Dear Mum and Dad
In many ways; the events of January 1970 and the ensuing family drama, provided me with the avenue to escape from what I now see, as an almost cultish atmosphere.
Of all the things I could argue with, in terms of our upbringing; there are two that stand out:
The first would be the dichotomy and secrecy existing between what happened on the farm, and the appearance of wellbeing, unity and affluence we showed to the outside world.
It amazed me, almost forty years later; to find out Madeline, knew nothing of the Raelene episode!
She was married to Steve, she lived on the farm and, Steve most definitely; was at the forefront of discussion as to what was going to happen to the family.
How strong and wrong was the edict that he could not even discuss the most damaging thing to happen in our family with his own wife!
The second would be the blind expectation; that as the sons of the family it was our duty to return and work the farm, education was given lip service and this did nothing to equip us for any role in the outside world.
Education was a status symbol in our family, useful in enhancing your positions in the community and wider world, but our results were basically ignored.
This is made even more ridiculous, when it is clear now; the whole farming enterprise was perilously and almost constantly, poised on the edge of a debt precipice. It had been the case, since way back in the early fifties you had taken over from the Abominables.
There would be no mercy shown from that quarter, over unpaid interest or debt instalments!
I realized I had to leave; the tension between you both, the lack of a living wage, the constant threats from Gerry and the fact that I did not feel comfortable being alone with Steve, meant my position was untenable and the future looked increasingly bleak.
I originally started writing to various National Stock and Agency businesses; Agents were almost a constant at the farm, vying for business at the various Stud cattle sales where we would sell throughout many of the eastern states of Australia.
I should have been a walk up start with a number of these agencies; my family was well known, I came from a strong cattle and sheep background and Dad was a valued client; it surprised me when I received virtually no response to any of my letters.
I thought that was a bit rude, but I could not talk to either of you, because my search for independence had to be done in secret, I would have been slapped down for even thinking of leaving.
Many years later I would accidentally discover that my letters had indeed been seen and they had been referred back to you; Dad.
You had vetoed my chances without even telling me!
Mum; you gradually became my ally in finding a way out. I would love to think you did this out of love, or because you shared my concerns. It is sadly, though; equally possible, you saw our collusion as a way to at least in part; get back at Dad.
The Wagga Paper carried an ad. for a job as a Trainee Draftsman with the Government Regional Office. I wrote and sent off my application without telling anyone. Surprisingly; I was offered an interview, I then had the problem of how I was going to get to Wagga on this day and I needed to confide in you.
Together, we invented an eye specialist appointment, and like two escapees; we set off the big day. The 120-kilometer drive to arrive there by 11.00 am, basically consisted of anticipatory silences broken by conspiratorial chatting.
I spent the next two weeks waiting for the letter to come in the post, to tell me whether I had been successful.
Unfortunately, I missed collecting the mail on the day my letter finally arrived, proudly bearing the Govt. Coat of arms and addressed to myself.
Dad; you collected the mail that day, by the time I was presented with the opened letter that night, you were already well aware of the contents.
I was forced to read it in front of you and Mum at dinner time, the gist of the letter went as follows:
Thank for attending the recent interview for the position of Trainee Draftsman with the Department of Main Roads Divisional office in Wagga Wagga.
We regret to inform you that you were not successful but we will keep your application on file and should another position become available we will be in touch.
The shame of my subterfuge being discovered and then being forced to read this letter in front of you both would take a long time to fade into history.
Dad, you sat on the lounge and told me in no uncertain terms “No son of mine will ever work for the Public Service, it would be a disgrace for the family and I will not allow it”
In the light of what I later found out about my previous attempts at employment, I often wonder what would have become of the letter if I had been successful.
At least after this, my desire to escape was now open knowledge and I went to bed that night determined to continue my search for work.
Of course, there have been many other people who have had their futures vetoed by their parents, but with the benefit of many years removed, I still find it hard to believe.