Saturday, May 8, 2010

Ambushed by a Little Old Lady

"Oh, dog food has gone up again," she said. She was elderly - 80+? -erect, smiling, meticulously groomed.
I had rushed into the supermarket to grab some printer paper, which, because of some rationale that I can't fathom, is next to the dog food. But, instead of answering and hurrying away, I responded to her age, grace and the whiff of loneliness I scented, and smiled. My doom was sealed.
I still can't work out how she seamlessly segued into the following, in no particular order: her father had his hearing damaged from WW1, when he was leading his half-wild horse from Tumbarumba that balked at getting on the ship in Sydney. The youngest brother lied about his age, went to ww1 too young, and was killed. Her father went into hairdressing, and made enough money to buy their "beautiful farm" at Oberne,where she was "from." Her father's name was Hartnett - they were called "hardnuts" at school, which led to many a scuffle: but she and her sister had dark red hair, (from their Irish mother, who was an O'Hanratty) and tempers to match. They had 90 cows, and her father used to buy new bulls from Dapto, because of, you know... but, they milked 50. The four of them would hand milk them morning and night, into kerosene tins that her father had boiled and inserted handles into, they would pour the milk into a 90 gallon drum, and father would leave them to milking while he went off to separate. Nearby was the old Cobb and Co staging post, a 3 story building with cellars and iron lace around the balconies. Now she lived nearby in a house with a giant river red gum in the backyard, and neighbours who had erected a 12 ft high brick fence. She pays her rates by installments, because she's not going to have the council getting interest from her money. Her dog, a border collie, is a wonderful watchdog: but, no one could get close without being detected by her 40 year old pet galah, anyway.
Yes, I made several futile efforts to extract myself: but, it took most of 30 minutes before I got away.
She was expert enough to not make it a monologue. Do you know Oberne? Do you know what a separator is? etc etc
I found her fascinating and very likeable. I have doubts that Cobb and Co ever went to Oberne - a place that there are no roads to, according to google maps, but perhaps they did when there was a gold rush at Adelong. I wanted to know whether the half wild horses were the boys own, or supplied by the army, but she couldn't understand my question.
Iwill walk the street where she lives, tomorrow - it is only 5 or 6 blocks long. I have the feeling that I will see no giant river red gum, and no 12 ft brick fence. I hope that I am wrong.


Penny said...

What a fascinating conversation. I hope she remembered the dog food, and I hope her memory is better than it appears to be.

There was a Cobb & Co Staging Post at Tarcutta. A major fire in 1905 destroyed many of the buildings in the district.

I wonder if she is remembering things she was told as a youngster as her own. Old people can get confused in that way sometimes.

All the same, she sounds delightful!

Frances said...

Oh, thanks for that information, Penny.
What you suggest is quite possible: she started to repeat herself several times, but pulled herself up very sharply.

Relatively Retiring said...

One of the joys of being an old lady (but not little) is that you can be fascinating historically and few will challenge you. The downside is that few will listen to you.
Well done to you for a great listening service.

Frances said...

Thankyou for the thanks, Relatively Retiring.

I'm still enjoying your garden photos, but do you ever consider writing some of the history that you've lived through? I, for one, really enjoy others' recollections.

Charlie said...

What a wonderful post! I think you did a great thing by taking the time to listen to that LOL (little old lady in this instance). She is probably very lonely, and you quite possibly made her day by communicating with her.

(I LOVE your masthead photo.)

Frances said...

Thanks for that, Charlie.
The masthead is a corner of my garden, in one of its rare moments of almost-tidiness: an unfortunate side effect of liking things, including children, to grow the way that their nature decides.