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Holidays at the Pinnacles

A story by Beryl Bowden

There were occasions when I was fortunate enough to have holidays on a property called The Pinnacles a few miles out of town. It belonged to friends of Mum and Dad’s, Mr and Mrs Bill Lowry. I often spent part of my school holidays there. Just to get to the property was an experience in itself. Once the town limits were left behind the road was a rough cattle track. Mrs Lowry drove a sulky over this rutted track and through three creek crossings. There were no bridges, just the horse and sulky slipping and sliding over the river stones with an awful clatter, and me hanging on for dear life.

Mr Lowry had built their weatherboard cottage. Perched on the side of the hill it had two unlined rooms and was very basic. There was no electricity and nothing in the way of conveniences. Mrs Lowry cooked on an open fire and boiled the clothes in a kerosene tin suspended from a hook over the fire. At the rear of the house were a vegetable garden and a fowl house that provided poultry and eggs. Mr Lowry supplied meat for the table. If a wallaby ventured too near it was shot and butchered. I didn’t like the strong taste of wallaby meat but I could eat the wallaby tail soup she made.

One thing I really liked was her home cured bacon.They reared their own pigs and she cured the bacon herself. Sometimes a calf was killed and we ate fresh meat for a couple of days. Any meat we didn’t eat was corned to prevent it going bad. The brine was kept in a vat and large chunks of meat were placed in it until needed. Thanks to a house cow they had milk and cream, from which they made butter. The cream was first churned until it was solid and separated from the buttermilk then patted into a square with butter pats. These pats consisted of two flat boards with a design etched on one that made an impression on the butter. Every housewife had her own butter pats. Mrs Lowry’s was a Scotch thistle flower.

Once, when I was about twelve years old, Mr Lowry decided he would do some ploughing and took me along to help. He yoked his draught horse to the plough and gave me a long stick and told me to stand about fifty yards away with the stick planted in the ground. This was to give him something to aim at. I positioned myself as instructed and he started the horse towards me. The ground he was ploughing was virgin soil, which meant he had bracken fern, tree roots and rocks to contend with. Every time the plough struck one of these obstacles it dug in or jumped sideways, putting a lot of strain on the horse. Judging by the language, keeping the plough upright and on a straight course was putting a whole lot of strain on the driver, too. The horse, the plough, the tree roots and I, all came in for special mention. But because my Dad never swore in front of us I was not familiar with the words Mr Lowry used! When the plough was within a few yards of me I was supposed to run up the other end as fast as I could and have my trusty stick upright by the time he and the horse were turned and headed back in my direction. Stumbling over freshly ploughed fields does not make for speedy progress, but that was no excuse as far as he was concerned. If I was not in position to guide him when he was ready, his language turned the air blue.

Mrs Lowry came and rescued me when she heard the commotion from the house, half a mile away. She told him off for swearing in front of me. “Bill, don’t you know this girl goes to Sunday school?” she asked indignantly, and hurried me back to the house.

It was decided that the day I went home I would help with the transport of a surplus litter of young pigs to be sold in Stroud. Sale day arrived and we approached the pig-pen with the intention of putting the little fellows into the back of the spring cart ready to take them into town. Reluctant to be parted from them, the mother pig actively opposed her piglets being removed from the pen. Large as she was, she could move quickly and we had a few narrow escapes when she charged us as we scrambled to the side of the pen, clutching a squealing piglet. We eventually succeeded in putting them in the cart and covering them with a rope pig-net.

Mrs Lowry and I-and the piglets set out, but we had not gone far when the piglets realised that the net was not restraining them as it was designed to do. The mesh was too large and it was a small matter for the adventurous ones to wriggle through and make a break for freedom. Mrs Lowry was busy driving the cart; so it was left to me to hop off, retrieve the errant piglets and stuff them back under the net. When we finally arrived in Stroud I was red with embarrassment. The piglets were escaping at regular intervals and my twelve-year-old pride was sorely tested.

My discomfiture amused the driver and she told the story with much relish when she delivered me home to the family.

An excerpt from Beryl’s published work Growing Up In Stroud.

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2 Comments on “Holidays at the Pinnacles”

  1. Glenn Greenham March 31, 2015 at 9:00 am #

    My god Beryl Bowden I remember this place, going back many, many years ago. Myself and Peter Gilbert or my stepbrother Bevan Greenham used to walk to this place via the pinnacle hills or ride our bikes via mill creek rd and saggus creek rd, some good old memories here.

    • Beryl Bowden April 9, 2015 at 4:35 pm #

      Good to hear from you Glenn. I spent many happy holidays there.Certainly not fancy but I had good fun. Big Bill was a character, one of a kind!

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