Unapologetic insolence from an aging subversive

Unapologetic insolence from an aging subversive

Tuesday, 6 January 2009

Dog Bytes

Pictured is my daughter's dog, anticipating the likelihood that my (other) daughter and I are about to take her walking. We were.

She belongs to my 17 year-old daughter who is at work – that's why other family members are walking her (the dog). Her owner is furiously earning money to get set up for student living in Brisbane next year. She objects strongly to poverty, unlike her older sibling who seems almost content to wear it as a badge of honour, believing that it is set in stone that students are always broke.

This older sister and I walked the dog, and the ensuing conversation led to discussion of holiday jobs. Daughter No. 1 had worked at MacDonald's for a while and hadn't enjoyed it much. I shared my reminiscences of experiences in less complex times in holiday jobs.

One of them was working on a tobacco farm near Beerwah in the late sixties. At the time I had just completed teachers' college, and was due to begin my teaching career at Inglewood. In those days, there were lots of tobacco farms in the area (Beerwah-Landsborough), and their owners were always looking for labour. We worked from dawn to dusk, with a long (1 hour) break in the hottest part of the day.

They looked after us, with a ute turning up three times a day (morning tea, lunch and afternoon tea) equipped with hot and cold drinks, sandwiches and fruit to feed the workers. There were a number of different jobs the holiday workers were able to do, including topping and stacking. We didn't do any picking or stringing, because we weren't experienced enough. This was in the days before backpackers.

Topping was snipping the tops off the tobacco plants and injecting a chemical into the cut to prevent the plant from seeding. This had the effect of ensuring maximum leaf development. This was an easy, if boring, task. Stacking was loading the tobacco leaf, which was strung on metre-long poles, on to racks in the curing barns. This was fairly difficult as the leaf was heavy, and the racks were built into the curing sheds from floor to ceiling. To reach the uppermost racks, you had to stand, legs apart, with one foot on each side of the rack. Bending over, taking the heavy sling from the person below and locating on the rack at the top of the barn was not easy. Juice seeped out of the leaf and made everything slippery.

In the last week of my stint, I slipped from a rack, and fell on to the steel stove in the corner of the curing shed. Because I was silly enough to be working in bare feet (my shoes and socks had become sodden with tobacco juice, and I had kicked them off) I snagged the toenail of my big toe on the top of the stove, and ripped it off as I fell. This hurt more than somewhat, and I had to stop work and get the foot attended to. To make matters worse, in a day or two a fairly nasty infection took hold, and I needed medical treatment.

The costs of this effectively used up a fairly significant fraction of my wages (which at $70 per day in 1967 weren't to be sneezed at). The worst part of it was turning up to my new teaching job on crutches. My new principal, who thought he was a bit of a comedian, greeted me with – "I'm sorry to see you starting off on the wrong foot".

I lasted only three weeks at Inglewood, as the school lost pupils, and I was transferred, as the most recently-appointed teacher (on 24 hours notice) to Goondiwindi. I went from a class of 25 year threes to 45 year fives literally overnight. The worst of it was the change in teaching partners. At Inglewood it was a 20 year-old graduate (female) of Italian heritage who bore a striking resemblance (in my mind) to Gina Lollobrigida. In Goondiwindi, it was a forty year-old married mother of three.

But back to the dog. She was a 10th birthday gift to my youngest, so that makes her (the dog) seven, as my daughter is seventeen. She (the dog) is certifiable. If outside, wanting someone to let her in, she rakes the glass pane at the bottom of the door with her teeth, producing a sound so excruciating that it has the desired effect very quickly.


Anonymous said...

Great story Bob and one I didn't know about. I thought it was going to be a story about when you did the Australia Post job in Caloundra. That is my only memory of your holiday jobs. That dog is certifiable. After minding her for a week I will agree with you. She surely is unique! Helen x

Boy on a bike said...

Sounds almost as bad as weed "chipping" in the cotton fields of northern NSW.

Blog Archive