22 October 2009

Alternative Medicine

Chapter Four: Alternative Medicine.

I don't think we were ever subjected to it, but I can remember them saying how horse manure poultices were a great remedy for chest colds. They'd put fresh horse manure in very hot water, then put it in an old cloth, lay it on your chest, then cover you with blankets. They used that on sprains too.

Another chest cold remedy was antiphlogistine poultices. That was prescribed by doctors. Antiphlogistine was very similar to putty. You'd heat that up and flatten it out and put it on your chest to bring the cold out, or around your neck for sore throats.

For cuts and scratches, plain mutton fat was very popular to keep the wound soft and clean, and then nature would do the rest. The treatment for earache was a sock full of hot salt. You'd hold it against your ear or lie on it. For toothache... chewing mint leaves, which I always thought was a failure.

Every Monday morning we'd line up for a dose of castor oil, which was supposed to keep your system clean. It was horrible stuff, and the only way we could be persuaded to take it was with a big spoonful of jam to follow.

21 October 2009

A tough life for mothers

Chapter Three: A tough life for mothers.

It was obvious from the stories my father told that things were easier for us than for the previous generation. But we weren't getting it all that easy either. It was pretty harsh - especially for Mum. Kids can make do. They can play with anything, and they seem to have a way of occupying their time; but it was the women - the mothers - who must have found it very tough going.

The thing that worried Mum most was sickness... family, especially babies, getting sick. Before motor vehicles, it took them forty-eight hours to get to town, and there was always that fear that something would happen. But it very seldom did. I think the fact that they were so isolated probably helped them to stay healthy because there weren't the bugs flying around and they didn't pick up many germs. None of us ever had chickenpox, mumps or measles until we went away to boarding school. Then we got the lot!

There was always that fear of accident, but we were pretty well drilled to look after ourselves to avoid injury... about the danger in different things we did... to watch out for snakes, and to wear shoes whenever we went chasing things - butterflies and the like - in the bush.

There weren't as many hazards as there are now... like cars and motorbikes. There were falls from horses, but you'd have a better chance of getting away with just bruises if you had a fall from a horse.

02 October 2009

Finances and social status

Chapter Two: Finances and social status.

I think it was a big battle financially for a long time, but it helped that they grew a lot of their own food. It was clothing that was the problem - keeping six kids clothed. But Dad was fairly versatile, and there were ways he could get a bit of spending money. There was... I forget what it was called... a Pest Destruction Board or something like that. They used to pay for dingo scalps and fox scalps. Dad used to get a lot of foxes, so that helped. Otherwise he relied on the sale of wool and sheep.

He didn't have any other paid work after he went to 'Plain View'. He worked for neighbours but that was an 'I work for you, you work for me' arrangement. When they had the joint shearing shed at 'Tuen Plains', he was the woolclasser. He was the only one... not qualified as it became later on, but he did have a knowledge of wool. He was the woolclasser for all of the neighbours who used to shear there. For that he wasn't paid, but in return the neighbours would help him when he was shearing.

As children, we knew we weren't well off, but neither was anybody else that we associated with, so we didn't feel superior or inferior. It was just an era when everybody was on about the same footing in that respect. Nobody was prosperous, except maybe a few of the town people. Town children - children of storekeepers who might have been more prosperous than the graziers - didn't seem to behave any differently. I don't think they saw much pocket money either.

The doctor and storekeepers and bank managers might be considered 'the elite', but my parents could mix with them and feel comfortable. There was definitely less distinction then between those who had money and those who didn't. There wasn't as much difference then between the poor and the rich. A few people - managers of the big stations - might have thought they were a bit above the smaller grazier, but their sons and daughters would be mixing with graziers' sons and daughters, and the best of friends.

Up to 1920

Chapter One: Up to 1920.

My father was born in NSW but his family lived in the Cunnamulla area during the late 1880s and 1890s. At Stockyard Creek near Helidon, where the family lived for a while in the early 1900s, Dad worked for a man who used to break in horses, until he learnt how to do it himself. That was his first paid job.

Later he worked for Cobb and Co. That's when he came out west again, working at different Cobb and Co. mail changes. They used to have horses out on the runs, in the paddocks, so that they'd have a change of horses for the mail coaches. His job was to break the horses in, and to keep the supply of horses at every mail change - broken in to harness, and for saddle use. There was a mail change at Barringun, and one halfway to Cunnamulla (at old 'Woggonora', over the river from what's known now as Job's Gate Turnoff), and then Cunnamulla. He would handle about six young horses at the same time, until they were right through to the riding stage.

The mail changes were just a good set of horse yards and a tin hut. They had wells put down for a water supply. In that stretch of the Warrego River there were no permanent water holes, and it was before the artesian bores. They had to have some permanent water, so they had wells for stock and drinking water. There weren't any pumps at first. They had buckets and ropes and pulleys to bring the water up. I remember him saying how there was nearly always a water boy whose job it was to have the tanks filled with water. It's a slow process, filling the tanks one bucket of water at a time! They had the tanks filled so that when the coaches came in, the horses would be given a drink immediately they were unharnessed.

Later my father worked at 'Burrenbilla', which was owned by Rutherford and Company. They had other stations down in New South Wales, and he used to go down to those properties and break in their station horses. After he was married he was manager on various stations. A local stock and station agent lent him the money to enter the ballot for land, and he drew 'Plain View'.

He and Mr BLAKE rode out from Cunnamulla to the block, arriving when it was almost dark. It was just an area pegged out - no buildings or fences. They found the south-western corner peg and went along a little way and camped under a couple of gidyea trees. When they woke up, Mr BLAKE said, 'You've got a plain view'. The south-eastern aspect was a wide open plain. That was how it got the name 'Plain View'. One of those gidyea trees was chopped down because it was leaning too much over the building, but the other one is still there to this day (1991).

When Dad went to 'Plain View', the only stock he had were horses. He had quite a few horses. And Mr HOBSON, who had a store in Cunnamulla, let him have the use of some ponies. Two of them - the two quiet ones - were named Tiny and Polly. We all learnt to ride on Tiny and Polly. From that beginning he bought sheep. I can't find anything in the records to show that he bought any cattle at first, except milking cows. He let the sheep numbers build up until he had it fully stocked.

I was only six months old when the family moved to 'Plain View' so I don't remember it first hand (grins), but I remember stories of how they did it. It was a slow process because they only had two drays to ship it all out, and a dray doesn't hold very much. Each time they went out they'd take some equipment, until they built the house. That was taken out by wagon. They carted the galvanised iron out, and a bit of timber to build a frame, but most of the frame of the first homestead was round timber - just pine. They had a carpenter to erect the building. They wouldn't have had much furniture when they moved - just a few beds.

When they were a bit established out there, they had a wagonette. It became the mode of transport for Mum and the kids. A wagonette and two horses, with two horses as a change halfway to town. It had a good hood over it, but it was very, very rough. Very tiring, especially as it was a two-day trip, camping overnight halfway. It got better later, when the first Ford cars came. We could get to town in one day then.