Monday, July 23, 2012

It's Official Kardashians Filming show in Arrowhead in house Next to me...

How cool is this, the producers contacted us and wanted to know how much of an impact there would be in our lives to have all this commotion going on in the house next door to us, they also wanted to get permission to park their service vehicles down below on our bottom lot, of course we said no problem go for it.

So they are working all the details out and we get to go down to the Kardashians home for dinner and a meet and greet next Friday.

Sorry, that's not entirely correct, nor is it true, neither is it honest, or forthright, or fair, or authentic, or real or any other word you can think of that would indicate a falsehood. I just wanted to do this to see if in fact I get a spike in page views.

As a country we are so taken by celebrity, so much so that Yahoo ran an article last week Titled "Unlikely Celebrity Children's Book Authors," and it just drove me nuts. These people didn't write these books, and seriously if they did actually write them, the editors basically re-wrote them for the celebrities.

Chris Colfer, from Glee... Self Written.
"Rehashing/retelling fairy tales is really nothing new in children's literature, but that doesn't mean that a fresh twist can't still be put on them. Unfortunately Chris Colfer doesn't do much to set himself apart from the rest of the pack."

Madonna,  "English Roses." ... Self Written.
"You know, I actually expected it to be pretty good, as I figured she had probably hired someone to "edit" it into a well-written and fun book.
Nope, she wrote it all herself. The moral? That beautiful people have problems too, and that the children of single family households are stressed slaves without childhoods. Um, how did that bit get past the PC review board?
Poorly written and insulting to anyone with only one parent, anyone who is snubbed by the "in crowd" for reasons other than being beautiful and perfect, or with a sense of literary decency.
I'm appalled at how many people enjoyed this book."

John Travolta, "One Way Night-Coach." Self Written.
"This book is so poorly written it should never have left the editors desk without being covered with red ink. John Travolta is a wonderful actor, but would benefit greatly from lessons if he should want to continue his "writing" career."

Julianne Moore, "Freckle Face," series Three Writers.
"The boy (Windy Pants) in this story has two MOMS and there are family pictures depicting the same. I was not happy about being FORCED to have THIS discussion with my 7-year-old daughter. I purchased this book knowing it was about accepting other children that are different; but I wrongfully assumed it would be about freckles, hair color, weight, skin color, etc." 

The reviews were taken straight from Amazon and I'll admit I haven't read one of these or the 8 others that were being praised by Yahoo, but really, seriously people, I don't wanna be a snob about writing and I think everyone should write something about anything at some stage in their life. The reality is that these authors based on the reviews I read on Amazon wouldn't have gotten past the slush pile if it wasn't for the fact that they are Celebrities. If Kim Kardashian were to write a book about "How to sit the correct way while while getting a pedicure." it would be picked up in a flash and would be rushed to the bookshelves in mere weeks!

So nothing astounding here folks, not even trying for writing gems, just wanted to see how many pages views I get because of the title... Please don't say anything on Facebook to distort my little experiment, I'll let you know the outcome though before I get back to seriously Writing in Spite of Myself.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

I wouldn't do that if I was you!

How many times have you heard that in your lifetime?

A couple of weeks ago I received my annual weed abatement notice from the County, instructing me to clear my property of weeds, fallen logs, debris, and general fire fuel, I have until the end of this month to comply, so as per usual I ignored the written notice, but filed the mental note in my overflowing brain, under "Don't Wanna, But Must Do," file.
Yesterday was my day to sort out that file and since weed abatement was the last thing in, it naturally became the first thing out.

The Correct way to Weed Whack
I put on a pair of old tennis shoes, WITH socks, ankle socks, and my favorite faded blue Life is Good short sleeved tee shirt, my threadbare khaki Cargo Shorts and my sunnies, not for protection but because it was pretty bright outside and then armed with my battery powered, newly acquired, 24volt Weed destructing, brush mangling stick of power I headed out to do battle with my sticker patches and weeds.

Jon's way to Weed Whack.

Now, while I was getting dressed for said assault on the hill I kept hearing Patty's voice rising from behind my "Don't Wanna, But Must Do," file and it was saying, "I wouldn't do that if I was you!" along with "Maybe you should wear long pants and long sleeves and how about a dust mask, eyeglasses and gloves? "
To which I of course replied, "Ha, long pants, long sleeves, pfft, dust mask? phooey! gloves? can't find em! and eyeglasses? whats wrong with my Oakleys?"

Two hours later after tearing of half my thumb nail, inhaling copious amounts of dust and debris, rubbing my contact covered eyes till they were nearly as red as my well scratched up and bleeding calf's and shins, I thought to myself, "I wish Patty was here to make me put all that junk on."
Just about then I heard the unmistakable buzz of a bee, followed very closely by the unmistakable buzz of a couple of hundred bee's and then like some old grainy black and white Tom and Jerry cartoon I was being chased and stung multiple times by this angry mob of pissed off bee's, they got me on my wrists, my neck, my chest (through my favorite faded very lightweight t-shirt) my head, sucks having a bald spot, ok I should say area rather than spot, and they tried for my mouth, but seriously I managed to flick them away like a Wimbledon Champion, wielding my hand instead of a racket.
I charged up my pretty steep hillside, bee's following me, dive bombing me, driving me to get my fat arse up the hill and I complied in a manner that could quite possibly have put me into the Olympics for the Triple Jump event.  I made it to my driveway T-shirt ripped from my body, shoes kicked off, shorts half way down to my ankles, still swatting at imaginary bee's, my chest heaving for air, all the while wondering if I might die from this killer bee attack and not noticing the elderly couple that regularly walk their very cute Alaskan Malamute past our house daily. Of course I politely nodded in their general direction as I ran in my front door big white arse halfway out of my undies breathlessly trying to find the Benedryl and Patty's Epi pen. The Benedryl worked and here I sit still quite sore from the stings, but alive and wondering why did I do that?

This whole episode started me thinking of other times that I did really quite stupid things with complete and total disregard for my personal safety, like...

While finishing the partial remodel on our house here in Arrowhead, (I'm beginning to wonder if the house doesn't want me here,) I was using my table saw to cut the hard wood floor boards for the kitchen and was nearly finished with the project, when I heard not only Patty's voice, but my dad's as well saying "I wouldn't do that if I was you."
Of course I knew better so why shouldn't I remove the safety guard on the blade, it was just getting in the way of things and I was moving at a seriously professional pace, the floor was only four cuts away from being complete and the dogs were getting tired of being outside, so why not let them in while I make the final cuts? I'll tell you why, because dogs can get rambunctious and safety guards are there for a reason and when the rambunctious dogs mix with guard-less table saw blade, dismembered thumbs are pretty much the norm.
Just as I'm cutting the wood plank, one of the dogs decided it wanted the Plushie Killer Whale that the other one had and they banged into me, and my thumb banged into the blade that spinning pretty bloody fast and the next thing I know I have a trail of blood up my faded green Life is Good t-shirt and I'm looking at my thumb bone, it's really amazing how white bones can be while they're still attached to your body. Anyway I didn't quite loose my thumb but it was a close call. Now that I think of it, maybe I should stop wearing those Life is Good t-shirts?

I could go on and on about other times that I should have paid attention to the voice in my head, a voice that sometimes screamed at me "I WOULDN'T DO THAT IF I WAS YOU!" like the time I was working up in a gold mine outside of Meekatharra with my younger brother Adrian, we had been sent out to a mud field where the plant discharged waste from the gold treatment plant and our job was to rotate the pipes so they didn't wear out on one side from the abrasives in the discharge, (NO, I'm not talking sewage!) we would have to wade into these huge fields of mud in wellington or rubber boots and spend the day just turning pipes in knee deep slop, I'm not sure why we weren't issued waders, but we weren't.
The end of our shift comes and I had snagged and cut my palm on a piece of metal and needed to get it seen to by medical, so I wander over to the first aid building in my boots full of mud and ask the nurse to check out my hand, she tells me to get outside and take my mud filled boots off, I try and do just that, I go out sit down on the steps and can't for the life of me get the boots off since they were full of mud and creating a vacuum that I couldn't break, I stick my head back inside the door and ask for a Stanley trimmer or box cutter, she doesn't even ask why as she hands me a scalpel.
Are you already seeing the end of this anecdote?
I sit back on the step and proceed to cut the first boot from my leg which I do without a hitch, the whole time ignoring the voice in my head... I get to the second boot and as I'm slicing down the side of the boot I hit a weak section of rubber and it flies down the boot and right across the top of my big toe, slicing to the bone. Adrian looks at my toe and says, "Should I go grab you a bandage mate, looks like you might have cut the bugger off!"
I was worried that I might actually get fired for being so stupid so I pulled my toe toward my ankle  and taped it up with electrical tape and to this day the bloody toe still works and I have barely a scar to show for it.

So as I sit here at my computer waiting for "Home Defenders," to come and rid me of the angry bee's so I can retrieve my weed whacker and get back to work I wonder how many times you've ignored that voice in your head saying "I wouldn't do that if I was you?"

I should really be out there watching the bloke eradicate the bastard, bloody, bee's that caused such embarrassment to my elderly dog walking neighbors, but since I haven't posted in a week I decided instead to sit here and "Write in Spite of Myself."

Thursday, July 12, 2012

"Death of A School."

In my last post, I spoke about one of the many incidents that happened with me (as opposed to, TO me,)  and it was a lot of fun remembering that particular event. I sat here and laughed out loud while I relived the scene of the Brother driving up to me.

One of the comments from Sandra was that "And the School is still around grooming young farmers."
Sadly that's not the case, the school did close it's doors back in 2009 and I still remember feeling a great loss when I heard about it.

I attended the school back in the seventies and it was many things to me.  I had my first non-sibling punch up there and I was terrified during the lead up to it. Of course after the fight (which I started like an idiot,)  I had a nice fat lip, black eye, and broken nose to go along with the start of a great new friendship, Charlie Mac beat the ever living snot out of me, laughing with every perfectly aimed and landed punch he threw from the fists of a kid whose dad had been a Golden Gloves contender and was intent on his son following in his footsteps. Oh the choices we make sometimes!

I wont say I was taught discipline there, but it was most definitely refined by the Christian Brothers, my dad was an excellent disciplinarian quite possibly because practice does in fact make perfect and he practiced on me on a very regular basis. The Brothers brand of discipline though went beyond even what my dad knew, in fact with the Olympics just around the corner I dare say that if they had a competition for discipline the Brothers would win Gold and my dad would be a distant Silver.
Some people I'm sure will be horrified to know that part of their corporal punishment regimen was the use of old Tractor Fan Belts, literally right of the old crappy John Deere Combine that I drove. Depending on the Brother and the severity of the offense it was a quick march upstairs, lay on the bed, pants down, bare butt exposed and lay there like that while he went and fetched the dirty old fan belt to strap you with, that was Brother Morgan's favorite. Yes I copped a few of them and believe me when I say, I couldn't sit down for an hour or so. Others like old Brother Newman preferred a sharp right jab followed by a left hook, Brother Couch's weapon of choice was the good old fashioned cane, Brother Hanley he was very old school and would just tug your ear, funny as it may sound I preferred any of the others over the ear tug.

 My point is, that although I copped my fair share of Brotherly Discipline, I deserved it and it didn't kill me, and it didn't leave any scars, and it didn't screw me up for the rest of my life, it didn't take away my childhood, it taught me in no uncertain terms that I was responsible for my actions and I was in no doubt at all that for example; when I was pinching a couple of beers from the Brothers dining room I had better not get caught, but if I did it was a fair collar and I knew I deserved what was coming.

Another great gift from the school was Hard Work. When I first got there I resented all the work we had to do, but man, it prepared me for later in life. I had just turned thirteen when I started school and here's a list as best I can remember of some of the jobs I had.
Baker, Slaughterer, Butcher, Steam Engine Attendant (we had a giant wood fed boiler for our laundry room,) Laundry worker (we took turns on Saturdays laundering the whole schools dirties...) Truck Driver, Front End Loader Operator, Bulldozer operator, Grader Operator, every imaginable farm implement you can imagine operator, Barber, Movie Projectionist (the old type where you had to continuously wind the arcing rods to provide the back light) Cook, Shearer, Painter, Mechanic, All the jobs related to Animal Husbandry and other than the painting I loved every job I did!

Back then we never had electives or options we did what they told us to do, when they told us to and every single boy participated, when it was Aussie Rules season, we all played footy, no one got to sit out, every single boy, good bad or indifferent played footy. Swim season, everyone swam even if it meant doggie paddling to finish the 50meter butterfly race. Annual Squash tournament, complete participation, Basketball, Cricket, Tennis, Track and Field... There were no onlookers, no bystanders and honestly, although I'm sure there were individual incidents, for the most part there was no mocking of the participants ability or lack of ability, we all just competed and at the end of the school year the Brothers actually gave trophies out to the individual champions, we never got team trophies, we never got participation trophies, the whole school would sit there and watch as the best athletes, scholars and citizenship awards were given to the best individuals.

99.9% of the time when it was lights out at night time, we slept, read our books under the blankets with a torch (Aussie flashlight) but we never gave Brother Morgan in 1st and 2nd year or Brother Couch in 3rd year any reason to crack open the punishment devise cupboard.
We were allowed to have a radio/cassette player but I swear the only time we could use them was on Saturdays while we did our jobs around the farm. We also wore school uniforms every day and on Sundays it included the tie!

So, whats my point to this long winded post? I already told you the School closed its doors in 2009.

In 2008 I took Patty back to visit the School, it was also the first time since I graduated that I had gone back and to this day I really wish I'd never visited after I left, some of the changes that occurred in my opinion and some of the Old Boys (Aussie for Alumni) I spoke to agreed, caused the closure and in my corny way it's heartbreaking.

They did away with Uniforms,  
The kids like to show their individuality...
They did away with compulsory sports,  
Some of the kids don't like to participate, and some of them aren't that good so we don't want to expose them to ridicule, so now we allow those that want to participate to travel into Mullewa or Geraldton to play on their school teams... Oh the cost is absorbed by the parents and the State
They did away with compulsory work,  
We're a school now, the farm is pretty much done we survive on Government assistance instead of primary production...
They did away with the all boys aspect and turned co-ed,
It was felt that we were being exclusionary by not allowing girls to attend...
They did away with corporal punishment, Parent believe that they should be the only ones to discipline their children and nurturing is a far better method... Yea I know, but seriously, they never killed any of us!
There was rap music blasting from the dorms,
The students should be allowed to express themselves and a the cursing is actually freedom of speech so we don't like to interfere with that...
There were kids gathered in groups sitting on unmade beds,
It's their bed, if they feel like making it then they can but we don't actually enforce made beds anymore...
There were kids, literally smoking on the lawns and trampolines that I personally had helped install,
There was a complete and utter lack of discipline, farm equipment sat rusted in the sheds, the cricket and tennis courts were overgrown with weeds, the basketball courts were disintegrating, big chunks of blacktop missing, backboards hanging from a couple of screws, the picture screen half torn off, because the boy and girls have their personal DVD players now so we don't go to the expense of renting the movies for them... And on and on and on.

I know we need to move forward and progress should be seen as a good thing, but in this case they destroyed the very fabric that made me who I am today. That school formed me into me, molded the person I am, it helped create a person that I actually do like, I like who I turned out to be and it is heartbreaking to see it gone.I know if I had been blessed with kids and we were living in Australia they would have been sent to that school and they would have hated the first year and they would have cried when they were sent back after the three school breaks we got per year, but by the time they hit 2nd year, they'd begin to look forward to riding the bus down that dirt road and up to the Colditz looking buildings, and the smiling, disciplinarian Brothers that stood there to welcome them, and you know what, by 3rd year they would be in love with that whole institution and they would come home as men among boys, yes I know that's a bloody cliche` but if you ask me that's where the phrase was invented, by some Tardun Old Boy...

So to me it is a sad turn of events, and I think it's one that could have been avoided, and yes there are some Old Boys that will say the Brothers were too hard and maybe they were but I think if the system had been tweaked rather than overhauled Tardun Christian Brothers Agricultural College may still be open and I'd be planning my thirty something re-union instead of sitting here Writing in Spite Of Myself.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Bush Cooler

My mate Rich asked me to share some stories about attending school in the bush at an all boys Christian Brothers boarding school, and since I'm back to working on my novel about that very subject I thought it was a cracking idea. 
Then I thought what story would best exemplify my time spent there, and so after my headache subsided from giving this the proper thought and attention it deserved I figured the following would be a pretty good representation of my time there.

The Upper Floor were the Dorms, Building on the right is the Chapel
Tardun, CBAS, St.Mary's, Christian Brothers, the Big House... Some of the names that the "Tardun, Christian Brothers Agricultural School," was known by, was where I was remanded to for three years, yes I did say "remanded to," because that's truly what it felt like when I first arrived. Even though my parents paid for the privilege of me attending school it was highlighted in more than a few places on the application that this was a working farm school and the boys would be expected to engage in very physical and demanding work regime's which would do nothing but build the young mans character, oh and please sign this part ot the bottom of the sheet where it says that it's acceptable for the Brothers to engage in corporal punishment for the good of the child.
To be fair to my parents, they really didn't have many choices for secondary education since we lived in the bush and had no schools around that I could attend on a day to day basis. They probably picked the cheapest alternative and Tardun won.

Nearest Town --- Tardun --- Population 7 --- Distance from School approx ten Kilometers
Nearest Big Town --- Mullewa --- Population 200 --- Distance from School approx 30 Kilometers
Nearest City --- Geraldton --- Population 20,000 --- Distance from School approx 120 Kilometers
Nearest Capital City --- Perth --- Population about 1 million --- Distance from School - Light Years...
Average temperature when I arrived in February about 120 degrees --- Air Conditioning ?????
Average rainfall for the year 2 inches (we were in the middle of the Wheat Belt of Western Australia, attempting to be self sufficient by growing cereal crops and raising sheep and cattle.)

Student population 100 boys, grades 8 through 10 
Farm Size 70,000 acres 
Teachers 3
Farm Bosses 8
Jailers 2
Hours per week spent in class --- about 20
Hours per week spent working the farm --- about 40, except during ploughing, seeding, harvesting, and shearing, then it bumped to about 80.

Fun and exciting life experiences looking back on my time there --- Priceless and immeasurable.

So, I said I was going to tell you about one particular event in my time there and while I've been writing this I've changed my mind about a thousand times, but I've settled on this one.

As I said earlier we were a cereal crop farm and we would begin harvesting around the beginning of October and go through late December which is a pretty hot time of year in that part of the bush, pretty consistently over the 110 degrees mark.

The system was, around 4am we would be woken by a Brother carefully sneaking through the dormitory picking a few select kids to go out and spend the day working a harvester instead of being in school. You know how exciting that was to a 14 year old right? A day out of school AND we got to either drive the big rig collecting wheat from the harvesters or we operated the actual combines, they put a lot of trust in us.
This one particular morning Brother Morgan, Swifty  (we had nick names for all the brothers and this bloke could run like the wind,) came to my bunk and shook me awake, which was pretty easy since I was laying in a mess of sweat soaked sheets and had spent the night tossing and turning trying to get some shut eye.
"Wake up Master Egan, we need you on a combine today, breakfast in 5 minutes."
"Yes Brother."
CBAS in Greener Times
You bloody little ripper...
 Me and about 5 other kids met down in the kitchen for our burnt toast and rubbery eggs, seriously the old cook Joe, would prepare the fried eggs about an hour before we got there, he'd have them lined up on an aluminum tray, drop them and they'd bounce! then after breaky we headed out in the bed of a ute (Aussie for pick up truck) to be dropped off at various machines in the paddocks. We got no choice when it came to what machines we were allocated and we had everything from vintage John Deere's to a brand new Massey Ferguson which of course everyone wanted since it had an air-conditioned, air ride cab. Of course I didn't get the flash new shiny Red Massey, I got the old piece of faded green John Deere, no air con, no air ride, no enclosed cab, but no worries, I was out of school, I had about a 200 acre paddock of wheat to crop and I wouldn't see anyone but the grain truck for about 4 hours, till old Brother Synan (Goggles,) showed up with my frozen cheese and tomato sandwich, yep frozen, but it also came with a hot cuppa tea that you could dunk the frozen sarny (sandwich,) in to defrost it enough to bite through.

So, I'm dropped off with my big water esky (cooler full of iced water) which I leave strategically under the partial shade off an old gum tree and the ute pulls away. I go around my machine checking that everything's where it's supposed to be, grease a few fittings,  and get to work cropping the paddock, by this time it's about 5:30 the suns coming up, the flies are out and the engine is humming beautifully life's grand. I'm already just two eye holes and a smile after being covered in dust from the ride out here in the back of the ute, and even though the sun just broke the horizon, I'm turning into a muddy pile of red dirt, first item of removed clothing, Singlet (tank-top) that gets laid across the back of whats left of the tractor seat and I feel a little relief although by now the open air cab is catching and trapping all the heat it can from the engine, and as per usual there is absolutely not one wisp of air movement except the flow of air that idles through the cab as I move along at a snails pace. My arms are in constant motion as I lift and lower the comb on the front of the combine, due to the drought conditions the wheat stalks had barely reached a foot tall, so I had to watch for logs, and bundies (big rocks) that had been missed and disturbed during ploughing and seeding season. The Brothers didn't like it when you dinged up the comb and they had no issue showing their displeasure with a swift smack to the jaw.

I'd been working for about an hour or so and was now down to being shirtless, shortless and bootless, boots were replaced with typical Aussie safety shoes, otherwise known as thongs, and I would have been barefoot except the floor of the tractor was too hot for my feet to handle, so other than my undies, I'm pretty much naked. The grain truck had just been by to unload me so I wouldn't see anyone for at least another hour, this was before the time of cell phones and we didn't have CB's so I was most definitely out there alone plodding around the paddock covering a lap about every 15 minutes, I pretty much had to ration my water so I'd stop and jump out for a drink every other lap, knowing that at lunch time they'd bring me a refill on my esky.

By about 10am it was sweltering and I was getting no relief from the heat even after guzzling down mouthfuls of by now, tepid water, the dust was caked on thicker than my mums foundation, my eyes were raw from the layers of red dirt that were getting harder to clear with each blink, it was as if I were rubbing them with sandpaper, my once tighty whitey's were now roughy reddies and were beginning to chafe my thighs with ever bounce of the old piece of crap John Deere, oh how I wished I were sitting in the comparative cool of the 90 degree classroom! BUT! an idea sprang to my mind about half way through my next lap... The truck had just been and lunch was still a good hour or so away, so I'd improvise in order to get cool, yep necessity the mother of all invention had just necessiterated my mind, and it was a good un.

I eased the rampaging combine to a grinding, dust cloud inducing, halt in the middle of the paddock just across the way from my old pathetic non shade covering ghost gum and proceeded to trudge through the grain stalks in nothing but my undies and thongs, my legs looking for all purpose that they were the result of a shrapnel attack, as the stalks ripped into the skin deeper than any of the canings I'd suffered at the hands of the Brothers, (did I mention they enjoyed corporal punishment at this place?) I made it to the tree and the esky and proceeded to put my plan into action, it went something like this.

  1. Remove mud caked undies
  2. Remove mud caked safety boots aka thongs
  3. Remove 2 cup capacity cup from top of esky
  4. Fill said cup with tepid cup from under-performing esky
  5. Toss contents of cup high into air
  6. Run naked through falling water thereby creating a cooling rain shower
It worked to perfection, absolute and utter perfection, with the first cupful I was a little timid and didn't fully commit but then with subsequent cups I became braver, my strength grew and my abandon became absolute, I was giddy, nae, intoxicated with pleasure at being cool, so much so that I never noticed, honestly, didn't hear, see or in any way whatsoever notice that Brother Kelly (Roo Dog) had driven into my paddock and was watching from a distance of about a hundred yards as this naked, semi delirious student, slash farm hard, slash inmate, was dancing like a banshee arms raised, legs pumping hollering at the sky in a Native American kind of rain dance.
As God is my witness when he actually pulled up next to me and I realized I had been busted for naked rain dancing I still don't know who was more scared. He looked at me, I looked at him, he nodded toward my undies and thongs, I stared at them, he nodded again, I walked over and sheepishly pulled them on, he nodded at the bed of the ute, I looked at him, he nodded again, I climbed in burning my ass on the side of the bed in the process, he drove me back to the School, no stopping at the still idling John Deere to get the rest of my clothes, straight back to school in the back of the ute, even though there was a perfectly good seat in the front next to him. We pulled up in front of the main building and I didn't move, he still hadn't said a word to me. Then the bell rings for lunch and out into the yard pour the 90 or so student that weren't working the farm that day. Roo Dog looks at me as he gets out of the ute, I look at him, he nods toward the dorms, I don't need another nod and I race upstairs in my dirty mud caked undies to the shower block.

Not a word was spoken to me regarding the incident from anyone other than the students, and surprisingly I was not called on for harvesting for the rest of the season. Never got my singlet back, but did get my boots returned to me! One time I was woken early by old Swifty a couple of weeks after that, but it was for bakery duty, not machinery operating, and do I have a great story about baking the weekly bread for the farm, but that's for another time. When I'm more in the mood to Write in Spite of Myself.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

 Trucker to Writer

How did I go from being a truckie to a writer?

A friend asked me to write a few lines about my transitional  journey from driving to typing, and after a few weeks with that question rattling around in the empty space in my brain, the one that used to be full of McGuiverish tricks for getting road trains unstuck from dry river bed crossings and the such, that I no longer needed since I'm not chasing gears anymore I came up with a somewhat believable answer, maybe I should have asked if she wanted the fiction or the non-fiction version? I'll leave it to you to decide.

I was actually a writer in progress way before I became a truckie, my life went something along the lines of this...

Primary School, voracious reader ---

Boarding school, 1st year, voracious reader with knots on my head after getting hit with teachers sniper fired blackboard duster for reading under my desk lid, beginning poet, ---

Boarding School, 2nd year, Voracious Poet (mostly naughty stuff about the Christian Brothers with a somewhat hardcore following of my peers, eagerly awaiting a single page, double spaced hand scribbled Limerick about the Brother of the week.  Intermittent reader generally with a flashlight under the covers in the dorm till my batteries died. ---

Boarding School, 3rd year, Voracious Political Satire, Boisterous Blathering Berating Bad Brothers, and some Serious memoir stuff. Books, what the heck is a book? ---

Newman Senior High School --- Girls, wow they have real girls here, books, they were only for marking up covers with the latest version of "Jon love heart ____ fill in the blank," Read many love letters of sorts, and wrote as many bad ones back. ---- Reading, sorry don't have time. ---

Footy --- No time to write, or read... run, run, run, sleep, sleep, sleep. ---

Mining --- Writing, Satirical poetry mostly Anti - (BHP) company, Pro - Union silly stuff but I had pretty much a weekly slot in the towns paper and wrote under the pseudonym "Smegan" bastardization of It's Me, Egan. I had fun doing those pretty much done on the back of a time sheet, but I had a little cultish following. Reading, not a chance. ---

Trucking --- Lots and lots of books on tape, since where I drove you were lucky to get radio reception so I'd buy and listen to wonderful authors reciting their books till the red dirt and dust destroyed the tape, and when that happened (with surprising regularity and pretty much always at some climactic scene,) I'd drive through the night with pretty much just my own thoughts and those thoughts became scenes and scenes became chapters and chapters began to multiply and then I'd hit a destination and those scenes and chapters would disappear right along with the dust destroyed cassette tapes.

After a writing a few books in my head over a couple of months and then always loosing them to sleep or a tough unload, or a breakdown three hundred miles from civilization I did an amazing thing, I actually remembered the next time I was able to swing my road train in through a K-Mart, along with my typical supplies of new thongs (for my feet! sheesh you people,) a couple of pairs of stubbies (short truckie shorts,) a few singlets (Always blue -tank tops-,) that was our unofficial uniform! 26 cartons of coke, 28 cartons of smokes, 4 packets of roll your own smokes in case I ran out of ready mades, couple loaves of bread, cans of beans (cook those beauties on the engine while you drive down the road,) a few steaks (BBQ was always a chance!) and 5 bloody great big bags of ice, and there at the checkout were lined notebooks, must of been back to school time for the kids, so I picked a couple up and they became my novel holders.

So now, I'd be driving down the road and when an idea came to me I'd jot it in my note book after a few weeks of consistently filling note books, then loosing them either in the truck or at home when I hit the house. I graduated to dictation machines and over the course of a few miles I ended up with pretty hefty stash of recorded thoughts and ramblings of an over tired truckie who probably should have been pulled off the side of the road napping instead of driving down the road yakking into a machine which for the most part seemed like it would have been more believable as the ramblings of a certifiably insane male inhabitant from the planet Drongo. The tapes were actually fun to listen to once I was rested up, but they were really gobbley-gook.

Even though I never really was able to salvage my notebooks or tapes from that time, I was always creating them, never ending actually, I very rarely listed to music or radio while I drove, I would spend hours and days just watching the road and the sky and the animals and the weather and the other very occasional truckie or tourist that dared to drive the roads at night with us. And the interesting thing from doing that, was the fact that everything I did while driving became a story, with a tempo and beating heart, the thoughts became words so easily and the smallest of things became gigantic players in my road stories even my hard working engine became a character, and I'd talk to her all the time, but weird as it sounds our most intimate conversations were when I'd been driving for maybe a couple of days non stop except for food and fuel, I'd pull off the road into a clearing in the bush somewhere and shut her down, then I'd lay in my bunk and listen as she'd slowly fall asleep the sounds of cooling components creaking, the sheet metal crackling, and after a few minutes the frogs or crickets or occasional mob of kangaroos eating nearby would dominate the air with their noises every now and then a huge heavy loaded road train would lumber by and you could hear it coming for miles, then it'd chug on past and you'd hear it slowly die out as it put miles between us and those were the most peace filled moments of my life, and those were the times I dreamt of one day being a serious writer and getting down on paper some of what my life had been about.

I emigrated to the U.S. and my life became for the most part pretty typical non stop, trying to make a buck and trucking was a major part of it for over fifteen years, and then one day about ten years ago I began to write again, I'm not even sure why, but I liked what I was doing, and the writing was ok, and Patty liked it and said you need to focus on writing instead of trucking and maybe we'll get to see each other more and maybe, just maybe you could make a living doing it, and so I dabbled a little bit more, and Patty prodded me gently toward writing retreats, and I wrote some more, and Patty prodded me a little harder to attend writing workshops, and I wrote some more, and Patty prodded me to get all Nike on my craft, forget about trucking and just do it. and so now thanks to Patty I have gone from Trucker to Writer and I'm beginning to get much better now at Writing in Spite of Myself.