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by Peter Gardiner
Category: Erotica/Classic Erotica
Description: The Autobiography of a Very Amorous Man! Peter Gardiner was a graziers' son who was expected to follow in his fathers footsteps, but he had little taste for things agricultural. Early seduction at age thirteen by a young woman of seventeen who had been employed to look after him while his mum and dad had a holiday was to put a permanent smile on his face that's never departed. Her name was Zeta and she looked after his sexual education very well for a few glorious weeks. Coitus interruptus occurred when his parents unexpectedly returned. Peter later succeeded in getting removed from a very high class boarding school for doing something awfully naughty. Late teens found him wife-swapping or, more correctly, girlfriend-swapping, which seemed like the friendly thing to do. He went to Australia as a sort of black sheep export. He rummaged around Australia doing just about anything to make a buck that would sustain his drinking habits which were even then expensive. He picked up some rough talk in the camps peach-picking and on the Snowy River Scheme, and returning home for a holiday, forgot his manners. On his first day back, he asked his mother to pass the F'ing jam, which moved him down the inheritance list a few notches and reinforced the mutual need for him to return to Australia. His three wives were all very resourceful women, each bringing to his life at just the right time the help most needed. Peter made a great success of direct door-to-door sales, a very tough profession to which many are called but few succeed. He started Gardna-Clean carpet cleaning in New Zealand and quickly built a network of over 70 dealers. Too much hanky-panky and booze found him back in Australia with a new wife, Louise, where he reinvented his carpet cleaning empire, this time called Climax Carpet Cleaners; a nice sexy name. This book is a jolly good read about the quite life of Peter Gardiner. Today he is in his late sixties, semi retired but still runs a small mail order business in Lightning Ridge N.S.W. In his spare time, he writes a column in the local newspaper while he waits for a new Zeta to arrive for him to pleasure. John G. Chambers [Formerly published as It's Been A Quiet Life]
eBook Publisher: Renaissance E Books/Sizzler Editions,
eBookwise Release Date: May 2009
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [319 KB]
Reading time: 207-290 min.
I was born at Purau in New Zealand, on the fifth of August 1931, with a silver spoon in my mouth.
I still have the spoon!
This was the result of an Immaculate Conception.
The former three statements are easy to document, however the latter could raise some doubt. My sister and I, with lifetime knowledge of our parents, know this to be true. It is unimaginable that our parents would, or could, have ever demeaned themselves by performing an act of maddened sexual lust, even for that most laudable of reasons ... the perpetuation of their species. Dad, perhaps under extreme provocation, may have, so long as he was sure no one was watching. Mother never, under any circumstances!
Purau is a beautiful bay facing North onto Lyttelton Harbour. It was probably much more "beautiful" before my Great Grandfather got to work on the premise; if it moves shoot it, if it doesn't, chop it down and burn it. The valley itself is a mile long and half as wide. It is surrounded by hills rising to 3000 feet, scattered with odd patches of bush. A boulder strewn creek meanders its way down to the sea. Truly, it appears to be a paradise.
Beneath this beauty lay the true soul of Purau. Inhabited by folk who just didn't get on, each family fervently believed themselves to be superior in every way to all the others. Within half a mile of my birthplace nine separate families lived, containing a total of 42 different people who had one thing in common. Their surname. Yes, we were all related. True, around a dozen of other surnames also dwelt in Purau, but they were of the peasant classes, born only to serve the landed gentry. They knew it, and in case they ever forgot they were constantly reminded of their lowly station in life.
While my father ate his leisurely breakfast, a very favored worker awaiting orders would occasionally make his way into our kitchen for his instructions on how to fill his day for the greater glory of his betters, but he would never, under any circumstance, get beyond this point.
As my father would say, "Where the carpet starts the worker stops!"
When the men lined up in the yard in the morning, Dad would ask, "What do you think we should do today?" The men would suggest this and that and Dad would say, "Right then, this is what 'you'll' do," and detail his instructions. He called this his "autocratic democracy!"
All went well for me, being the center of attention, cared for by a nurse, then a maid, until the 19th of February 1935, when my world was shattered. My sister, Jennifer, was born, at home as was the custom. Immaculate Conception had struck again. Suddenly this squalling, red, ugly creature became the focus of all attention. I immediately, as a matter of self-preservation, threw my very first, tremendous asthma attack. Great, now I had the attention back. I discovered, as children do, I could deliberately start an attack to get my own way, get attention or both. However, the problem with this tactic is that you soon lose the ability to turn it off.
So I developed into a full time, chronic asthmatic. Jenny and I were still being minded by a succession of nurses, nannies, maids and then the inevitable, terrifying governess'. As we grew, we also learned to hate each other even more. The war was always on. Our relatives would undertake to care for only one of us at a time. None of them wanted an embarrassing attempted murder, or maybe the real thing, carried out under their noses.
On one occasion, Jenny cunningly crushed my head in a gate, thus rendering me unconscious. She ran to the house shouting with joy, "I've kilt him, I've kilt him." She abandoned me, no doubt thinking that at last she had rid herself of me for all time. However, my broken body was discovered. I was carried into the lounge and my crushed skull was treated at home. I don't remember this part.
I do remember, as things quietened down, the enormous pain as Jenny thrust a glowing ember on the end of a stick from the open fire into my right ear hole.
On other occasions, I guillotined several of her dolls. We had a beautiful hanging tree just down the back of the house where I frequently hanged her dolls. About this time, I went to the movies and watched a Tom Mix cowboy show on how to do it properly. I could even tie a hangman's knot; I still can!
My Aunt Ethel, who lived to over 100 years of age, told us that, on one occasion, she came around the side of the house to discover, in horror, Jenny, standing on a chair, bound, with a noose around her neck and secured to the hanging tree. I was, she said, trying to convince Jenny to leap off the chair. Neither Jenny nor I can recall this incident. Maybe we have selective memories.
As a footnote to all this, Jenny and I must have been in our forties before we spoke to each other in a civil way. A lot of time wasted!
Christmas was always a great time. Mum was from a fairly big family, and, come Christmas, they would descend upon us, some staying for weeks at a time. Turkeys, geese and pheasants would be shot and hung. Lambs and chickens would be slaughtered. Dad would bring home his annual seven-pound box of chocolates. Mum, a wonderful cook, would spend weeks in the kitchen filling dozens of cake tins with the fruits of her labor.
Sometimes at night, we would all take off for the beach, a mere half-mile away, to "flounder." We'd take our dinghy with the 50-yard flounder net and, as the tide went out, we would set it. Then it was all hands on the ropes to haul in our catch, which always seemed to me to be huge. We would fill sugar bags, holding about 50 pounds, with sole and flounder, and head home for a huge midnight fried fish orgy. Often we would be giving away fish by the bag full the following day.
There was a girl about my age who used to stay with us nearly every Christmas, whom I always remember fondly. We used to play Doctor and Nurse in our glasshouse. Now I think about it, a glasshouse wasn't the best place to hide out.
Father Christmas would arrive driving a horse and buggy. Even at 10 A.M. in the morning he would stagger about and his "ho-ho-ho" would be well spiced with alcohol. I still recall the smell. It wasn't till years later I realized who Father Christmas really was. My Uncle Arthur!
There is an interesting story about Uncle Arthur, which happened before I was born, but I have heard it many times.
Arthur was into fishing and shooting and loved to go deer stalking. He also had a remarkable sense of humor. On this occasion, he and his friend, Jack, drove as far as the Model A Ford would take them, then walked another five miles through a farmer's property to reach their destination.
As the homestead was handy, Arthur thought to be polite he would ask the farmer's permission to pass over his land. The farmer said "yes," and eyeing the :303 rifle he was carrying, asked Arthur to shoot the old horse up in the back paddock, as he had no firearms because his wife had banned them. He would go up and bury the horse later. Uncle Arthur agreed, and thought of a good joke to play on Jack.
He strolled back to the car, picked up Jack and away they went. When they got well away from the homestead Arthur started complaining about the mean old bastard who said he didn't want idiots on his land and so forth. The nearer they got to the horse the more excited and angry he appeared to become.
When they finally reached the horse Arthur said, "I'm going to shoot the old bastard's horse," and did so. Jack, showing real solidarity, joined in the fun and before Arthur could stop him, promptly shot two of the farmer's cattle. I believe it caused quite a sensation.
I remember on one occasion during the war, when the threat of Japanese invasion reared its ugly head, that Uncle Arthur created another event. Exactly at midnight on New Year's Eve he caused a quantity of dynamite to explode down by our beach. The thunderous clap shook houses for miles around, and aroused the military garrison in Lyttelton. The locals were panicked and all talking simultaneously on our party line telephones. No one had a clue as to what was going on. Searchlights were turned on across the harbor and the bay became as daylight. The Army, Navy and Air Force were put on high alert, as was our Home Guard, in which my father was a Sergeant. I recall him running shotgun in hand, prepared for war, to our Dodge utility, which was the official Home Guard Transport. I don't remember what repercussions followed.
The only memories I have of my paternal Grandfather are from when I was around four years of age. I decided to run away and he picked me up on his horse and buggy. I told him I was running away and he replied that it seemed like a good idea. "Could he drive me somewhere?" This sounded good but when he asked me where I wanted to go, I burst into tears. "I want to go home," I sobbed. I'd had enough of the outside world. A few months later he died.
I remember my paternal Grandmother well. After Grandfather died, she stayed on at the old homestead in the company of a maid. She started to drink until she was doing so to excess. Maids came and went. They either became weary of her drunken rages or of finding her passed out in the gardens somewhere and having to manhandle her inside and into bed. Finally she was on her own in the big house and, although her family visited often, she must have been very lonely. Especially as "Kike Station," as it was known, had always been the social center for miles around.
When I was about six my mother asked me to go across the paddocks to the old homestead to fetch a basket of apples. When I arrived, I thought Nana was acting a bit funny. She gave me a glass of gin and lemon squash. I can still remember trying to climb a six-barred gate, full as a boot, spilling apples everywhere. Did Mum ever go crook! She dispatched Dad, with all urgency, to see Nana and do something! I don't know what could have been done except give me time to sober up and perhaps an aspirin for my hangover. Anyway, Nana gave me up as a drinking companion. She lived her lonely life for another ten years before dying in hospital. She was so accustomed to alcohol that she was allowed to drink champagne right up to the end.
I recall my cousin, Jim, who used to stay with her during school holidays. He and I would play a game we called "getting Nana behind." Her mailbox was several hundred yards away from the homestead and we would pick up her mail and newspaper and deliver it. Sometimes we'd forget and keep the newspaper for the forgotten day and deliver it on Sunday. We used to get her confused as to what day it was, because the paper was her only guide. Jim and I also put some very noisy fireworks in her huge old wood stove, which she preferred to use rather than the electric "Moffat." It's a wonder she didn't die of fright. In retrospect, we were very cruel to her though we thought it funny at the time.
In contrast, my maternal Grandmother was a sweet old lady. She even looked like a real old Granny. Her parents had arrived in New Zealand on one of the "First Four Ships." These ships, which arrived in 1850, carried the original families who were to settle Christchurch and Lyttelton. This was a sore point with Dad as his forbears arrived some five years later and he always wanted to believe "our lot" were first ... even before the Maoris, if possible.
My Mum's father was a surprising man. His mother had died giving birth to him and another family brought him up. He left school at the age of ten and went to work for a butcher. Before he was out of his teens, he had his own butchery.
He was a shrewd dealer and probably made more from his dealings than he did from his businesses. He always carried a roll of notes in his pocket, to settle deals while the "iron was hot." During the depression, he used to have free meat delivered to the needy families who had shopped with him in the past. Incidentally, I can still recall the apprentice butcher from the shop delivering meat from a huge basket carried on horseback. Port Lyttelton was a pretty rough kind of seaport and it was well known that he always carried large sums of money, even when he was old and frail, yet he was never mugged or even threatened. The locals took care of their own.
Granddad, or "Pop," as we called him, used to tell me stories about shooting and fishing, when game abounded, during his youth. There is one story I must relate to you pretty much as he told it to me:
"My mates and I used to get a piece of bacon rind, tie it onto a long length of kite string and throw the rind into the water near some ducks. The rind floats making it easy for a duck to swallow. Now son, a little known fact is that bacon rind passes very quickly through a duck and after a few minutes will reappear floating behind, where another duck will eagerly snatch it up. We would let this go on until we had four or so ducks, all joined together with the string. We'd take the ducks for a walk, and when we became tired of this we would take the front duck and gently pull its leg." Then Pop would finish by saying, "Just as I'm pulling yours now!"
I recall Dad pruning some roses for him one Sunday afternoon. As it had become cold Dad asked for an old jacket and Granddad told him to take one off the coat rack. Dad pruned the roses and we went home to Purau, Dad still wearing the old jacket. When we got there, he put his hand in the coat pocket ... and pulled out two thousand eight hundred pounds in notes. At that time, the money would have bought several houses!
Granddad used to offer a thousand pounds for something then state, "It'll be nine hundred pounds tomorrow, and so on. Let me know when you're ready." Of course, when selling, he'd do the same in reverse. He was well known to keep his word. There was no way you'd get today's deal tomorrow. He was 86 when he died, dealing right up to the end. He had never shaved himself in his life, always having a barber do it for him. He hated Government interference, especially taxation. When he sold his business interests after Gran died, he put all his money into a non-interest bearing check account so that he would never have to pay tax again. An expensive eccentricity!
While attending the Agricultural and Pastoral Show one year during the "twenties," Pop noticed a "Hupmobile" tourer motorcar on a stand. He decided he should have one of these modern machines. Approaching the salesman and declaring his interest, he was taken for a test drive in this shiny new vehicle. When time came to take the order he insisted on taking delivery of the demonstration model. His dealers thinking had taught him that you only use the best quality of your product to demonstrate. He was not going to buy a "lemon."
Pop had long been in the habit of checking his livestock every day or so, which he kept a few miles out of town. He would travel with his horse and gig, invariably carrying a loaded shotgun beside him so that if game "got up" as he trotted along he could stand up and fire, thus collecting some game meat for the pot. It was a nice change to the meat from his shop.
One fateful day he was traveling along in his new car, enjoying the sun with the top down, when a pigeon flew overhead. He did what came naturally, stood, picked up his gun, cocked, aimed and fired. He shot the pigeon all right but forgot he didn't have a horse in front of him to take responsibility for steering. His car, now out of control, continued on through a fence, across a ditch and came to rest leaning against a tree. Pop performed a somersault over the windscreen and suffered a few bruises. He abandoned further attempts at driving!
Dad thought he should follow in his father's footsteps and race a thoroughbred, as Granddad had been pretty successful with a horse named Beau Gueste some years earlier. Dad bought a colt he very cunningly named "Hahehe," which sounds like a Maori name but is not. The name was derived from the first two initials of each of his Christian names. He spent untold sums of money on this horse, top trainer, feed, jockey, veterinarian and so on. "Hahehe" never won Dad a race. I think he ran fourth once. Dad sold him to a relative up North. First race out, "Hahehe" won the Hawera Cup or some such event. Dad never forgave Ron, the buyer, or the horse either, for their treachery.
Mum's father, who over the years had raced many trotters, gave Mum a beautiful trotting filly. Mum wasn't really interested so it just lived on the property for some months, as Dad said, "Eating its head off." Mum decided to sell it so away it went on a float to a blood stock auction. It did not bring Mum's rather audacious reserve and was loaded up and returned home. While being unloaded from the float, it reared up and impaled itself on a picket gate. Dad sent me to fetch the shotgun.
Jennifer and I were educated by a series of governess' and Correspondence School. When I was aged 11, we were separated before even more blood was spilt. I was sent to St Andrew's College as a boarder. The three and a half years I spent there was without doubt the second most miserable portion of my life. We won't get to the most miserable part for another 45 years.
Never having interacted with other kids, I was socially inept. Further, having been brought up with the idea I was of superior stock, it came as a very great surprise to find that I wasn't. I was, in fact, sadly inferior when it came to mixing with boys of my own age. My self esteem, which had been unrealistically high, took a turn in the opposite direction. I consider that few people ever developed such low esteem so quickly.
On one occasion during the school holidays, I had an experience which always sends shivers up and down my spine. Dad was away and Mum decided we needed a chook for dinner. I was quite accustomed to the process as I had observed Dad preparing chickens many times, so I volunteered to "murder" and "dress" the bird ready for the pot.
Having caught the condemned creature I proceeded to stretch its neck and whirl the body, while still holding the head, as I had seen Dad do many times. I released the bird and observed it going through the usual death throes, bouncing and leaping about for a few seconds. The chook came to rest and I threw it into the bucket of boiling water my mother had prepared, to loosen the feathers before plucking it.
To our amazement, the chicken returned to life and, squawking loudly and emitting clouds of steam from its scalded body, made its escape down the yard with Mother and myself in hot pursuit. I finally dispatched the victim with hard and repetitious blows with a hammer. This naturally took all the chook like appearance away, so mother and I decided to bury the evidence and make do with lamb. It seems that I didn't get the "stretch and whirl" part right. I have always felt great sympathy for the chook.
The brightest spot in my educational years occurred in my thirteenth year. I shall always remember it with fondness. I was fortunate enough to be what some people might describe as "sexually abused!" It came about this way. During the school holidays, my parents went away for a week or so, taking Jenny with them. The second night, our 17-year-old housemaid, Zeta, came to my bedroom to "tuck me in."
Well, she sure did! Sitting on my bed, she kissed me in a very unusual way involving the use of her tongue. Wowie! This was new to me. It all was! Slipping her hand under the bedclothes, she held me by a rapidly hardening part of my body while encouraging me to touch her breasts. She slid into bed and, with just one small squeeze of her hand, I embarrassingly, and instantly, exploded. She said, "Don't worry, now we can take our time." I was soon to discover what all our "naughty bits" were for, and where and how they all fitted together.
I was terrorized, fascinated and ecstatic all at the same time. I also learned that bed was not the only place to practice my newfound skills. I recall utilizing a pile of wool fleeces in a bin in our shearing shed as a "lust nest." I have been forever grateful to her! At the end of a few days, I was hoping my parents would never come home. Alas, they did and my basic sexual education was over. Better still, we were never discovered. I returned to College better prepared for the world. At least I had experienced what the other boys only talked about.
During school holidays I used to ride my horse round to Charteris Bay where another lad, Grant, and I shared a small yacht. I acted as forward hand but the problem was, I used to move too far forward and my weight would force the bow underwater and we would "submarine." Thank God for the rigid rules regarding life jackets. We spent more time in the water than on it. We were in a race one Saturday and a "Southerly Buster" descended upon us. There were yachts overturning in all directions. Grant and I were rescued from where we had been driven by the storm, some distance from our course. Later a trawler picked up our overturned yacht, out toward Lyttelton Heads. "Funny thing," as Mum remarked one day, "You don't seem to be so keen on yachting as you used to!" She was right. I shortly sold my interest in our yacht.
While in Charteris Bay, I used to visit a family who had three teenage daughters. I had some wonderful times with them; in fact, I fell madly in love with Ngaire. She was a couple of years older and I doubt she really noticed me. I certainly never had the opportunity to practice the skills that had been taught by our maid.
Making my way home on horseback one cold Sunday evening with hands in pockets, my horse, "Bubz," stumbled. I went straight over her head and landed face first on the gravel road. She stood quietly while I recovered somewhat and remounted. I arrived home, unsaddled her and went inside. Dad and Mum were in bed so I thought I had better tell them what had happened. When I looked in their bedroom, Mum screamed! It wasn't till I looked in a mirror that I realized what all the uproar was about.
My face had the blood cleaned off with a disinfectant solution and the little bits of gravel removed with a pair of tweezers--a painful business. In due course, it healed and my rugged beauty was restored. This was long before the fashion of stitches.
Due to my loneliness and unhappiness at college I did all kinds of forbidden and, sad to say, illegal things, although the police were never involved. I regard this as certainly being more for the college's benefit than for mine. I did these things, which I shall not go into here, simply to be noticed. I succeeded. I was noticed all right!
During the investigation made by our head master, I copped a lot of physical ill treatment. Even in those days, there were legal limits to the physical abuse permitted to be used on school kids. He far exceeded those limits. In these modern times I have no doubt that a teacher, charged with this level of abuse, would certainly do goal time. His anger was so extraordinary, simply because I refused to name my fellow miscreants. It was requested that I leave about half way through the equivalent of tenth grade, as I was considered to be somewhat of an embarrassment to the college, but mostly to him, as he was not able to force the information he sought, from me.
Incidentally, the little I learned there was of small future use to me, as Dad had insisted I follow in our families traditional footsteps and "till the land." I should have done a commercial course instead.
When my formal education was so rudely interrupted, I worked for Dad for a few months. During this time, I'd stay weekends with my cousin, Jim, and his mother, Auntie Ada, who was Dad's sister. Auntie Ada was born about 50 years too early. One morning she came up to our bedroom where Jim and I were recovering from a "night on the tiles," as she called it. She sat on Jim's bed and questioned us about sleeping with girls. Horror-struck, Jim and I emphatically denied doing any such thing. She went on to say she was sure that we were, but, if not, why not? Slowly, she extracted the truth from us and finished up by saying, "Now I don't want you boys to sleep with any "little trollops." Bring respectable girls home and introduce them to me. If I approve of them, I'll help you, by phoning their parents and inviting your girls for weekends. You can sleep with them in your own beds like civilized people."
This was great news, and a big improvement over "freezing our bums off" in a paddock after kicking a cow into life to utilize the warm patch of grass left behind, but she still hadn't finished with us. She put her hand in the pocket of her dressing gown and withdrew it holding a condom. In those days, we used to call them "French letters." She asked, "Do you know what this is?" Again we lied. She put us through the embarrassing experience of explaining, in detail, all the things that might happen if we didn't use them. She next drew a banana from another pocket and demonstrated how the condom was to be fitted. Jim and I knew every word to be true, but I think for both of us it was the most disconcerting episode of our lives.
Jim and I had some great weekends with Sylvia and Barbara, girls who had attended private schools and whom we had known since our school days. Auntie Ada certainly did not regard them as "little trollops." I have always considered Auntie Ada as being a very wise woman who understood human nature and could bow to the inevitable with grace and common sense.
Auntie Ada had a very strict moral code. One Sunday I had managed to wheedle Dad's "Dodge" away from him for the day. The four of us went for a drive down to South Canterbury. In conversation wife swapping came up and we all agreed this would be great fun. It wasn't as good as we expected. Especially with the four of us huffing and puffing away within the confines of the car in broad daylight ... however, Auntie Ada got word of it. She was NOT amused.
My Dad got to hear of our weekends, which he no doubt regarded as absolute debauchery. "Imagine spending an entire night in bed with a girl friend?" Remember this was the 1940's. Despite Auntie Ada explaining there was nothing to worry about, things got a little out of hand. Dad was worrying about an unwanted pregnancy and Mother was worrying about what "people would think." Dad considered it expeditious for me to be transported to Australia forthwith, I guess as the convicts had been in the past. However, I did not arrive in chains. I arrived in a Tasman Empire Airlines Ltd flying boat, which was a real seven-hour adventure in itself.
I stayed a few days in Sydney at the old Australia Hotel. In the lounge one afternoon, I picked up a lady, or maybe she picked me up. We went to a restaurant at Potts Point, my main aim, naturally, to lure her to my bed. Well, we got back to the hotel and whenever I tried to entice her from the lounge to my bed she would say, "You can't do naught without money." I regarded this as quite a sage remark. I just thought that's a nice little bit of philosophy I've learned, and we said good night. Ah, my sheltered life. How naive can you be?
Some 20 years later, I was sitting in my office and I suddenly recalled what she had said. At last I understood. "She was on the game." I fell about the office laughing so loudly some of the girls from the outer office came in to see if I was okay. It was so funny but I couldn't share the joke with those young girls. I'm sure they thought I had gone insane.
One of my first jobs in Australia was working for a chaff-cutting contractor a few miles out of Corowa, New South Wales. There were about a dozen employees and we ate at a horse drawn kitchen, with the sides let down to make an eating area. Everything was powered by horse or by a huge traction engine. We were endlessly cutting firewood to keep up the supply of steam.
My main job was to sew the bags of chaff, then stack them in pyramids. The first few layers were easy. However, as the stack became higher it became more difficult. One had to run fast with a full bag balanced on a shoulder and, with luck and momentum, the bag would be carried up to the top layer. This was repeated until the peak height was reached. It was then time to start the next stack.
Often, on Friday when the hands were paid, we would go off to town to get on the booze and would return in a pretty drunken condition on Saturday afternoon. One weekend a guy named Toohey and myself elected to stay behind and save our money.
The blokes arrived back about three P.M. and had brought a few bottles to help them recover for work on Sunday. Toohey did a stupid thing. He stole a bottle of rum from the men's supply, and, after having a few nips, hid the rest. After some time the men realized it was missing and, knowing Toohey of old, accused him. He denied it! I must mention that these guys were by now on a very short fuse, half-drunk and half hung over and were determined to get their rum. They didn't even ask me if I had it.
Hitching a horse up to a flat base wagon they parked it under a tree and, grabbing Toohey, bound his arms. They made a noose with another length of rope, threw it over a tree branch and secured it around his neck while he stood on the wagon. They asked him again where the booze was? Again he denied all knowledge.
One of them simply said, "Giddup," to the horse, which started to walk away, with Toohey's feet scuttling along trying to keep pace with the wagon. I was terrified. There was no way I could have stopped them. I could see myself being hanged alongside the rest of them for being part of a lynch mob. With the last 18 inches of wagon deck fast disappearing from under Toohey's dancing feet he finally gave up. He confessed and the men "whoa'd," the horse and collected the rum from its hiding place. They didn't unhitch the horse or even tether it.
They carried on drinking, leaving Toohey just where he was. He was in pitiful shape, crying and pleading to be cut down in case the horse moved. His trousers appeared to be very unhygienic! The men were unrelenting. They let him suffer for a couple of hours before finally releasing him.
I then went to work picking peaches and pears at Cobram, Victoria. I was never any good at this, though I met some good mates who picked grapes with me later. In those days, none of the fruit camps were unionized. Some "reps" came up from Melbourne one evening and started sewing the seeds of discontent. My mates and I weren't interested. I had been brought up to believe that unions were the enemy.
The next morning when the foreman yelled out, "Let's go," hardly anyone moved. One of the union "reps" got up on a dray and told the 300 odd men and the foreman that no one was to move till the boss came down. He arrived within ten minutes in his work car, a Rolls Royce, which had the wings all banged in from hitting trees. He climbed on the back of another dray.
We were being paid ten pence per case and the union rep said that if we didn't get a shilling per case we'd go on strike. The boss replied by asking those who would still work for ten pence a case to move over to the right hand side of the yard. My mates and I--scabs now--moved to the right with around 100 others. "Well," said the boss, "that leaves you blokes on the left. Line up at the office and collect your pay ... you won't work here again."
He then turned back to us and said, "Gentlemen, there's a lot of fruit out there. Bring it in for me." We got moving before the inevitable fights began and started picking fruit. At smoko time a guy from the office came round and said, "The chief asked me to tell you that you're all on one shilling per case." By that afternoon word had spread around the district that he was paying a shilling a case, and within 24 hours he had 300 pickers again, but he hadn't let the mob push him around. I have always admired the quiet way he handled this problem. As he later said, "I got rid of the rubbish."
While working there, I became a bit homesick so I decided to return home for a couple of weeks as soon as the peaches cut out. I sailed on the "Monowai" and Dad came up to meet me at Wellington and, surprisingly, brought Barbara up with him. We stayed in a hotel overnight, but Dad had made sure things were kept above board by sharing a room with me. Nonetheless, he had to come to Barbara's room at about 11:30 P.M. and escort me back to my own bed. We caught the ferry to Lyttelton the following night.
One of the most shameful acts of my life occurred when we returned to Purau. Mum, as usual, had cooked one of her spectacular roasts for my first proper meal back home. This was a great change from eating the mass produced food ladled out at the mess hall at the fruit camp. Instead of a plain, dirty, wooden table littered with sauce bottles, enamel plates, mugs and stale "heels" of bread, our table was very gentrified ... linen tablecloth, serviettes, silver cutlery, butter dish and knife and so on. Living under the rougher conditions that prevailed in the mess hall, I had temporarily lost many of my table manners. After our roast and pudding, I decided that a slice of bread with some of Mum's great raspberry jam would be just the ticket. The next thing I was aware of was my voice, directed at Mum, demanding, "Chuck us the fucking jam?" There was an appalling silence at the table. No one spoke! I wanted to disappear from the face of the earth forever. Dad finally, without a word, passed the jam. I'd lost my appetite! A couple of weeks later I returned to Australia.
I next turned my hand to picking grapes at Rutherglen, Victoria. As it turned out my diminutive body was specially designed for just this purpose. I became their "gun" picker. I broke the record by picking 186 five-gallon buckets of grapes in one day. During the afternoon our energy level would fall somewhat. No worries, drays would be used to bring out huge wicker demijohns of wine ... we used to drink it by the mug. No doubt, they got a bit more effort out of us, but many, including myself, rolled home "pie-eyed" every evening. In addition, there was a small winery just down the road from our camp where we used to buy sherry for five shillings per gallon, which we mostly frequented on Sundays.
The living conditions, when one looks back, were appalling. Ex-army huts, two men to a hut, and cyclone beds with straw palliasses. We had no kitchen, no running water and no shower. Just a small dam that was used as an all purpose bathroom, water supply, laundry and possibly toilet, as we didn't have one of those either.
Our cooking arrangements consisted of a pile of firewood supplied by the vineyard. We cooked our evening meal on little open fires with our own billy and frying pan. Tucker could be ordered from town and was delivered around lunchtime, where it would melt, dry out or go bad during the hot afternoon. All I wore to work was a pair of shorts cut down with my knife. The shorts were completely solid with the sugary grape juice, and until they became wet and soft in the morning moisture on the fruit, it was rather like wearing clothing made from galvanized iron.
When I think back I cannot remember any of my fellow pickers complaining about the conditions. I enjoyed the rough bohemie of the life and my workmates company. Then, as good things do, the grapes cut out. So where should I go next?
I'd heard about the Snowy River Hydroelectric Scheme, in New South Wales, and, being handy to Albury, it seemed like a good idea. I applied but was knocked back as I was too young. I drew upon one of the useful talents I had learned at college. I forged the date of birth on my driving license, reapplied and got a pick and shovel job.
After a few weeks, as winter drew nigh, I noticed the cold. In fact, it often became so cold that, while eating lunch in a galvanized iron shed, it would actually snow inside. The heat from our bodies condensed on the ceiling, forming clouds that would precipitate fine snow. At this time, the radio telephone operator at Pretty Valley became ill and had to be evacuated by Snowcat. This left their camp without communication to the rest of the world.
I instantly applied for the job and, by telling a wild story and promising to have my fictitious Marine Radio Operators ticket sent over from New Zealand, I got it. The next trick was to get from Rocky Valley, where I was currently freezing, to Pretty Valley. They had a jeep available but no spare driver so I told them I'd often driven jeeps in snow in New Zealand, thus adding to all the lies I'd already told to become the successful applicant.
I had only a few miles to go over Frying Pan Flat, a kind of plateau, but there was a storm approaching. Never mind. She'll be right! I thought. I was about half way across the flat when the jeep stalled and I couldn't restart it. The storm arrived and I could see nothing and lost the track. It was late afternoon and getting darker, added to by the storm. I then did a stupid thing and left the vehicle. I knew this was wrong but my panic, and the intense cold, overcame all logic. I also took my suitcase with me.
I knew there was a foreman's hut somewhere nearby as I had sheltered there whilst doing manual labor in the area earlier. I was trying to lug my case, which kept getting side on to the wind and acting like a sail. A gust would blow me and my sail along a few yards, where the slippery ice was already forming and then I would fall in a flurry of snow. Many times I lay in the snow getting my breath back and each time it was harder to get up. I knew that if I stayed down I'd be dead very quickly.
Finally the hut loomed up and, with frozen hands, I abandoned my suitcase and managed to get the door open and fell on the floor, slamming it shut with my foot. The fire in the stove was just burning, but it was warm, no, hot in the hut. I will always remember the pain in my hands and face as the heat got to me. The emergency phone was still operating. They often went out as most of the lines just lay on the ground. Not good in a storm. I kept winding the handle on the phone. I didn't really know whom I was calling and I didn't care. I just wanted to talk to someone.
The Rocky Valley operator came on the line and asked where I was. He told me there were Snowcats out looking for me, as I hadn't reached my destination. He radioed them and they arrived in no time at all. My suitcase, half covered by snow a few yards away, was also rescued. One of the Snowcats took me, very happy to still be alive, on to Pretty Valley. I copped lots of abuse though. They'd found my Jeep half an hour earlier. It was over half a mile away from the hut. It was only sheer luck that I had stumbled, and been blown, to the hut. To make it even more embarrassing the storm had almost passed.
While I was up there working, we had two other blokes who had left their vehicle and perished. Those that stayed put were invariably found alive, although perhaps not all that well and happy.
The next day, thawed out, I was sitting at a radiotelephone operator's console with no knowledge, no experience and no qualifications. I managed to get a call through to Rocky Valley and explained I wasn't quite familiar with the operation of their equipment. They were most helpful and sent up an operator to familiarize me. I'm sure he knew I was a "ring in." I enjoyed the job and, other than always having the paymaster asking for my credentials, it was great fun.
Having risen to the dizzying heights of a staff member I was no longer a common laborer and enjoyed many privileges. I was moved to superior accommodation, and ate in the staff dining room. The meals were the same though. Everybody ate well on the Snowy Scheme. In addition, the radio shack had a pot bellied stove that was kept red hot by an employee. His only job was to stoke the fires and make cups of tea for the "staff." After having an outside job in the snow, it was a taste of heaven.
Fast fortunes were made and lost playing "two up"--a well known Australian gambling game played by tossing two pennies--in the drying rooms at night. There were lots of mad gamblers working on the "Snowy." Many left the area very wealthy but most of the real winners were the blokes who ran the games. I do, however, recall a bloke coming up to the area on the bus and the night he arrived he "headed" his last ten shilling note 10 times and let it all ride and thus won over five hundred pounds. He caught a ride out first thing in the morning.
Some time later I received a cable over the radio. Dad was near death and I had to race home. With the aid of our coordinating engineer, I was Snowcatted out, then flew back to New Zealand.
Well, Dad didn't die. He managed to put this off for another 41 years, when he was 90. After he recovered, I returned to Australia and went to Brisbane, Queensland, to stay with some mates I had met in the fruit picking camps, one of whom worked for me some 25 years later. I started working in a tire factory as a pocket maker, whatever that is? God help the people who bought the tires I had a hand in making. I have never, ever, felt safe on this brand of tire. The tedium drove me crazy and the union representative was chasing me. I lasted nine days. That was to be the last wage or salary job I ever had.