My rebelious childhood was never boring
|As a kid, I was always getting into trouble.
My parents had separated when I was three and Mum raised my sister, brother and I on her own. We didn't lack for anything as she was a professional opera singer and money wasn't an issue.
What was an issue though, was my discipline.
I was around 7 years old and we lived opposite stock yards. The cattle were always a major interest to me and I'd spend hours sitting on the fence watching the stockmen work. They got to know me pretty well but continually warned me to stay on the fence.
Nah, not me - needed to have a closer look.
Mum received a frantic phone call from the yards. "Francis, could you come and get your daughter, she's in amongst the cattle and we can't get her to come out". She didn't need to be told which daughter.
Hauled home to face the music, and believe me it wasn't opera, I was grounded for a week and glared at every time we sat down to dinner.
Then at the age of 13, Mum and I took on a small sheep property up in the ranges.
My sister was living away for work reasons and my brother was an apprentice jockey, so there was only the two of us, and both with nil knowledge of sheep farming.
I became a fairly rich kid in those days - cutting wattle bark and bailing it up to be collected once a month for the tannery truck to pick up. Rabbit trapping also earned me a fair amount, 2/6d a pair at the nearest town butcher, then the pelts were dried and sold to the tannery.
We inherited an old draught horse with the property, and to me, he was absolutely massive. It was like an ant standing next to an elephant, but he also had an attitude problem to match his size.
I fashioned a sled out of an old double bed base and we'd set off to collect wood from around the property. The amount brought home depended on what sort of mood 'Horse' was in and how often I'd have to bail off the sled because of his flatulence problems.
Summer was not a good time to collect wood - ten minutes of chopping and loading, then he'd bolt for the dam with me screaming blue murder, reminding him that I knew the knackery boss REAL well.
This all took place 50 years ago, so household lighting was a kero lamp and cooking done on a slow combustion stove, but I loved the life.