When I was in my early teens my parents owned a small mixed business in Mascot. One of our customers was an elderly lady confined to her home.
Everyday I would deliver her bread, milk and other groceries. She insisted on paying me one shilling a week.
After the extraordinary train trip to the Riverina district, I expected my holiday to be unremarkable by comparison.
Nearly every morning Mr Sutcliffe invented a new way to wake me - holding my nose, banging saucepans, splashing water, even putting assorted creatures in my bed.
Often the kids and I would go out to set rabbit traps. One morning we caught a huge goanna. After releasing it (minus one leg) it took off after us. We ran like crazy, barefooted, back to the house. On the way, I trod on a red belly black snake. Fortunately, I was running so hard the snake didn’t have time to recover from its own shock to bite me.
In addition to hundreds of sheep there was quite a menagerie of other animals. The only ones I really cared for was the sweet natured milking cow and the working dogs. The cow loved a cuddle and would try and snuggle in while being milked. The dogs always accompanied us on our adventures, often getting into more trouble than we did.
As for the rest! It is a wonder I am an animal lover.
The pet sheep did not like me. It was happy to have kittens, puppies and children on its back, but not me. If it was in the house yard when I went out in the morning it would head butt me all the way to the outside toilet.
The huge goose thought it was the watch dog. It would also chase me and peck at my bottom.
Then, Mr Sutcliffe thought I should learn to ride a horse. I am sure it was for his amusement and not for me to learn life skills. “Just go up when the horse goes up and down when it goes down”, he instructed. After thirty minutes of not getting the hang of this riding lark I’d had enough. Climbing down I said to him. “You might as well tell the horse to go up and down when I do because we are not communicating!”
For all my whining, the holiday was great fun and quite an experience for this “city girl”.
Oh, and the train trip home was uneventful.