| The school room was a separate room, at the end of the very long verandah.
Yes, that verandah, where the after five happenings happened. The verandah
was at least fifteen foot wide and completely enclosed by insect screening.
At one end was the school room, and at the other end the boss’s
office where he kept his own private stuff – the stuff the Manager
didn’t deal with. He also kept his favourite 410 shotgun there
for ease of access by everyone.
Outside the boss’s office was a huge grapevine covered Pergola,
and at the time I arrived it was covered in fruit. Luscious bunches
of black grapes – the favourite food of the Bower Bird. Bower
Birds are beautiful, iridescently coloured and with some amazing habits,
apart from loving the taste of grapes. They are attracted to anything
shiny or blue, and the tales of sparkly jewellery and other small
objects disappearing are legendary. The Bower Bird builds a bower
of tall grass to woo his potential mate, and lines the floor of this
with the pretty things it finds. When people come across the bower
they are truly amazed at what is there, shining in the sunlight. Of
course these birds are the pride and joy of the Australian people
and are totally protected – except when they eat the boss’s
grapes – and then out comes the 410, but before you can touch
the gun, the two little house dogs, Fox Terriers who yap their heads
off, have to be coaxed into the schoolroom and the door firmly shut – then
go get the shotgun and then scare the birds. There is great jubilation
if a bird is actually shot – and I must admit at the age of
17 I joined in. In fact I was rather glad the drought didn’t
break whilst I was at Boatman, because I peppered the tin roof something
awful one day, and it was sure to have leaked when the rains did come.
My little charge was in dire need of a teacher who would get her
to actually knuckle down and do some work. Her record from the Correspondence
School showed real promise, and very good marks, yet she didn’t
even know her times tables. I soon learned that the previous governess,
who had been the daughter of the cook, and one of the indigenous workers
on the place, had been doing the school work for her, just so that
she would not throw tantrums.
Now, I am the eldest of five, and the daughter of parents who brooked
no argument about anything, who expected work to be done, and done
properly – and I am now amazed at how my Iron Tendency showed
even at that tender age!!!
We started at the beginning, we took no notice of tears, we wrote
to the correspondence school superintendent, because every child is
by law bound to attend school, wherever they live, and prove that
they are doing so, and the basics were soon underway. Of course coping
with her mother at the same time – the mother who was obviously
guilty about her maternal skills, or lack of them – was a bigger
problem than the child, but the boss could see what I was trying to
do, and backed me all the way, and nobody argues with the boss……..