Saturday, 28 June 2008

Rose's Car

by J of JaM

My grandmother Rose was an independent woman. She did things her own way at a time when her husband and the neighbors didn't have a high opinion of such things. By the early 1920's she had enough of her own money to buy a car. My grandfather probably didn't think she needed a car.

She got a ride for herself and her 4 children to the nearest town that had a Ford car dealership, about 11 miles from where she lived with my grandfather. She told the dealer that she didn't know how to drive and the dealer assured her “It was easy to learn” and promised to teach her to drive if she bought a car from him. She bought the car immediately and paid for it in cash. The dealer then drove her and the kids out of town and into a hay field. After her four children climbed to the top of a hay stack to watch from a safe spot, Rose learned how to steer, use the clutch, shift gears and brake. In about 20 minutes the dealer declared her a quick learner and drove everyone back to the dealership. Rose managed to drive the 11 miles back home with the kids.

The next year Rose decided to take a vacation. She packed some camping gear and the children into her new car and drove from Oklahoma to Mount Rainier in Washington State. Her husband stayed home. Some parts of this adventure required driving across ranches and farms where gates were opened and closed to go to the next town. There was no real highway system then. The trip took about eight weeks and my father retold bits of the adventure occasionally.

I lived with Rose for a summer in the late 1950's in California and she was still a very active driver though almost 70 years old. Now she had a 1953 Plymouth with an automatic transmission and a husband that wasn't my grandfather. She drove me to school with one foot on the accelerator and the other on the brake. By careful pressure on these two she controlled the speed, which was fast and as far right as possible. “As far right as possible” sometimes resulted in her driving in empty parking lanes. She was my favorite grandmother and I don't believe she ever had an accident.

The photo is of my Uncle Buddy (he was my Mom's little brother) and his car taken a few years later.

Sunday, 22 June 2008

Horse Tails

by M in JaM

Born in the Chinese year of the Horse, I enjoyed kicking up my heels and running free in younger years. My first heady experience on horseback occurred when I was about five. I regarded a certain older boy with great admiration, especially when I saw him sitting astride a saddled horse. I suspect his mom or my mom talked him into letting me sit behind him for a photo opportunity, me in my frilly white dress, he in his straw cowboy hat. He even took me for a sedate ride...until the train whistle blew.... the horse bolted and ran straight toward the moving train as I clung on to that boy for dear life. The horse stopped in time. I didn't fall off or embarrass myself in any other way. But I didn't get offered another ride. And never had another chance to hug Bobby.

Five years later my Dad got us a horse to ride around the dairy farm we had leased in Oregon. A retired horse. A tall horse named Babe that limped when heading out for a ride and magically recovered when trotting back to the barn. I rode her out to bring in the cows one afternoon, for the first time by myself, following the cow paths leading upriver to one of the furthest pastures. I felt pretty pleased with myself being so independent until I spotted one pesky cow stubbornly standing under the low branches of a large tree. The branches hung too low for me to ride under and I didn't want to get off the horse because I couldn't get back on without someone giving me a boost. I yelled at that cow and shook the branches that I could reach. She just smiled. As soon as I slid down off the horse, the cow trotted off to join the herd ambling back toward the barn. I didn't want to embarrass myself by walking back while leading the horse. I found an old stump and climbed up, but had a terrible time getting the horse to stand still long enough for me to throw myself onto her back. As soon as I did manage it, she started walking as I struggled to keep from going headfirst off the far side. I finally got myself upright. I didn't fall off. I didn't ride Babe to bring in the cows by myself after that.

My best friend (and neighbor) in Oregon had several horses, a Shetland/Welsh pony mix. When I visited her, we rode bareback with a simple rope loop around the ponies' noses. Those ponies loved to run. And we loved to ride them. One day a tiny stream appeared in our path as we raced through a pasture. I expected the pony to leap over, but he decided to swerve at the last minute. I did fall off that time.... and I didn't feel embarrassed at all! I rode a lot more after persuading Dad to sell Babe and buy two ponies from my best friend's dad.

Now retired myself, I feel content to graze at home and remember some of the days when kicking up my heels felt so urgent.

photo by M in JaM - retired tropical horse

Sunday, 15 June 2008

How did I get here?

by J in JaM
Let me look at my past yet again. At 66 years old, my past has a bit of content. The road that leads to today has so many branches and intersections that it could never be repeated. Each trip down that road would end in a different universe. So many decisions were made, and not made, that have resulted in who I am and where I live. I feel like spectator at my life, who is that person that looks back from the few mirrors that I have?

I am very happy here, content with the things that I do, still in love with M and looking forward to what the future holds but it sure wasn't planned.

When I was ten, I didn't think about the future at all, I just hunted squirrels and explored the nearby swamps in Louisiana. Latter in high school I became interested in science because of a great teacher. At the University of California I discovered that I wasn't the smartest guy in the world but that was more than compensated for by being in the center of 60's revolution.

I fell in love, got married, had three wonderful children and started a company. Later I got involved in Movies and Hollywood and got divorced. Received several awards for my works and became dissatisfied with my lonely single life. Fell in love again, married M, sold everything, emigrated to Australia. We have lived here in the remote Australian bush for 20 years now. Our children visit from time to time and we are always happy to have them.

My life could have derailed and crashed many times but it didn't. It's wonderful to just be alive, in love and wondering what tomorrow holds.

photo by M in JaM

Sunday, 8 June 2008

Changing patterns

by M in JaM
We gave up trying to grow veggies some years ago when critters kept eating everything just before it was ready to harvest. This year a volunteer tomato plant in the abandoned garden provided a dozen tomatoes with real flavour. After some time the possum also acquired a taste for them and ate the last two ripening on the vine. Now we have risked planting a few tomato seedlings protected by a chicken wire cage. So far, so good.

A half dozen hanging baskets near a sunny north wall of our house contain three varieties of lettuce, secure from rabbits and roos. Insects prefer one variety. From the others we harvest a few leaves at a time and add them to our daily salad.

Little by little, I've been tidying up the old garden, rescuing old pots buried under weeds. I work cautiously, aware of the possibility of snakes and spiders. I raked away some dead grass and leaves and uncovered the end of a small sheet of canvacon (sturdy plastic). Using the rake to lift a corner, I disturbed a giant centipede. (They get up to 13 cm or 6 inches long.) I decided to call it quits for the day. No one wants to find a new home in the middle of winter. Not even a centipede. And I certainly don't want a disturbed centipede moving into my nearby laundry.
I shall leave the garden as is, except for tending tomatoes and burying compost. I shall move on to the yearly task of mowing and raking a fire break, little by little, with my husband's help. Age requires adjustments in patterns of personal energy use. Pain reminds me when I over-do. I'm still learning how things can get accomplished, little by little. Fire Season lies ahead.

Yes, we're into the Dry Season. The billabong in Moon Creek dried up this week. It doesn't flow year round. During the Wet Season, it provides a home to various batches of tadpoles and crabs. Once we squatted down to look for crabs and got surprised by a snake lifting its head out of the water. Snake ducked back underwater and we jumped back from billabong.

We disturbed eight red-tailed black cockatoos during our afternoon walk yesterday. These magnificent birds mate for life and can live up to 100 years. We don't see them year round. Usually they herald the beginning of the storms and the Wet Season. This morning they were feeding in the back paddock. On two separate days we saw them eating seeds from a specific kind of small tree/large shrub (sorry, I don't know the name of the little tree). We've never seen them eat those seeds and we've never seen black cockatoos perch so near the ground. Usually they sit high in bloodwood gums and eat eucalypt seeds. But it's too late in the year for the bloodwood seed harvest. Does this change in behaviour signify something?

photos by J in JaM

Sunday, 1 June 2008


A few days ago as I walked into our house, I noticed a butterfly on a window trying to get out. I captured it in my hands and released it outside. The butterfly darted onto a near by hibiscus plant and opened its wings in the sun. It was a kind I don't remember seeing before so I got our camera and took a few pictures.

We live at ease with our local insects and all sorts come into our very open house. We always just return them to the outside, even the spiders. Dragonflies never need help, they seem to understand doors and windows. The only crawly creatures that I really don't like are the very large centipedes that appear during the wet season. Some insects appear every year at their appropriate time. Others are rare and some appear sporadically and a few I've only seen once.

I don't remember having many insects in our suburban home before we moved to Australia. I did often go for long walks back in California all those years ago and always knew the area around where I lived. As I look back into my past, I realize how much I separated my life into outside and inside, work and recreation, nature and technology, etc. My world has developed a clarity and unity that I suspect may come with age.

I'm not sure of the butterfly species, maybe Suniana, Ocybadistes or Taractrocera, all a bit hard to tell apart or something else altogether. Maybe a reader can help me?

Later that evening a small colorful moth landed on my hand while I was reading. Such a joy to be here.

J of JaM