For most school holidays I was taken, or sent, to my uncle’s properties at Banyan, a dot on the road between Woomelang and Berriwillock in north western Victoria. When I was old enough, I was sent on the train by myself, to be collected at Woomelang by one of my three uncles. The journey commenced at Spencer Street on the Overlander. Upon reaching Ballarat it was a transfer to the Mildura line. This to me was the motor train, however the correct title is a rail motor, or diesel railcar. It was a smaller train which comprised two carriages, one for first class and one for second, with the diesel powered propulsion unit in the middle. It carried up to ninety four passengers and a crew of two.
The train stopped at numerous stations to exchange passengers, with one of my favourite stops being St. Arnaud, where the cafeteria would be open to provided refreshments for the arriving and departing passengers.
On one trip, following a stop at Birchip, I noticed that I was the only passenger left in Second Class. A short time later the Conductor came down and invited me up to sit with he and the driver, as I was in fact the only passenger on the train. Upgrade to First Class, and a view of the track ahead from the front seat. Upon arrival at Woomelang, my uncle was somewhat surprised to see me seated in First Class.
School holidays were always a busy time on the farm and Easter was no exception. Depending on the weather there could be shearing, sowing crops, harvesting the last of the fruit and vegetables from the garden for preserving prior to winter and numerous other jobs. There were the regular chores of collecting the eggs, feeding the chooks and the dogs, and making sure that all had clean water.
Sometimes I was assigned tasks such as weed eradication along the channel and dam banks. This was always done by hand with a hoe, as my uncles were very reluctant to use chemicals on the farm, except for animal welfare. Walking along the channel watching for snakes and weeds, you could often hear the chirping of the Budgerigars in the tree hollows, some just at eye level. There was also the constant screech of the Galahs, signing out the anthem of the Mallee.
At holiday end it was back on the train, unfortunately at 2am, to return to Melbourne. I was always given a small gratuity by my uncles in appreciation of my assistance during my stay.
Easter, to me a time to worship in natures’ cathedral.