September 27, 2020

Story: A Farmer's Wife

This beautiful evocative portrayal of the time and place of a negotiated
marriage proposal, has been written with a golden clarity. The reader enjoys a real sense of the pace, scenery and values of the 1950's rural West Australia.

Story by Marjorie Counsel                                      

I’m ninety years old, and five years a widow, but the moment that would change my life forever remains crystal clear. The year was 1952 and I had secured my first teaching job. It was in a remote country town, a three hour’s journey from Fremantle, the town where I grew up. The north eastern wheatbelt was dry and possessed a harsh beauty that took some getting used to. All in all, it was quite a big adjustment for a city girl. But I was young and prepared for new adventures.

Among those adventures, of course, was the prospect of romance. Like many another young teacher or nurse doing country service, I was a potential catch.  There may have been many prospects, but it was a gentle, shy young man who caught my eye and we started going steady.

One night, after we had been together for six months, he mentioned, ‘There’s a dance on next Saturday. How about it?’ he asked. This was courtship in the classic laconic Aussie tradition!

                ‘Why, that would be nice,’ I replied accepting his invitation as if it was the only answer to give. ‘Where will it be? Here?’ I said, answering my own question.

                 ‘No, down the road, you know where the hotel is.

                ‘Oh yes, I know. What time?’

               ‘Better make it 7:30. It’s harvest time you know. I won’t come in from the paddock until late.’

                 ‘That’s fine by me,’ I agreed, as we walked to the car beneath a big orange ball, suspended above the horizon; the harvest moon; so romantic, so unreal. Sitting next to this man who was a stranger to me not so many months before. I still hardly knew him and yet at the same time it was as if I had known him forever. ‘How can you go to a dance after working on the tractor all day?’ I wanted to know.

                 He answered with a chuckle, ‘Don’t worry, I’II be right . . .’

And right on time he called for me at the home in town where I was boarding. I thought he looked very handsome. Country dances are a whole lot of fun and a great outing for a courting couple. The evening flew by and was over too soon.

We’re here already,’ he said as he pulled up at my gate. We walked slowly arm in arm up the path. I felt sad that the weekend was ending much too quickly. Although I really didn’t want him to leave, I had to be firm. ‘I must go,’ I said reluctantly. (I was thinking of the morning with the class preparation that was to be done), so with a light kiss and heavy determination I said goodnight.     

Not too many months later the “big moment” came.

This day, as we had done so often before, we went out driving in in his father’s gleaming new Austin. When we pulled up in the far paddock of his parent’s farm we sat close to each other.

It was then the young lover turned and asked for my hand in marriage in true Aussie style. 

‘Let’s get hitched?’

I looked out at what was a typical wheatbelt scene — small sand dunes scattered along the perimeter, bordered by the leafy Mallees, where rabbits bounded through the scrub. All of this strange new world would be my home if I said “yes”.

‘Look!’ he suddenly whispered, drawing my attention to a stately kangaroo, as it jumped out from behind the Mallees, drew itself up to its full height, cautiously scanned the horizon, before slowly hopping towards us. Hardly breathing we watched.

                ‘I haven’t seen anything like this,’ he continued in astonishment as the roo moved slowly forward.’

               ‘Will it reach the car?’ I inquired also in a whisper.

               ‘Sshhh . . .’ he cautioned, but it was too late. Suddenly aware that we were there, our surprise visitor turned, disappearing in a cloud of dust. 

                ‘Oh no!’ I slumped back allowing the silence to surround and separate us.

               Slowly my companion turned towards me again and taking hold of both my hands in his, said, ‘Don’t let this spoil our special moment.’

               ‘You’re right,’ I ruefully replied, pausing to add, ‘I’ll remember this day, though; the day my boyfriend let a kangaroo take preference over me and my marriage proposal.’

                ‘Well, are you going to?’ he persisted.

                ‘Going to what?’ I countered, pretending ignorance.

                ‘Get married of course.’ By this time, he’d started the car and his attention was now on the road, steering through loose sand until he pulled up in the paddock where Molly, Rose and Daisy grazed contentedly.          

I smiled, putting my arm around him, ‘On one condition.’

                 ‘What’s that?’  he wanted to know.

                 ‘I don’t have to milk the cows!’

This true story by Marjorie Counsel was the winner in our recent writing competition with the theme "The Moment My Life Changed". Follow us on Facebook and join our newsletter to receive invitations to future competitions.

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5 comments on “Story: A Farmer's Wife”

  1. This reminds me of my parents--my father a farmer, my mother a schoolteacher. They courted and married in the early thirties. My mother then became a farmer's wife!

    1. Mark Sheel, this is my sister’s story. It’s from the wheatbelt of Western Australia. I’m curious where your parents were. It makes for good living history.

  2. You transported me back in time in describing your introduction, as a shy young teacher, to a small wheatbelt farming community and then, the delight of your new relationship. A wonderful memory. Thank you!

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