Life wasn’t always like this. Prior to rising to rugby grade 8, at which stage in one’s career one was allowed to wear boots, my footwear collection comprised a pair of roman sandals (summer school uniform), a pair of black lace-ups (winter school uniform and for “best”) and a pair of green-band gumboots for farm work and garden chores. These were replaced either as one grew too big for them or, in the case of gumboots, when they wore out. Working on a dairy farm meant lots of hours spent on wet concrete, the natural enemies of rubber gummies. Two pairs a year were usually consumed.
Growing out of things wasn’t confined to shoes. This was probably why we didn’t have a vast array of clothes either.
Clothing choices were based on intended location, with standards that were strictly supervised by Mum. Helping around home and the farm meant that work clothes were required. Venturing outside the front gateway usually involved either going to school, where a school uniform was required, or into town where “best” was the officially approved garb. The only exception for farm clothes being worn outside the front gate was when one was helping out at the neighbours, or accompanying Dad into the local stock and station agent. Going to town in one’s farm clothes came with a real rebellious rush.
Mum was always immaculately attired whenever she ventured off the ranch, and so had to be everybody else who accompanied her.
Mum has many claims to fame. One of these included a heavy traffic license.
When she and Dad first met, she was a telephonist for the Post Office and Dad was a dairy farmer. Mum didn’t have a driver license and Dad’s only form of transportation, other than a Little Grey Ferguson tractor, was a truck. He taught Mum to drive. In doing so he broke that long-standing, unwritten tradition about not teaching one’s partner to drive or to play a sport. He survived and Mum could expertly drive a truck before she ever drove a car.
Farm fertiliser was delivered by the truck load. Several tonnes of it in one hit. The local transport company would arrive early in the morning with a truckload and leave the truck for the day while Dad furiously spread the stuff. The deal was that the unloaded truck should be returned to the local depot before five o’clock in the afternoon.
One time Dad ran out of day and the evening milking had to take precedence over him returning the empty truck. No worries. He had a wife with an HT licence and son with a car licence. Mum could drive the truck into town and I could collect her and drive her home.
So off I went, arriving in the trucking company’s yard where I parked and waited for Mum’s arrival. It was nearly going-home-time at the depot and the smoko room was full of big, burly truckies waiting for the clock to strike five o’clock.
I will always remember the looks on their faces as the truck rolled into the yard, stopped and a small, demure woman wearing a twin-set, pearls, tweed skirt and sensible shoes dismounted from the driver’s door, brushed herself down before handing the keys in at the office. What were they expecting? Mum always got dressed up when she was going to town.