Unapologetic insolence from an aging subversive

Unapologetic insolence from an aging subversive

Sunday, 3 June 2018

The Crushing

The first ten years of my life, gentle reader,  were spent in cane country.

Hearing the Go-Betweens performing Cattle and Cane takes me back. 

On the rare occasions these days when I return north during the crushing, the smell of the cane fires, bagasse and rotting mangoes instantly transports me back to my boyhood.. (It’s well known that the olfactory sense is most closely associated with memory).

Sugar prices are low, so the 2018 Crushing isn’t getting off to a stellar start.

Whatever - growing up west of Mackay* in a sugar town was an amazing experience.

The crushing was the drum-beat of the rhythm of life back then. The mill, with its noise, smoke and steam was at the end of the road that went past our place. Cane grew on two sides of our house, and cane was carted up and down the road daily during the crushing.

We would chase the blackened cinders from the spectacular fires - not always a good idea. I ran backwards into the tankstand doing this once. Only once. By the time the gash in the back of my head healed, I'd understood that my eyes were at the front of my head for a reason.

My best mate came off a very large cane farm, and every now and again I would be allowed to spend a few days with him. We gave the farm machinery a pretty fair workout - but survived.

His dad owned a an Essex Super Six. It wasn't road registered, so we drove it all over the farm. I learned to drive that thing at age 10. My parents had no idea.....

The vivid colours, the energetic growth created by the rainfall and heat, and the Maltese, Italian and Kanaka kids that I went to school with conspired to create an environment unique in this country. 

The lyrics of the song put it better than I can -

I recall a schoolboy coming home

through fields of cane

to a house of tin and timber

and in the sky

a rain of falling cinders

from time to time

the waste memory-wastes

I recall a boy in bigger pants

like everyone

just waiting for a chance

his father's watch

he left it in the showers

from time to time

the waste memory-wastes

I recall a bigger brighter world

a world of books

and silent times in thought

and then the railroad

the railroad takes him home

through fields of cattle

through fields of cane

from time to time

the waste memory-wastes

the waste memory-wastes

further, longer, higher, older

The railroad didn't take me home.
Instead it took me 1000kms south to boarding school in 1961.
My parents moved south, and I never returned to live in cane country.
My heart, gentle reader, is still there......

*The locals use the Scottish pronunciation.

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