I was thinking of you the other day, I thought of the brutality and bitterness but I also thought of the other side; the side I will always treasure, the farmer who nurtured his land and loved his animals.
Shooting was never a sport to you, it was something only done to eliminate pests or to ease the suffering of a sick or wounded animal.
I do remember the rare times when you would join the neighbors in the annual duck hunt on the nearby swamp. Somehow though; I sensed your heart was never in it.
It was more of a duty, a part of being seen to be at one with the other farmers in the district. I can never remember you coming home with a brace or in fact; any ducks at all. This may have been due in part, to the fact that the only two guns I can ever remember on the farm, were the old double barreled shot gun and a single shot .22 rifle; neither of which could have been relied on for any accuracy over any distance.
I am not sure how old I was when we set out in the old Austin truck? but I am guessing I was around four or five.
Bluey had been a loved and faithful farm dog, now going blind and too arthritic to make the jump from the ground to the back of the truck. You helped him onto the back of the truck with a gentleness that surprised me and the rifle was placed behind the seat, I started to ask about the gun but my questions were batted away.
I do know the timing was before the earthworks and soil conservation work had been done in the creeks of Grain Farm; we had bought this property not that long before, and your horror at the erosion caused by years of neglect was evident even to me at the very young age.
We parked the truck near the edge of the sharply eroded creek and I started to get out, but I was sharply told to stay where I was and to wait for you in the truck.
I watched as you took the gun from behind the seat and then gently, lifted Bluey from the tray of the truck before walking out of sight into the depths of the eroded waterway.
I heard the sharp crack of the rifle a few minutes later and then saw you emerge from the edge of the creek; this time there was no Bluey wobbling along beside you and somehow; you appeared diminished as you slowly plodded back to the truck.
No words passed between us and I saw you wipe your eyes, as you clambered into the cabin, carefully putting the rifle behind the seat.
We spent the rest of the morning driving from paddock to paddock looking at the stock and checking the development of the burgeoning crops, I think we needed this dose of normality!
Later in the day I heard the tractor with the front end loader, head up the hill towards Grain Farm and some days later, when we were back near the creek I noticed where fresh earth had been moved.
I think even today, I could walk easily to that same spot, even though the whole landscape of the creek has been changed, and grass now grows where the ugly red chasms used to be.
There is much about this letter that sums up the man I admired; your love of the land, your determination to improve it and; your love of animals of all sorts.
You were a good man, despite the many arguments and the beltings. Even today, I still have conversations with you; the benefits of hindsight giving me the capacity to finally achieve some balance.