One of my earliest memories was the chook yard, where I had a favourite bantam rooster, which I called “Chookum”. I never really found out what became of “Chookum”, but I fear he may have found the cooking pot in our kitchen. My verbal announcement of the disappearance was forecast to all in sundry, with the words, “who tookum my Chookum?”. This fell on deaf ears. Apparently after it was realized that the son and heir’s favourite feathered friend wasn’t in the chook yard, the matter was considered better left alone and not discussed. I sure did miss “Chookum”, for he was the only member of the chook yard I could hand feed.
Two of the first members of the canine race that entered my life were, “Danny” and Brownie”, sheep dogs by breed and training, the first a champion Border Collie and the other a rather nondescript Kelpie. The dogs disliked each other with a vengeance and could be easily enticed to have a scrap, by just throwing gravel at them both. Of course, they both thought that each had induced the situation and didn’t realize that one little boy had perpetrated the whole affair.
There was always much excitement when a visit was made to the “Rabbiting Packs” kennels; for in the late nineteen forties and fifties, rabbits had begun to overrun the whole countryside, so as to enforce the “Rabbit Act”, station owners were required to employ “Rabbiters”, who armed with a pack of rabbiting dogs, shovels, traps and poisons would set out daily to pursue and destroy the erstwhile bunny. My Grandfather Tom employed a rather laconic Australian, who went by the name of “Bantam Jim”. I never knew his surname, but I used to follow Jim, sticking to his trail as limpets stick to a rock, for I always knew that there would be some excitement happening during the day some time. Jim was the fellow that taught me songs and one of the earlier ones was a little ditty that went thus, “Cigarettes and Whisky and wild, wild women, they’ll drive you crazy, they’ll drive you insane”. Of course, my Grandmother Ruth would run around telling me not to sing those terrible songs and have my Grandfather say something to Jim, who’d not be very happy. Since Jim was a good mate, I did not want him to get into trouble with the boss, so of course, I complied. As the Rabbiting Pack was made up of both dogs and bitches, there was always plenty of fighting and squabbling amongst the pack, especially when a bitch was “in season” and all of the dogs were trying to “mate” with her. Of course, the inevitable would happen, two would be “knotted”, so much delight would be had by a little boy throwing buckets of water over them both. I don’t really know what result was achieved by this, except that both the dogs and a little boy were thoroughly wet to the skin.
My first venture into high finance reared its head during this period in my life, for I had learned how to trap rabbits, skin them, then string the skins onto a bow of eight-gauge wire. Dried skins fetched a shilling a pound and good quality rabbits were sold to the local butcher for seven and six a pair. Another money-making enterprise was to walk around the paddocks with a chaff bag and pluck all the wool of any unfortunate sheep that happened to have put its four feet into the air; wool was worth a few bob in those years’ of the early to mid-fifties. So, my bank balance grew!!!!!!