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  1914
 

In 1914 dark clouds rolled across Europe, but in Australia, only the faint rumblings of the storm could be heard. Life was still safe, fathers and brothers were not yet caught in the maelstrom of war. For the most part life flowed smoothly on the farm. But some days no matter what you do nothing goes right and for my Uncle Harry this was one of those days, one of those 'I should have stayed in bed' days.

The day dawned bright with sunlight and birdsong. It was a Tuesday and Harry's mother wanted to go to town, so young Harry was sent off to hitch up the sulky. Now the mare was the sweetest, most docile pony around and just happened to be the pride and joy of Harry's mother. About the only thing Great-Aunt Ann preferred to Sally was Holly, the new Jersey cow about to calf (an eagerly awaited event). Sally was a real beauty, glossy chestnut coat and the daintiest set of hooves around, a real high stepper.

Young Harry wandered over to the yard to catch Sally. That was no problem, she was a well behaved lady. He tossed the halter over her blinkered head. But, too lazy to lead her across to the sulky, Harry decided Sally could carry him. Now normally that wouldn't be a problem, but...

Harry had been doing some odd jobs for his older brother and in payment Gordon had bought him a shiny new pair of spurs. Harry, naturally, thought they were the bee's knees and wore them everywhere, even to hitch up the pony. With a quick jump Harry landed on Sally's bare back. He leaned forward to grab the halter and as he did so his ankles swung back and up and, albeit unintentionally, the rowels cut into Sally's flanks. And she was off; there's never been a faster start out of the gates at Flemington. The young jockey hung on like grim death. Unable to reach the halter, Harry twisted his hands in her mane and shut his eyes. And that meant neither could see where they were headed. Poor Sally was wearing blinkers, so if she was looking at all it was straight ahead. But she was so surprised by the unexpected pain she was just running. And boy could she run.

Across the paddock they went, a bundle of flying legs, under the clothes line, catching Nanna's combinations around Harry's neck on the way. Harry opened his eyes. Oh no. They were heading straight for the dunny. Desperately Harry leaned to the side. It was just enough to divert Sally. They wouldn't hit it head on, but they still caught the edge of the old thunderbox and rocked it on its foundations. Harry glanced behind him as they flashed past.

His father was stumbling out of the dunny, suspenders dragging, trousers around his knees and with a face like a stunned mullet. Harry quickly shut his eyes again. Some sights are more than the brain can comprehend and that was one of them.

Air continued to rush through Harry's hair and he thought this nightmare ride would never end. He risked opening his eyes a fraction. Satan's slippers! There was nothing between them and Jakes Gully except his mother's jersey cow. But if they went over the cliff they'd both be goners. Harry tightened his grip on Sally's mane and pulled her hard to the left, pitching his body to the side. The cow loomed before them, stumbling to her feet as she spied the oncoming aberration. Crash. Down they all went, boy, horse and cow in a welter of sweat, hair and legs.

Slowly Harry became aware of noise, incredible noise right beside him. The cow was bellowing like there was no tomorrow, Sally was neighing in harmony, and his parents were screaming as they raced across the paddock. Harry shook himself, at least he was still alive. Although maybe not for much longer judging by the look on his father's face. That was enough warning for Harry, he was up and running. And he didn't stop till tea time.

As for the cow, it was just the impetus she needed to produce her calf, and Sally was fine. Great-Aunt Anne wasn't very impressed with Harry that day, or with Gordon for giving him the spurs, but she got over it, although she didn't make it to town that day, and when she did get there, the world had changed.

 

 

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