It is hard to believe that the kids and I have now been living in the country for just over six years. I still wonder as to how we were seemingly plucked from the city and ended up in this beautiful part of the world in the mountains. I also quite regularly think of all the lessons I have learned from my country life.
I have learned that I am funny. Not in that I think I am funny, just that I seem to leave behind me a wake of mirth. Recently when the lovely poultry farmer delivered our five chickens that I was rescuing from the end of their days, I felt the need to explain to him why I wanted five of his chickens. I told him that I thought Regina needed some friends. He asked me who was Regina and I told him she was one of my hens. He guffawed at me and told me that was a strange name for a chook. He then told me that he thought it was odd that a chook even had a name. When we released the hens into the wild that is the second half of my back yard, Rocky the Rooster launched himself at them all and pecked them on their heads. I shouted at Rocky and told him he was a bastard. The poultry farmer exploded and asked me what did I expect? That all rooster were bastards, just like men. He thought he was funny. I just looked anxiously at Rocky. He then told Archie to make sure that dog didn’t go near the hens. Archie reassured him that Kevin liked chooks. He then exploded again and as he drove off he was muttering, “who calls a dog bloody Kevin?”
When we first moved into the cottage Noddy was our next-door neighbour. Then I learned that country folk truly are the salt of the earth. Whenever I hear that expression I think of Noddy. He taught me that in the country hours can go by without you even noticing. I would be hanging out my washing, Noddy would stick his head over the fence and start talking. Two hours later Noddy would be gone, my washing would still be on the line and I would wonder where the hell had those two hours just gone.
I learned to never offer Noddy a cup of tea. If I did that he would look a bit taken aback, tell me he would have to take off his shoes and our conversation would be over as he made a hasty retreat.
I have learned that simple is good in the country. I was getting our hen house ready in the early days of the cottage. I had an old kitchen cupboard that someone had dropped off after a kitchen renovation, I had two grass catchers from lawn mowers and an old bar fridge that had never worked. I had this all set up and was filling the shed with hay when Noddy popped his head over the fence and asked me what I was doing. I told him that I was getting my chook house ready as I wanted to get some hens. He looked at me and said not a word which was quite odd for Noddy. Then he started chuckling and asked me if I was going to get a television. I said, “excuse me?” and he replied, “well it looks like the bloody Hilton.”
I have learned that country folk can be kind. After Noddy’s mirth at my chook house, he appeared again another day with a cage with six bantam hens. He told me he had picked up some hens for the hen house and that they would be good for the kids. I offered to pay for them and he looked aghast and backed away. He had done it, just because. Just because he was kind. By then we had rescued Kevin from the Sheep station down south and Noddy told Archie that he looked like a good dog. Archie nodded solemnly and said that Kevin was a good dog. Noddy clarified, “Kevin?”. Archie nodded and Noddy let out a guffaw and said those now familiar words, “who names a dog bloody Kevin?”
Never walk a working dog. That is another lesson I learned. I fell in love with Noddy’s dog Nell and as we walked Kevin every day I asked Noddy if I could take Nell with us. Noddy looked at me like I was an idiot and told me that she was a working dog. I nodded and said I thought it would be nice. Noddy chuckled as he walked away and said he never heard of walking a working dog.
So, we talk Nell for a walk. Bad idea, bad. Kevin was a loose cannon on a lead at the best of times and Nell was strong. The kids and I galloped down Manners Street while I muttered in my head about the stupidity of walking a working dog. We crossed the main street and were just behind the Corner which is a rather lovely café in the centre of town, when Kevin must have got the scent of something good. Suddenly, he got a glazed look in his eye and before I could do anything about it he mounted Nell with glee. Bloody Kevin. I said, “Bad dog, bad dog” repeatedly and tried to pull him away when I realised with horror that he was locked. I was in the middle of town for god’s sake. I rang my mum, which is always the best thing to do when you are in a fix and asked her what I should do. I told her Kevin was locked with Nell and they were now going around in circles while utes drove past and gave me early morning honks.
She told me to get a high-pressure hose. I asked her if she was kidding, I did not have access to a high-pressure hose at that stage in my life. She told me that it was the only thing that would do it. In a panic I asked her what else I could do. She told me as she hung up on me laughing, that the only thing I could do was to wait it out. So, we waited for 15 minutes while I began the process of a sexual education with the kids and I tried to ignore the sound of honking utes. Never walk a working dog.
I have learned that life can bring you unexpected surprises. Unfortunately, some time later Noddy passed away so thankfully he never knew of my disastrous attempt to walk his Nell. However, I was sitting on the deck one day and I heard his nephew talking to his uncle and I distinctly hear the words, “Bloody Kevin.” I looked over the fence and said cheerio just to make sure Kevin was not running amok. Once again there seemed to be a great deal of hilarity and I was asked if I had seen Nell’s pups. I never even knew she was having pups. I am an idiot. He then said to me – “Lara, you can’t half tell who the father is”, and both he and his uncle said in unison, “Bloody Kevin.” So that is how we got Rosie and Kevin then got fixed.
I have learned that there can be a whole lovely world in your back yard. I look at the beautiful gum tree that towers over our yard, my lemon tree that never stops giving. I can watch the chickens and Rocky the rooster play their school yard games for hours. I can sit on my step with Kevin and Rosie at my feet and think it truly is a lovely world. I don’t think I will ever stop learning from this life in the country. The biggest lesson perhaps, is that simple is good. Simple can be truly beautiful.