Today was an avalanche of the fuckers – tees, elles, ays ‘n esses like an angry swarm of hornets from dawn to dusk. Amongst them, was the getting to of the holy grail of them all, last post. Which didn’t keep me awake last night, but could have. The thing was, I’d seen it yesterday, driven right past it, a rust-coloured length of 79 ml drill-pipe, baking in the mid-day sun. At the time, I had no idea it would take on such ginormous proportions. But it was too late.
There was nothing remarkable about it. It was just a damned lump of steel, one of many thousands the old Aussie-Driver and me had thumped into the ground over the past two decades or so. Even so, I couldn’t get it out of my mind. It would lay like a snake in the grass, daring Murphy to initiate a frayed cable or burst hydraulic line before I got to it. What it didn’t know was that I’d faced down a similar dilemma fifty years ago, and won through. It was just a matter of planning.
At 15, I’d made a deal with dad. Correction. Dad dealt, I nodded. Whatever. I could drop out after the school-certificate exams provided I pulled my socks up. Fine. The next day, I made a red-texta cross mid-November ’72 on the fridge calendar. Big mistake! Each morning it mocked me like a devil’s eye. If I cowered behind the family size Kellogg’s cornflakes box, it even spoke! Ha! 63 days to go!
In the end, the answer was simple, just as it proved to be in the here and now, five decades later. Back then ‘socks’ was the key word. Ooh yeah! They needed to be pulled up big time. Which tended to tip the scales to even-steven. After all, sixty odd days was infinity. But when socks sink to the depths that mine had, 60 days was 60 very busy ones spent pulling them back up!
Of a night, instead of study and homework, I’d been sneaking out to join Pete, Scotty and sometimes Jayne from across the street for midnight raids at Wordsworth’s Strawberry’s on the outskirts of town (Young). Not so much for strawberries. Rather, for the adrenalin rush of barking dogs and torchlights, and the inevitable scramble for cover. On one memorable occasion, the moon shone bright on Jayne’s left buttock after we vaulted the barbed wire perimeter fence. On the long walk home, it was gentlemen first, of course.
Barrett’s chicken-farm /cherry orchard was fair game too. This one for payback. In the dead of night, with insider knowledge for access, the fun of it was to pelt eggs into the stinking lava-flows beneath banks of chicken cages. In our minds, there was rough justice in every sunken bum-nut for the tortuous few weekends Scotty and I had spent shovelling chook-poo for four dollars a day. A paltry wage, but nevertheless, more than enough for a regular supply of Viscount tens, and the occasional Alpine twenties. Jayne preferred menthol. Sometimes I paid, other times Scotty or even Pete who was most often skint. Nothing was ever said. But I knew, and they knew, that it was all about keeping Jayne puffing along with us in the shadows. Each one of us shared the titillating memory of her torn levis and moonlit left buttock!
Then there were garbo-bin nights of a Wednesday (don’t ask!), patches of dry grass in vacant allotments screaming for a match, and tin roofs that ached to be rocked. When I think back on those heady days, my socks had sagged so low, they were swallowed by my shoes.
So…. with similar strategy foremost in my mind, I packed my sangers this morning and headed off with Lachie for work. Lachie was another last. He gets the gong for last worker. Rob’s plan was to be last, but when he decided to travel on late September, it was Bradley, Bruggo (John), Oscar, Graham, then Lachie. Further back, there was Dylan, Brett, Denise, Becky, Shane, Lou (Louise), Matt, Paddy, Josey, Mike, Paddy # 2, John, Ben, Mark, José, Paddy # 3, Anthony, Shaun, Will, Rudi, Kate, Tessa, Jeff, Joe, Chris (# 1,2 and 3), Xandra, David, Marta, Veronica, Adrian, Tina, Ingar, Jeremy. These were the ‘stayers’ amongst the many more, the ones that at least got beyond sunset, day one!
When Lachie and I arrived at last job – a bore-enclosure cum cattle-cooler, there was no Kellogg’s cornflakes box to be seen, nor round-shouldered kelvinator with a devil’s eye stamped mid-November ’72. But the same mocking laughter was everywhere. It was then that I forged a strategy.
While Lachie welded, I fired up the tractor and drove last post first! Then I mixed it up all through the morning. There would be no last post in mind until I got to it. In desperation, Murphy slipped underground, and began to relocate rocks. But it was all too late. Last post was driven, and the nasty little imp went sniveling back to Limerick.