Remembering Dad–Picnic at Brownhill Creek

[Remembering my Dad, 10 years since he passed from this world to be with his heavenly father. Wonderful loving father, beautiful memories, amazing adventures…]

Happy Hunting Ground

[Picnics on special days have been a “thing” for years. Not sure when this experience happened, but it was a picnic all the same.]

Dad leaned on his shovel and with a wrinkled handkerchief patted sweat from his head displacing the few strands of hair masquerading as a “comb-over”. Then with grunts sounding as if he were puffing billy, he attacked the garden bed. With each load of soil, he groaned, puffed and wheezed, demonstrating how hard he was working. A closed cardboard box sat near the cauliflower patch, a counterbalance to the growing pile of dirt the other side of the hole Dad created.

[Photo 1: Dad digging in the garden © L.M. Kling (nee Trudinger 1977]

‘Daddy, what are you doing?’ I asked strolling across the lawn to Dad.

Dad grunted some more and then flung a heap of soil into the mound behind him.

‘Daddy, why are you digging this deep hole?’

Dad stopped digging. ‘Huh?’

‘Daddy, what’s this hole for?’

‘Never you mind, Lee-Anne.’ Dad must think at six years old, I’m too young to know.

‘But Daddy, I just want to know.’

Dad tapped the box with his boot. ‘I’m sending puss to her happy hunting ground.’

‘Wilma?’ I asked. ‘But Daddy, why are you digging a hole, Daddy? Are you digging your way to Wilma’s happy hunting ground?’ I had visions of my cat chasing mice in China.

Dad glanced at the box and cleared his throat. ‘Oh, er, no, not really. Just a bit of gardening, dear. Now, run along and get ready for the picnic.’

[Photo 2: Dad resting after his hard day at work in the garden © L.M. Kling (nee Trudinger) 1977]

Ah! A spring picnic at Brown Hill Creek. I loved picnics with Mummy, Daddy and Richard, my eleven year old brother. Brown Hill Creek in the Adelaide foothills had paths lined with eucalyptus trees, and a creek filled with yabbies and tadpoles for Richard and me to hunt. I imagined Brown Hill Creek as the perfect “happy hunting ground” for cats.

‘Is Brown Hill Creek Wilma’s happy hunting ground?’ I asked.

Mum, her mousy curls covered with a scarf, poked her head out the door and called from the porch, ‘Hurry up, David!’

[Photo 3: Mum hanging up the washing before we go out © L.M. Kling (nee Trudinger) 1971]

‘Yes, dear,’ Dad said and with huffing and puffing, dug with increased speed.

I jumped up and down and flapped my arms. ‘Hooray! We’re going to Wilma’s happy hunting ground!’ Then I ran back to Mum standing in the back porch. ‘We’re going to Wilma’s happy hunting ground.’

‘Yes, well, I suppose,’ Mum said her blue eyes averting mine.

***

All the way to Brown Hill Creek, I filled the stale air in Bathsheba, our Holden car with my constant babble. As the only blonde in the family, it was my calling to be the family entertainment.

[Photo 4: Bathsheba, our trusty Holden car in the background © L.M. Kling (nee Trudinger) 1969]

‘I bet Wilma loves it at Brown Hill Creek. There’s so many birds…Mummy, do all the cats go to our picnic park when they go to their happy hunting ground?’

‘Mmmm,’ Mum replied.

I took that response as a “yes”. ‘Mummy, why did Wilma go to her happy hunting ground? Why didn’t she want to stay with us?’

Mum sighed. ‘Wilma wanted to go. It was her time.’

‘Oh,’ I said. ‘Are dogs there too?’

‘Wouldn’t be a happy hunting ground for cats, if dogs were there too,’ Dad said.

‘Maybe dogs go somewhere else.’ I tried to think where dogs would go. ‘Like where there’s more trees, I guess.’

Richard shook his square head topped with brown curls. ‘Why do you always talk so much, Lee-Anne?’

I shrugged. ‘I don’t know.’

‘Anyway,’ Richard said, ‘Wilma is—’

‘Shh!’ Mum glared at my brother and narrowed her eyes.

‘Gee, Brown Hill Creek must be full of cats,’ Richard muttered.

‘Oh, goody, when we get there, the first thing I’m going to do, I’m going to find them all,’ I said.

Richard rolled his eyes and shook his head.

***

Clouds shrouded the sky casting Brown Hill Creek reserve in a pall of grey. Dad manoeuvred Bathsheba into the gravel carpark. Richard and I then scrambled out. While Richard checked the water-levels of the creek, I gazed up at the lofty branches of the gum trees. Was Wilma up there? The leaves rustled in the breeze.

Mum found an even patch of ground near the creek and spread the rug. Dad lugged the wicker basket loaded with cheese and gherkin sandwiches and a thermos.

‘Richard, would you help carry this?’ Dad asked as he held a bag containing a spare set of my clothes. A picnic was never complete unless I fell into the creek at least once.

I raced along the path and began calling, ‘Wilma! Wilma!’

As the distance between my family and me widened, Dad yelled, ‘Don’t go wandering off—we don’t want you getting lost—again.’

‘I’ll go with her,’ Mum said.

‘Wilma! Wilma!’ I sang.

Birds twittered in those lofty branches. I looked up and called, ‘Wilma! Wilma! Here puss, puss, puss!’

A kookaburra cackled.

[Photo 5: Kookaburra © L.M. Kling 2016]

Mum pointed up at a bunch of blue-green leaves high in a tree. ‘Hey, look!’

‘Wilma?’

‘No, look!’ Mum said, ‘A koala.’

‘What’s a koala doing here? I thought this was the cat’s happy hunting ground.’

[Painting: Koala and baby© L.M. Kling 2013]

Mum took a breath and began. ‘Wilma’s in a better place than this, she’s—’

‘Hiding?’ I peered in the scrub. I parted the stubbles of grass by the side of the path. I looked behind tree trunks and logs. ‘Wilma! Come Wilma!’

My brother strode up the path and stood next to Mum. ‘You have to tell her, Mum.’

‘What?’ I asked.

‘You won’t find Wilma here,’ Richard said.

‘Wilma’s gone dear,’ Mum said.

‘Dead, Lee-Anne,’ announced Richard.

‘No! Richard, you’re wrong. Dad said Wilma went to her “happy hunting ground”, I said straining my voice.

‘Richard’s right,’ Mum said. ‘Wilma’s happy hunting ground is in heaven, not Brown Hill Creek.’

***

We ate our cheese and gherkin sandwiches in silence. If I wasn’t talking our little family usually ate in silence. Mum sat me on her lap and wrapped her arms around me as I forced small bites of sandwich past the lump in my throat. I looked at the creek frothing and bubbling from good spring rains. The yabbies and tadpoles were safe from my jar and net that day. I was in no mood to hunt them. My spare set of clothes would stay a spare set for another picnic. I decided to break the silence.

[Photo 6 and feature: Happier times at Brownhill Creek © C.D. Trudinger 1964]

‘Will I never see Wilma again?’ I asked.

‘I’m afraid not,’ Mum said. ‘But you have Barney, Wilma’s brother, to be your special cat to look after.’

‘Why does Lee-Anne get a special cat?’ Richard asked.

‘Well, you’ve got Timothy, Wilma’s other brother, he’s your special cat,’ Mum replied.

‘Oh, yeah.’

‘So Wilma’s in her happy hunting ground in heaven,’ I said.

‘Yes,’ Dad said. ‘Wilma’s in heaven.’

[Photo 7: Wilma and Me © C.D. Trudinger 1968]

And I imagined Wilma stalking through a hole from our world and into the next; her happy hunting ground in heaven.

***

[Photo 8: Holly 2000-2016© L.M. Kling 2011]

© Lee-Anne Marie Kling 2016; updated 2020; 2022

Feature Photo: Picnic at Brownhill Creek. Photo taken by David Trudinger 1964

***

Want more, but too impossible to travel down under?

Why not take a virtual journey with the T-Team Adventures in Australia?

Click here on Trekking With the T-Team: Central Australian Safari 1981…

And escape in time and space to Central Australia 1981…

100-Word Challenge–Dad’s Midlife Crisis Cars (2)

The Austin

[My dad’s catchcry, “for the time being” dogged the choice of cars he brought home. The Austin was no exception… ]

The Austin appeared one winter’s afternoon in our backyard; Dad’s solution to the worthless Wolseley, and of course, just for the time being.

Only cost $100. What a bargain!

Next morning, his breath steaming with excitement, Dad marched up to the green lump of a car. I sat sulking in this woe-begone wreck, the vinyl seat threatening frostbite on my delicate buns.

Dad hopped in and turned the ignition key. Nothing. Not even a squeak on this icy morning.

‘Ah, well, we have to crank it,’ Dad said.

Crank it? Yep, we had to crank this ancient Austin to life.

© Lee-Anne Marie Kling 2019

Feature Photo: Not actually the Austin, obviously…but was it the same end? © L.M. Kling 2010

***

For good holiday reading click on the links below…

And catch up on the exploits of Boris the over-grown alien cockroach, and the mischief and mayhem he generates.

Click on the links below…

The Lost World of the Wends

The Hitch-hiker

Mission of the Unwilling

100-Word Challenge–Midlife Dad-Crisis Cars

[Another relic from my childhood…and Dad’s catchcry, “for the time being” dogged the choice of cars he brought home.]

The Wolsley 6/99 Saloon

Dad’s midlife crisis began in earnest in the early 1970’s. His penchant for early model, British-made cars was disguised as “this’ll do for the time being”.

The blue and cream saloon took up residence in the backyard behind the Hills Hoist washing line while presiding over Dad’s vegetable garden. On weekdays, it attempted to ferry us to school, but more often than not, failed in its endeavours.

So began my education into mechanics (and my older brother’s), alternators, batteries, starter motors and lemons.

One positive, the Wolsley made a great hideaway because it never went anywhere — for the time being.

© Lee-Anne Marie Kling 2019; updated 2022

Feature Photo: Not a Wolsley, but similar condition by now…© L.M. Kling 1978

***

Catch up on the exploits of Boris the over-grown alien cockroach, and the mischief and mayhem he generates.

Click on the links below…

The Lost World of the Wends

The Hitch-hiker

Mission of the Unwilling

In Memory of My Grandma

Elsa

Born March 16, 1906 – March 4, 1981 [40 year anniversary]

THE DOOR IS ALWAYS OPEN

Grandma rarely locked the back door; not when home or if she ran short errands. The only times she did lock the back door was when she went away on holiday. Ah! Those were the days! The 1960’s—Adelaide, the front door greeted strangers and salespeople, the back door welcomed friends and family who didn’t knock, but walked straight in.

[Photo 1: Opening the door to Grandma’s “Lace” © C.D. Trudinger 1964]

Grandma lived a ten-minute walk from my home in Somerton Park. Throughout my childhood and teenage years, I walked or rode the route down Baker Street, across “busy” Diagonal Road, and into Panton Crescent. Then I trod down her gravel drive of her Trust home to her back door; a door always unlocked and without any ceremony of knocking, I pulled open the fly-screen door, pushed open the wooden door, and walked into Grandma’s small kitchen. I still dream of Grandma’s place, “Grandma’s Lace” as I used to call it as a child, her huge backyard with fruit trees and hen house.

[Photo 2: Escape from Grandma’s “Lace” © C.D. Trudinger 1966

]

The same as her home, Grandma had an open heart with time available to be there for me. From the time I was born, she was there. She bought and moved into her Somerton Park home nearby, about the same time my mum and dad with my brother and me, bought and moved into our home.

Every Sunday all the family which included mum’s brothers and sisters and their spouses, gathered in her tiny kitchen dining area for Sunday roast. The home filled with laughter as we enjoyed Grandma’s roast beef and crunchy roast potatoes—the best ever! Dessert of jelly and ice-cream followed, topped with a devotion, then the Sunday Mail quiz. Holidays held extra treats of cousins from Cleve, all five of them and Auntie and Uncle. Grandma fitted us all in, albeit us younger ones sat at the “kinder tisch” in the passageway. Often friends from church or elsewhere joined us for Sunday lunch. The door was open for them too, and somehow Grandma made the food stretch and the table expand for unexpected guests.

[Photo 3: An example followed by her children from early on © S.O. Gross circa 1941]

One of the first times I took advantage of Grandma’s “open door policy” was at two years old. I’d dreamt my cousins were visiting and no one told me. My beloved cousins were at “Grandma’s Lace” and I was missing out.

So early that hot summer’s morning, I climbed out of my cot, dumped my nappy, and naked, I navigated my way to Grandma’s. I streaked over Diagonal Road, not so busy at dawn, and then toddled down Grandma’s driveway. I pushed open the back door and tiptoed through the kitchen and passageway. Then I peered into the bedrooms one by one. Each room was empty. Where were they? Where’s my cousins? I was sure they were here.

[Photo 4: Lined up with Country Cousins © C.D. Trudinger circa 1965]

I entered Grandma’s room. The mound of bedding rose and fell with each puff of breath Grandma made.

I tapped Grandma and asked, ‘Where’s my cousins?’

Grandma startled and her eyes sprang open. ‘Oh! Oh! What are you doing here?’

‘I come to play with my cousins,’ I said. ‘Where are they?’

‘Oh, my goodness—no dear—they’re not here.’ Grandma climbed out of bed and waddled to the bathroom. ‘Now, let’s get you decent.’

After wrapping a towel around me, she picked up the telephone. I stuck by her solid legs while she spoke to my mum. ‘Marie, just wondering, are you missing a daughter?…You might like to bring some clothes…’

As I grew older, Grandma’s open-door policy included her home-made honey biscuits. My friends and I visited Grandma on a regular basis. We’d enter through the back door and make a beeline for the biscuit tin. Then we’d meander into the lounge room. With my mouth full of biscuit, I’d ask, ‘Grandma, may I have a biscuit?’

Grandma would always smile and reply, ‘Yes, dear.’

Grandma’s open-door policy helped as a refuge when love-sick boys stalked me. Mum and I arranged that when I rode home from school, if my blind was up, I was safe from unwanted attention. But if the blind was pulled down, I would turn around and ride to Grandma’s place.

[Photo 5: Grandma with her white cat © C.D. Trudinger 1965]

Grandma was there also when I had trouble at school. I remember at fifteen, having boy-trouble of the unrequited love kind. Grandma listened. She was good at that. She sat in her chair as I talked and talked, pouring out my heart, while emptying her biscuit tin.

When I paused one time, after exhausting all my words, she said, ‘Lee-Anne, one thing that may help—you need to have Jesus as your Lord and Saviour.’

Grandma passed on from this life to meet her Lord and Saviour in early 1981, less than two weeks’ shy of her seventy-fifth birthday. Her old Trust home on the big block with the fruit trees and chook-yard were razed and redeveloped into four units—front doors locked and no easy way to their back doors.

[Photo 6: Looking beyond into the Hermannsburg compound © Courtesy M.E. Trudinger circa 1950]

The Sunday after the funeral, it seemed to me strange not to gather at Grandma’s. Then Christmas, the brothers and sisters celebrated separately with their own family or partners. I missed the whole Christmas connection with my cousins, aunts and uncles. Time had moved on and our family had evolved to the next stage of our lives.

[Photo 7: Christmas Memories (Grandma in her iconic purple dress far left) © C.D. Trudinger 1977]

In 2021, leaving one’s back door open, even during the day, seems an odd and risky thing to do. Times have changed—more dangerous, or perhaps we’re more fearful of imagined dangers outside our castles. And now in this Co-vid dystopian reality…Well, Grandma’s life and her “open door” policy in a more trusting time, has made me ponder: How open and available am I to others? How willing am I to listen and value others and their world?

© Lee-Anne Marie Kling 2016; updated 2019; updated 2021

Feature Photo: My Grandma and Grandpa courtesy of Marie Trudinger circa 1950

***

Also 40 years this year since the T-Team Trekked on their safari in Central Australia.

Check out my memoir: Trekking With the T-Team: Central Australian Safari 1981

Click on the link below…

Or, if a Science Fiction mystery is more your thing, have a look at my new book. Click here on The Lost World of the Wends.