Written by Kirsty Williams, Mount Sarah Station
I was nervous with George starting kindy given all he wants to be when he grows up, “is a worker!” But easing into kindy days bit by bit, stretching the time out longer and longer over the weeks (and a few bribes of toy tractors and the like) saw him make it until lunch time come the end of his kindy year. Last year it was school, and whilst he was happy for the days to end and tried to stretch out lunch where he could, he was never unhappy to go into the school room. And his little brother Jack also enjoyed him going to school… as every toy in the house became fair game come 8:30am.
Given the unfortunate run of seasons we and many others have had, there’s one thing kids do and that is keep you grounded. Whilst you can sit and stress about the fact it won’t rain, the kids are up before the sun in full flight, ready to get amongst it– wanting to know why, when, what and who. Whether it’s dry times or not, their curiosity about all things doesn’t dwindle – questions about why the trees smell funny, what made that track in the dirt, why did that dog die, how long the eggs take to hatch, why aren’t you mustering that paddock, when’s it going to rain and so on.
The kids help out wherever they can, yes because they know no different but also because they love it. They have every opportunity to use their imagination, they know where their food comes from, they understand things are born, and things die. They understand that rain is important. Whatever hurdles we have living where we do, the lifestyle often means the kids are mature beyond their years as they are very aware of real issues, such as drought.
Seeing young kids helping feed stock is not something done for a photo to put on social media, it is possible the feeding has happened for days, weeks, months or maybe years before that particular photo was taken. Recently George, at the tender age of five, quietly said while I was getting tea ready, “I know what I would like for my birthday Mum!” I thought, “Oh beauty, I love it when they can give me ideas” but his response left me speechless. “A Rain Making Machine… to make Dad happy!” My eyes welled up and I just smiled. Without even knowing, they learn that we all have responsibilities and a role, a purpose – building a work ethic that is instilled in them from an early age and an understanding that nothing comes without hard work and that there are hurdles in life.
Only this week, Cam managed to reduce the length of his thumb somewhat after getting it crushed. As we were walking out the door to drive into the local community to meet the Flying Doctor plane that was coming for retrieval, Cam went in and gave the kids a kiss goodnight and to say “see ya”. In the bleariness of sleep, Lucy at seven called out as he walked out of the room, “I love you Dad… don’t forget to take your thumb with you!” which was sitting in a zip lock bag on the cupboard. The words came out as if she was reminding him to not forget his toothbrush… they just take it in their stride.
As the saying goes, you can take the kids out of the country, but you can’t take the country out of the kids. You can pick country kids a mile away when in town for face-to-face school events. They might be in their ‘good’ clothes, but the bush stature and talk doesn’t get left at home. A spare bedroom in our house has been relegated to house the kids toy trucks, yards and cows which is now known as “THE Cattle Station!” The talk that comes from the room is intense: “Copy channel Jack, I just have to head back to camp to fix a couple of tyres,” “Roger”, “Whoa jeepers that’s a cheeky bullock that one”. The same conversations are had as they ride around the veranda on their bikes.
Last year I asked our kids to write a letter to Father Christmas. George came back to me with, “two pocket knives, a new bike helmet, a cricket set, a new saddle, new blue truck with Mt Sarah on the side, three new trailers with a loading ramp to load another trailer, new riding boots, roller blades, some ‘Mum’ white cows and bulls and calves and… a million dollars!” Nothing like ambition to get in the way of reality! And Lucy: “new reigns and a halter, new lace up riding boots, six pocket knives and a phone…”. As for Jack the three-year-old when asked: “whatever George is getting!”
The pocket knife order was a tricky one. A few months before Cam had let George have his pocket knife for the afternoon to stop a meltdown about something else that had been confiscated (which I wasn’t aware of). I was doing the dishes and looked out the kitchen window to see George holding the somewhat willing family dog, about to attempt his very first earmark! Banging on the window close to breaking point, a very sheepish boy very quickly walked away from the dog. I said, “if I see you cutting anything living with that knife again, that’s it!” No sooner had I said that and I look out another window and see him carving his name in the biggest gumtree in the centre of the yard. That was “IT!”
The diversity that’s living in the bush brings is tough at times, but the tough times are what brings you together as a family. Last January when things seemed like they couldn’t get much worse with water problems, Cam made sure he was home for the afternoon for George’s fifth birthday. With the kids swimming until nearly dark, we were not far off retreating for tea and birthday cake when the fuel truck rolled through the gates. Still with the temperature over 40 degrees and because it’s what you do when you live in the country, we invited the truckie in to join us for tea. So, there with us, we had a truckie wearing his blue singlet and plugger thongs, a beard that made him look he would be right at home on a Harley Davidson and with sweat dripping off places I didn’t even know could sweat, having a birthday dinner. The kids dragged him off to show them what George got for his birthday which then turned into a tour of this room and that room as they tried to dig out their Christmas presents to show their audience. It might not be much for some, but for us it’s nothing short of character building.
Today as I put down an egg on toast in front of Jack for breakfast, he looked at me and with his three-year-old serious face and big eyes and said, “Bloody hell Mum you’re a good cooker…” The kids probably don’t realise and I think we may not stop and think about it often enough, but even though some days may be long, the years are definitely short and we are so damn proud of the little people they are and the huge hearts they have.