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On the Farm and Childhood

As I sat upon the roof,

Savouring the view of the undulating hills,

That grounded me to the place of my childhood,

The heat of the morning sun,

Shimmered before me,

Casting subtle hues of greys through to purple,

Reaching to the horizon separating the hills from the Murray Mallee.

The flat dry land a carpet of golden yellow in stark contrast,

The low rainfall contributing a legacy of dryness and heat to which we were accustomed.

Gazing south the sheds give way to the dirt track,

Bordered by mallee trees and a paddock,

Leading to the shearing shed over the rise,

Providing access to the various paddocks of the farm,

That lay in fallow, crop, or stubble,

According to the three-year cycle of agricultural management,

Sheep found pasture on the stubble and grassed fields prior to being fallowed,

And the few cows for milking and cream stayed in the home paddock behind the mallee scrub.

Looking back to this place where I spent my first twelve years of life,

A special fondness remains imprinted in my memory,

A place so foreign to the place my children and grandchildren know as home.

To the east of the house were the pig sties, the two tanks, a windmill, a towering tree, cactuses, and the fowl houses,

Between those animal areas was an open space of hard packed clay where the three oldest boys played cricket and kicked a football from end to end,

Goal posts were set up at one end and a cricket backstop at the other,

Many hours were spent each week playing the sport of the season,

The house was set back a hundred metres from the main bitumen road,

That ran from Mt. Pleasant to Walkers Flat and to which we walked and waited for the yellow school bus that picked us up at quarter to eight each weekday,

Being at the middle of the run, it took about half an hour to get to school,

Even though we were only about ten kilometres from the small country town of Cambrai,

It delivered us back at quarter past four, except the day when a sleepy lizard barred our way and the Mr. Brown stopped and made some of the kids hold it,

Which made some of the girls and smaller children scared,

Usually, the trip was uneventful, and the children were well behaved,

Cambrai Area School was small and there were some composite grades,

It only went up to Grade Ten, after that children had to go to either Mannum, Birdwood, Angaston or Woodside for Grades Eleven and Twelve.

Some families sent their children to a Secondary College in Adelaide, which is what happened to me, meaning that I left home at just twelve years of age.

Neil Schiller


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