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Full Date1902-03-06
Page Number2
Word Count1412
Last Corrected2019-01-13
Newspaper TitleThe Maitland Daily Mercury (NSW : 1894 - 1939)
Trove TitleA Day in the Life of a Western Squatter's Wife
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A Day in the Life of a Western Squatter's Wife.

(By K. Langloh Parker.]


The day wears on, hotter and hotter, the sul- phurous-looking dust thicker and thicker, as if slowly gathering to smother them all ; a few stray flies get into the curtained room, and buzz round the fever- stricken child ; in her nervous tension they seem to buzz in the brain of one woman, until, in despera- tion, she, after many efforts, swishes them out. She sits down again to wait, a deadly helpless feeling weighing upon her. Oh, to be able to do something ! She glances at the mother, so fragile and weary-

looking — something internally wrong since the birth of her last child, under the ministrations of a drunken doctor and an incapable nurse — who has to wait to be put right until the seasons change and times improve. She looks on the verge of collapse now. She must be cheered up. She wails out from time to time that she knows the doctor will be drunk. She knows the boss can't get back before next day. She knows the child will die. Better if they were all dead. They are ruined, and will have to make a fresh start soon, and 'Jack' is getting on in years and her health is broken, and there are the children to educate. And, when the other woman tries to hearten her up a little, she says, 'of course you can't understand how a mother feels, you have no children,' which snubs her into silence during which she wonders, if any child ever quite repaid all a mother suffers for it, or whether the regulation of the law of compensation did not rather lie in the measure that we mete to our parents being meted to us again by our children, the parents for

the time being always the losers. It is a crooked day, the cook cross, sickening from a spree, the maids lazy, the station work put out by the boss taking so many horses away, for in drought times only enough are kept up for the actual work. Mrs. Boss has to lend her pet hnck, so far only used by bar husband, to a black boy to got some sheep out of a corner whore sheep-like, they are bent on suicide. Throe1' o'clock, no Boas. Mrs. Boss tries to peer through the dust veil enveloping tho plain, but has to return to the sick room, and meet with a shake of har head, the mother's questioning look. How the minutes drag ! It seems hours from three until twenty minutes to four when the cracking of a whip is heard, tbo barking of a dog or so, tho rattle of wheolB, and thank God there's the -Boss, there's ?the doctor, and thank God he's sober 1 Mrs. Boss Hurries him off to the sick child, and feels a hot shiver as she awaits his verdict, ' no danger, only a feverish attack, wo'll soon reduce it.' His air of confidence inspiroa it, and With a relief that nearly cbokes her, Mrs. Boss leaves him mixing a cooling draught, whilo she goes to seo that baths and luncheon are made ready for him and her husband. Poor Boss,, his luncheon swallowed ; put he has to go again. In tho township ho had- soon a couple of his scrub-cutters on the spree, while they wore sup posed to be feeding sheep at tho back of the run. He must fill their places temporarily with a couple of old blncks from tho camp or hia sheep will starve. That done, he'll have to run up some fresh ration sheep, for all hands aro away mustering the strongest of tho sheep for tho roads, in search of rented country or a buyer. Ho is n. good plucked one, or perhaps rather is bitten by tho mania of his class which always speaks as if droughts were a now thing and the good seasons usual and soon to return. Extraordinary how strongly hopo animates those weather-beaten bronzed men of tho dust smothered grey west. But even ho feels a bit down as he faces the furnace again and he mutters: 'Tho parson calls it ' the visitation of God ;' tho knowalls ' tho overstocking of tho squatter.' I'm d ? if I know which is tho bigger fool.' Mrs. Boss watches him off, and as a blast from the afternoon breozo buffets her face sho thanks God sho'a a woman, oven if it does moan a daily grin to hide an inward groivn, a daily smelling of Imd meat, a daily rounding up of lazy maids, .-v daily growiug uglier, and a daily growing moro stupid, under skies so blue that they tmnsmit their blmmesa to those beneath them, who iind no relief in tho grey trees losing in tho stress of drought their scanty leaves: such bald trees only accentuate tho dreariness.

But her life is bettor than bin. Ho has to hear all tbo responsibility, haB daily to soo his stock parish und bo powerless to savo them. To see dead sheep, to snioll dead sheep, maybe to akin them. 15nh ! nauseating '. sho turns away. As oho does ho, sees the crows circling round the water-hole vrhoro Bho was wont to bathe, and of which dead ahoop havo taken possession, -which sight reminds hor that somoono must be sent to pull those sboep out boforo their bodies putrify. Who to send ? A boundary ridor turns up for rations, bo ho can go. That settled, sho rotnrns to tho Hick child, finds his tomperaturo considerably lowered, his mother fanning him, and ho sleeping calmly. 'Vho doctor, quito satisfied as to hia patient, has gono for a bnnge. On boing congratulated, tho mother moana out, ' But think of the bill, and ho might havi; got bottor without tho doctor! What ?will Jack say, and no rain and the Btock all dying.' Poor mothers, thought tho other woman, their lives out west any way, soem long aohings of miud and body. Shu remembered a pitiful litfclo sconoof a fow wooks back. Sho had beon told a woman wanted to soo her. Sho went out and found a dry-oyed but sorrow-stamped woman, who said sho had couio to ask a favour. 'It's this way, ma'am, back thoro at tho cross

ing pub, our little girl, wo've throo boys, but she was our only little girl, and the apple so to speak of her father's oyo, was took suddont jpith cramps in the stummick. Wo did what we couldi but wo lost 'or. My man bcs it don't inntfcer onco yer dead ivhoro yer buried, but I don't fancy little Janio laying nmong thorn dcad-bonts as is buried alongside the pub, an' won I was parsin 'ore I seen some graves an' I. seen some plantiu' ronhd 'em, an' they looks mothered hko, and won it comou to buryin' little Junie, an' I thinks it's tho many mile wo'll travel for work theso times an' may bu uover light nyes on where nho lion agon j I bos to my limn, I can't lonvo littlo Janie among tho dead beats, she'd bs skcercd like to riso up nmong 'om. I'll lirs): tho station lady to lot tis lcavo 'or thoro, she'd not he eo loneaome. Janie was always f rightonod of a man in drink, oven 'er own father, it so bo he took a drop too much, not as I fiiiy ho does it oftoi.' So littlo Janie waa buried iu tho station burial placo, and round her grave, as round tho others, were planted tho drought-defying alous. When the ?woniiiu, whoso tuars had soeiuod frozen in her, camo to say good-byo, hor calm left her, sho thawed, hor tours foil na sho gulped out : ' Maybe you'll givo 'or a1 thought now an' ugen, it '11 bo lonely for 'or, us God knows where, work's that, hard -to find ; it's bad times. Yes, ma'am, I know aquattors an' all, won Union was good for thorn, lib mount work for iib, an' now it's travellin' an'1 travelliu' like a blooinin' circus show — rough roads all ways, an' tho very 'art shook out of yor, timcB is that 'ard.' ' Talk about a minimum wa^o aud old-aga pousions — how about it subsidy for thu mothers of tho west ?