Donkeys & Goats & Carrots & Queensland

A few weeks ago B and I went to Queensland as a surprise for his mother’s 60th. Technically, I was the bigger surprise, as his parents hadn’t met me yet, so I was all, ‘Surprise! … I’m Julia!’

The family home reminded me a lot of my paternal grandparents’ house in Tamworth, where I spent a lot of time as a kid, so I had some feels even before I was introduced to the donkey. That’s right: donkey.

I have a thing for donkeys, I think they are amongst the funniest of animals because their heads are GIANT.

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It is safe to say that the donkey was not my biggest fan to begin with. B’s dad set us straight, as he trundled past on his brand new tractor: the donkey’s love could be bought and the currency was carrots.

Luckily, carrots could be bought in 5kg increments, because we fed the animals so many carrots that they can all now see in the dark.

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Look how much the donkey grew to love us!

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If you think donkeys love carrots, you’ve never met a goat. Goats LOVE carrots. I was fairly indifferent to goats before my visit, and although I grew fond of them, my first reaction was hysterical laughter when they attacked B, and then hysterical terror when they attacked me.

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By “attack” I mean they are very agile carrot lovers, who will climb you if need be to get at a carrot. Unless they are the psychotic little dappled one, in which case it probably is trying to kill you. And me. And all the other goats.

Goat faces are ridiculous. Look at these funny jerks!

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It was sad to say goodbye, part of me would have been very happy to see out my days in the little tin goat shed, bathing in the bathtub trough.

Alas, Sydney called.

The last time I saw B was just after this photo was taken and the fence collapsed and he was swarmed by goats.

B2

The Story of Poo Golf.

In the school holidays Steph and I would sometimes go to the sale yards with Dad to help out. I think it was probably Mum’s idea, that she romanticised us spending time with Dad in a heady mix of dust and cow shit, that Dad would be able to teach us a little country roughness and bond with us like the sons he never had.

Instead I spent most of my time assuming all the men were laughing at me while I desperately trying to avoid getting crushed by a few tonnes of steak. I also got the impression I was more of a hindrance than a help, and that on the days I was there, Dad missed out of the male bonding aspects of the day that I’m pretty sure mostly revolved around jokes children weren’t meant to hear.

My favourite part of the day was usually breakfast, served in a small lino-floored hall by the only other women at the yards. It was a typical Big Breakfast affair: eggs, bacon, sausages. It was here a draw would be held to see what order the stock and station agents would sell that day. Dad always seemed to draw towards the dreaded end of the lot on the days I was there.

There were particular rules to be respected over meals: no hats on, all shit to be cleaned from your boots before you sat down. I would eat in silence, studiously avoiding looking at the large laminated posters of the various stages of eye cancer in cattle.

The days were better when Steph was there, we could bond over our mutual terror of being gored to death or embarrassing Dad, or embarrassing Dad by being gored to death. We were at a tentative stage of our sisterly friendship, just shy of the years where we didn’t really like one another, a few years from hanging out by choice.

It was at the yards one day when I discovered we had a similar sense of humour. Bored, I had scooped a pile of shit onto the end of the cane switch we used to herd the cattle and I was surreptitiously trying to wipe it on Steph’s back. She noticed and thus began silent warfare as we tried to subtly smear one another with poo.

Along came a small sun-weathered ex-jokey turned cattle truck driver, a friend of our parents, who caught us poo-handed. “Ah! Playing a few rounds of poo golf, are you?” he cried. Poo golf. Brilliant. The perfect alibi. It became an instant catchcry. Never again would we play it, but frequently we laughed about it in later years. It felt like an ice-breaker. These adults had something in common with us, they too couldn’t pass a cow pat without taking a swing at it, or stomping in it, or trying to flick it on someone else.

It was poo golf that bound us all together.

Workin’ For The Man

Tomorrow I am getting a five years of service award at work.

Five years at a job I jumped to in order to avoid the fallout of the global financial crisis on my last job, it’s a job I knew nothing about, a job I have held for what have probably been some of the most formative years of my life, a job I probably didn’t expect to stick with for longer than 12 months.

In the last five years I’ve thought I wanted to be an English teacher, a psychologist, a journalist, a photographer, or a sub-par Sedaris-esque memoirist. Now I just want to excel in the role I have and have no idea what I want to be when I grow up.

I still struggle to describe what I do at work, but I increasingly see its value. I’ve learnt a tonne about myself: I’m good with relationships, terrible with diary management.

Some of my closest friends have been made at work and they’ve probably seen more of “me” than most.

I don’t know if I’ll be here in five more years, I suspect not, but it’s been exactly what I needed, especially in the last 18 months.

Anything I can measure in large units of time surprises me.