. The heat and velocity of the wind was terrific. One window cracked and the paint peeled and blistered all along the side wall.

Thanks to the cleared paddocks we were safe but the leaping flames tore through tall timber, hissing and searing up the lovely trunks of the tallow weeds, gum and stringy barks, sweeping across us to burn themselves out in the dense brush behind Grandpa’s ? We were safe but how had others fared? Mum was worried despite Pup’s advice.

At sunset a small band of begrimed horsemen came slowly across the flat. They were supporting one of their number on his horse. It was Pup!, Mum ran out to meet them and Charlie Grayson, Pup’s head teamster said, “Don’t be afraid missus, he ain’t hurt so bad—he got knocked down with a burning limb when we was fighting for Murray’s place. Got cut in the back of his head but he’s suffering from exhaustion mostly, he would fight on all day even after that-he’s lost a lot of blood!”

They lifted Pup down and he looked terrible – he was talking silly as a drunk tramp. His lips were dry and cracked, his face filthy and smeared with blood. A hanky that was bound around his head and back of his shirt were soaked with blood. “Bring him into the bedroom,” said Mum with hardly a tremor in her voice, “Vida bring the old linen bag—Claude get a dish of hot water and boric acid—Mavis, make the men some tea and get them something to eat—children go and play!”

Go and Play! When one’s father was brought home like that—blood stained and mumbling weakly, about water and fire—rain and drought! When one had watched in horror what a fire really could do? How could one play when the cracked ground burned one’s tough feet—when that paradise of peace and plenty we had come back to had turned to dust and ashes? Perhaps this was the curse that had come upon Pup for disbelieving what had been written? But we were all being punished. Yes! Didn’t it say “visiting the sins of the fathers on the children?” I crept into the Big barn—I would pray—that Right holy! I knelt down in the corn husks that littered the floor but nothing—no words would come to my lips—I lay down in the husks and wept!

I was awakened by Edgar. “Come and get some tea. Pup’s still sick and raving. Charlie Grayson’s staying tonight—Mum might have to get the doctor from Taree!” He must be very sick now I thought as the Doctor only came out when people were almost dying. Even when an axe slipped, making an awful gash in someone’s leg, they only stuffed cobwebs or flour into it and bound it up.

After tea which consisted of boiled milk, bread, jam and cream—the heat made it impossible to make butter. How the cows produced the milk and cream was a miracle to me as they had a diet of corn husks and water. I crept into the sitting room. The door was open, leading into Mum’s bedroom. Pup could get all the air possible. He lay with his head clean bandaged upon the bed. While Vida fanned him, mum kept wringing cloths out of water and putting them on his head. He was talking wearily but intelligently at the moment. I couldn’t help hearing. Claude, Le and Mr. Grayson were supposed to be reading.

Pup was saying, “Oh Ina! I’m sorry I’ve brought you to this. Ina—it won’t always be like this soon it will rain—rain—if only it would—it will—it must. If only I hadn’t brought you away from your own people. . .” Charley Grayson’s boots hit the floor and his timber stained hand closed the door.

Claude stared straight ahead out into the night, Le’s lips trembled and I became filled with a sudden fear—they were afraid and I had never seen them like that before. What if he would die? Would Death come