Peasant Autonomy
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Story 87

A hamlet in New South Wales, Australia – about 1935 (2)


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(Photo: Ryan Wick)

New South Wales.

“Say something,” Amy had shouted when he came home. But he isn't a big talker, she knows that. And what to say when you have failed so badly? Stan Parker, an old farmer with a browned face, and already quite a lot of wrinkles on his neck, leans against the side of the cow which he is milking. By hand. Stan doesn't want a milking machine. That's not good for the teats. And they don't have so many cows, they milk them easily, just the two of them. The young farmers laugh about it. Let them laugh.
When Stan carefully pours his bucket of milk through the strainer on top of the milk can, he looks at Amy. She wipes some tears from her right cheek, and sniffs. Then she goes on milking without looking at Stan. She used to be slender when he married her; now she has grown old, just like him, and sturdy, or rather, fat. Their two children, Ray and Thelma, had left home years ago. They are on their own here. But they are doing pretty well, together.

When he came home, he immediately had seen that Amy knew it already. Someone must have told her about it. She looked so grey, as she never has looked before. Defeated. When he had got the newspaper out of the mailbox this morning, he had read it in a small article on the front page. In Sydney a certain man Ray Parker had been killed in a pub. Quickly he had pulled on his good clothes, and got into his old Ford. “I have to go to town for business,” he had called to his wife.

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(Photo: Nathan Emery)

New South Wales.

In a daze he had driven around the city, till he arrived at the house where Ray lived. An unkempt woman with dark circles under her eyes from crying, opened the door. Ray was dead, what could be said about it? A stupid pub fight. A drunk friend had walked in with a pistol. “You sold me out,” he had shouted, and then shot him in his belly and his chest.

The newspaper had said that Ray Parker had been in prison several times for theft and robbing, and that he lived with a prostitute. That is their son. He had roamed here and there, and had had several jobs. He had left his wife and child for that other woman. Amy and he never had good contact with him, since he had gotten older. And also not with Thelma, their daughter. She had done well in school, became a secretary at a notary's office, and later married one of the notaries. They have lost her too. She has become so genteel. After some time they will get rid of the cows, and sell most of the land for urban development.
Stan empties the next bucket in the milk churn. He looks at Amy. She is a good woman. But, what can you say when you have failed in bringing up your children?


In the novel The tree of man (1956) the Australian author Patrick White describes in an almost poetic way the lives and feelings of a farmer and his wife on a small farm.

Go to:
= part 1:
Forest Fire - a hamlet in New South Wales, Australia – 1914 (1), story 57.
= the next page:
'Our reindeer are your reindeer' - mountain region in the north of Sweden – 1930s, story 88.
= the Table of contents, story 87.