Native animals

At breakfast, I sat opposite Sid, a part aboriginal teenager who maintained the bush boiler and did odd jobs around the camp. As he started on his corn flakes, I noticed a huge huntsman spider crawling out from the neck of Sid’s shirt. I was horrified. Sid laughed at my reaction and tucked the spider back into his shirt!

“That’s Albert,” he said. “He keeps the flies down in my tent.”

What an introduction to Australia!

Mam and Dad were still struggling financially and as there was little to spend my wages on, I sent home cash at various times. I didn’t know at the time that Mam never spent any of the money that was sent and it was eventually used for family visits to Australia years later.

I spent a fair bit of time in the Horden Hotel in the evenings. Alan, one of the tractor drivers, teamed up with me and we managed to win most games of Russian Billiards and so drank free most nights. Alan was born in India of English parents and started his military career as a drummer boy. He came to Australia when he left the British army. On the road back to camp one night, a rabbit caught in the headlights was run over. Alan stopped, jumped out of the car, picked up the unfortunate animal and deposited it into the boot.

“That’s for supper,” he said with a grin.

Alan climbed into the kitchen through an open window and soon after produced a magnificent hot rabbit curry. Coming from a traditional North of England background, it was an exotic meal for a young lad far from home.

The time spent in the Horden Hotel paid off. One afternoon, on a trip back to Perth with a group of lads, I was having a drink and playing pool at the John Barleycorn Hotel in Nollamara. After a while an older guy asked to join in. That was OK until he challenged one of us to play him for five pounds.

I played him and won quite easily. The man was obviously a bit of a hustler and suggested playing double or nothing. To his surprise he was beaten again. Desperate to get his stake back, he went to the barman and borrowed more money to play again. Again he lost. Alan was very amused when the story was retold back at the camp.

In my haste to get to the truck one morning, I forgot to take my water bag. Being alone that day I had no back-up and by mid-morning was desperate for a drink. Old Frank, an elderly Irishman, walked past collecting wooden blocks used to chock up the pipes as they were laid into position. I asked him for a drink from his water bag. He was very evasive but relented eventually. I took a long swig and almost choked. The water bag contained a dubious mixture that tasted of sweet sherry and hessian!

Jimmy Glimmer and the Fireballs – ‘Sugar Shack’  1963
There’s a crazy little shack beyond the tracks
And everybody calls it the sugar shack

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