Flamin Bushies

Bells in Rose Arbor

“C’mon, let’s go play with the puppies,” I said to my two sisters. This was my happy-go-lucky, carefree life on our little farm. We lived on a hill amongst the gum trees and overlooked the distant blue mountains.

We all scrambled to get our favourite puppy as they jumped and wagged their tails. “This is mine,” I said, as I grabbed Smiley. He leaped up and in one instant licked my face with his warm wet little tongue. He had kept me company on more than one occasion under the covers at night. This of course was done without Mother’s permission. I knew what would happen if I was found out.

Lillian and Grace yelled, “Let’s take them down to the creek Anne”. “OK, I’ll race. First there gets to have a ride on my pony tomorrow”. Secretly, I knew I was the fastest. I ran like the wind. I was just about there and Smiley tripped me. I fell very unladylike on my face into the squishing brown mud. Oh dear, what would Mother say?

Lillian was first. “Good on you, Lillian”, I said. She laughed when she saw my brown muddy face. I washed it in the stream. The puppies had a drink of the cool, clear bubbling water and then they began to chase each other round and round. They seemed to get so tired and they all lay down with their paws out in front of them, eyes closed and their little heads bowed down fast asleep. We girls all lay down together side by side on the soft, beautiful green grass and looked up at the sky. How good it was to have sisters! We talked a bit like grownups as we lay there.

I said, “When I grow up, I am going to meet a handsome man. I will fall in love and I’m going to have a beautiful white wedding dress. I’ll be like a princess. We are going to have two children and I’m going to live in a little farmhouse with a beautiful garden.”

“My dream”, Grace said, ” Is to have lots and lots of animals and look after them.”

Lillian just looked sideways at us, “I don’t have a dream. I’m just happy where I am now”. I thought, ” Lillian is the youngest and she just is happy to go along with anything we say”.

As we lay there, we heard, “Coeeeee!” We cooed back. It was Mother calling us for dinner.

“Come on pups, let’s go”. We took off running. The puppies thought this was lots of fun and scampered as fast as their little legs would carry them. This time I got there first with Smiley close on my heels. We put them all back in their little home and went to the bathroom to wash our hands for dinner. We could smell the beautiful lamb roast and imagined the mint sauce and the fresh new potatoes baked in their lovely white skins.

We all bowed our heads as Father gave thanks to the Lord for our meal. Giving thanks was a very important task to our parents and we girls were quite willing to follow their example.

Father shared about his day. As well as working on our farm, he would visit people in our community. He was an elder in our little country Church of Rose Arbor. Father told us of how he had visited some new folks in the area that day. They didn’t have much food and he had taken some of our farms produce for them. He said that they were very appreciative and they had mentioned they would come to our church on Sunday. We girls became very excited when Father said that they had two girls the same age as Grace and Lillian. We imagined the fun time we would have laughing and playing together.

Lillian, Grace, and I all shared the same bedroom together. We loved being together as we felt safe and also we would talk in whispered tones about our most treasured subjects. Sometimes we would start to giggle and couldn’t stop. It was then we would hear Mother say, “Girls” in a very serious tone. We knew then we had to be very quiet. Father had definitely given us something to talk about tonight. There were new girls in Rose Arbor.

The next morning I woke to the sound of the kookaburras laughing. I flung open my windows and looked out to the gum trees. How beautiful it was to hear them laugh every day. They were my favourite birds. One day I would love one of them as a pet but I knew it was just a wish. They belonged to the wild.

Father was working in the shed. I could hear him hammering. He was fixing up something that had broken on the traces yesterday. Old Dobbin, our draught horse had broken it. He was a dear old giant but he had a mind of his own sometimes and I heard Father talking to Mother about him. He said Dobbin might have to go if he didn’t behave. Poor Dobbin. I had a soft spot for him. Well if truth be known I had a soft spot for all of our horses. I would often go out to see them and spend hours talking to them. They were like my friends. I used to imagine that they understood everything I said.

I could smell the delicious flavor of fresh homemade bread, bacon, and eggs. Mother was up already and cooking our breakfast. I raced downstairs and straight out the front door. “Where are you going?” Mother called. “To see Beauty”, I called back. Beauty was my favourite pony. She was jet black in colour with a beautiful long flowing mane. Her eyes were kind, like crystal pools of brown. Her nature was gentle. I climbed on her back. I didn’t need a saddle or bridle with Beauty. It was as if we were one. “I love you Beauty”, I said as I lay backward.

I remember the day we got her. Someone had told Father about this pony that had been neglected. The owners had left Rose Arbor and left her behind. “She was too much trouble”, they said. “She is mean and she kicks and bites.”

Father has always had a way with animals and especially horses. He couldn’t bear to see them treated badly so he bought her home. She was like a scarecrow. Her ribs were showing and her mane and tail were all scraggy. Day after day I would go and talk to Beauty. I would ask Father to halter her and then I would stroke her and brush her and speak kindly to her. Lillian and Grace would help me sometimes although they would soon tire and rather be playing but I never got tired of being with Beauty. Slowly she began to put on weight. Her coat became glossy and her eyes took on a new glow. She would call to me when she saw me. Every time she did something right, I would reward her.

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