This column was the very first that I actually requested be used on a certain date, as tomorrow is our Wedding Anniversary and good ol’ Amy at the Observer came through with the goods. I can’t wait to hear Long Suffering Wife’s feedback tonight when she gets home!
Wife on the Land
Twenty years ago, things were progressing so well with the girl who was to become Long Suffering Wife, that the idea popped into my head to introduce her to my relations. It was also my big chance to show the kinfolk that at least one of us had done alright.
We arrived at my Uncles’ farm on a bitter mid-winter morning, and as we sat thawing in front of his combustion stove, I made the necessary introductions before casually asking, “So, what do you do for fun out here?” My uncles’ eyes lit up as he sipped his tea.
Ten action packed minutes later I was up to my elbows in muck and filth trying to locate the source of the leak in his septic tank while he stood by leaning on a shovel, “Geez I hope we get it fixed,” he said, “otherwise we’ll have to shower under the old tank.”
I took one look at the icicle hanging off the tanks’ shower rose and redoubled my efforts. It didn’t take too long to fix the problem, and after backfilling the hole, we washed ourselves off at a small tap near the back fence. The water was so cold that it felt like my skin was being flayed off by razor blades. The scenery though, was magnificent, with only one other house off in the distance. As I stared at the remote dwelling, a man staggered from the back door, one hand clutching his chest. “Ah,” murmured my uncle, “old Reg is having a spot of heart trouble.”
“Heart trouble?!” I asked in alarm, “Shouldn’t we help him?”
“Nah, he’ll be right,” came the casual reply.
Reg reached his back fence, grabbed the top wire with both hands, convulsed and twitched for a few seconds before letting go and wobbling back into his house. “I taught him that,” said my uncle.
“What? Taught him what?” I asked, not quite believing what I’d just seen.
“Whenever he has a heart turn he grabs his electric fence which fixes him up for a while.”
“Do you have an electric fence?” I asked, staring at the many strands of wire surrounding the property.
“Yeah,” he said, scratching his head, “One there, that one over there, this one, no, hang on, not this one, that one,” he pointed to a fence off in the distance.
“So, not this one then?” I asked, reaching for the top wire.
He helped me to my feet, and while I caught my breath, he found my hat, brushed it off and plopped it back on my head, “Sorry ‘bout that,” he muttered, “my mistake. Yeah, this one too,” he added unnecessarily, “c’mon, we’ll check the horses, then go in for smoko.”
I stumbled along behind him to where the near frozen animals were clustered together in the middle of a small paddock, possibly to avoid going anywhere near the wire fences. Gazing at my quivering hands, I wondered if my uncle had hooked his fences up to the mains supply. Approaching the horse pen he touched the top wire, “This one’s alright,” he said, so I leaned on it and rested my sodden foot on the bottom wire.
He helped to my feet again, “But the other two are live,” he said, brushing the grass and manure off me. The air was filled with the smell of burning hair.
Eventually we returned to the safety of the house where I sat next to the combustion stove trying to control my twitching limbs. My girlfriend patted me on the knee and smiled, “It’s nice here isn’t it? Can we stay a couple more days?” she asked sweetly. My uncle thought that was a marvellous idea, as across the paddock Reg kicked open his backdoor and lurched towards his fence again. At that moment I had a clear premonition of what married life was going to be like; Full of shocks, but kind of funny.
Happy Anniversary Little Mate!