(An excerpt from the book, MAVERICK’S ROUNDUP)
NEW GIRL ON THE BLOCK
Girls, well, I had a couple of mild crushes on girls in the Christian Endeavour group. They did not last long living miles out of town with only a pushbike for transport across a mountain range was obstacle enough to kill off any budding romance. Dad was directional in trying to pair me up with suitable local girls.
‘Now, she is a pretty girl, Bruce,’ he would say, trying to direct my eyes toward certain girls in the district that he considered were pretty and would make a suitable wife.
‘She’s OK, I suppose,’ I would answer noncommittally.
‘You could do worse with that girl, Bruce. She’s smart and a hard worker.’ Dad would try to organise a meeting,
‘She doesn’t appeal to me.’ I would hedge, wishing Dad would let me choose my wife, myself. The annual Sunday school picnic arrived and it was always a lot of fun. If Dad was involved, the competitions and skylarking seemed to go on all day. This picnic was to be different. My lonely years were to end. We young men grouped ourselves at the gate of the paddock used as a picnic ground on the pretext of directing picnic goers to the right spot under a big gum tree. We were fooling around telling tall stories as lads do, when along came a young chick. She was a new comer to the district, living down Nangkita.
‘Wow! Wonder who she is?”
‘Oh, I heard Hector Brown’s sister-in-law’s come to live with him and his wife.’
‘What does she do?’
‘I was told she works on the dairy.’
‘Where’d she come from?’
‘Hey! Hands off her, you guys, this one’s mine,’ I butted in on the conversation so emphatically that the other boys fell silent with surprise continuing to watch the girl on the bike as she rode over to where the rest of the picnickers were gathered under a huge gum tree in the middle of the paddock. At this moment my world went into a tailspin, I had made the truest prophecy in my life. It took about six months before the new girl at the picnic, is the typist, advisor, terrific friend, wife, and partner in this story. Getting back to the picnic, I was smitten, but Gwen did not even see me that day and besides
I was very girl shy and ignorant in how to court a girl. Courting Gwen was from afar. We met at Christian Endeavour on Tuesday nights. Gwen would ride her bike several miles from Nangkita to Mount Compass, sometimes getting a ride with other members of the group that lived along the valley. I rode eight miles on a bike from the opposite direction, until Peter learnt to drive the family car. Our meetings alone were a brief few minutes after the meeting was over in a secluded spot.
‘Come on, it is time to go home,’ Peter would yell, and we would part for another week. Peter saying goodnight to his beloved interrupted our journey home; Clare would get thoroughly bored sitting in the car waiting for her two brothers to say goodnight to their girlfriends. The family, as usual, did not have a clue that some girl had stolen my heart until at a social gathering in the local hall. Mum was sitting beside a Mrs Brown, curious about the new girl on the block, she asked,
‘Who is that girl asking my son to team up with her in a ‘Women’s Choice game?’
‘Oh, that’s my sister. She’s living with me and working for my husband on the dairy.’ My cover was blown but I still did not ‘tell all’ to my family. I kept my romance close to my chest for as long as I could. My thinking was that it was my business and no one else’s. Mum, though, did not agree and would not be put off.
‘When are you going to bring Gwen home?’
‘OK, OK, Mum, don’t push me.’