‘No, sir.’ This was surely not a time to fudge the truth. Right then, ignorance was the best defence, or at least, a fair delaying strategy.
He would open it there and then so we kids could see what was in it. Invariably it contained beautiful Japanese pots or plates and dishes, often black as I recall but gracefully decorated; fairly formal and none of it raku in style, but more suited to the western tastes of the 1950s than styles that became fashionable later in the century. You could see in his eyes how he loved these objects.
Of course, Gatton might well have changed my outlook on farming totally, but I was having none of it. And I’m not sure what four years of living away from home in a boarding school would have done to me as the youngest child in a tough group of male adolescents, many of them straight off big properties, but I think it would have been a total disaster for me. Like Billy Boys on the property next to ours, they could slit the throat of a calf or pig, hang it up by the hocks and have a cup of tea and a sandwich while the blood was draining out a metre in front of their noses, but I couldn't even kill the green frog that was living up the pipe in the milking machines, even though commanded to by my father. I just whacked the ground behind it with a stick and pretended to be trying to hit it.
Later on in life, Mum told me how much amusement my attempt to save the frog's life had given them both as they watched my feeble pretence at despatching it, knowing that my stick was never going to go within cooee of it. My point is that both of them knew at heart that I wasn't cut out to be a farmer because - and I hope if you're a person with romantic notions about farm life you get this right between the eyes - farming is as much about killing your livestock as it is about rearing them. Mostly you, with your own axe or knife or gun, with your own hands. In my mind there was a distinction between a frog that had chosen the wrong place to set up home and a vealer that had to be killed and butchered.
Dear Mr Wright, based on results you have obtained in four years’ part time study at the University of Queensland, we are pleased to inform you that you have won a Commonwealth Government Later Year Award, to continue your university studies on a full time basis for the duration of your degree.
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