When in the air again, we now headed north, with our final destination just 3 ½ hours away, where we will be with family again, although I don’t ever remember meeting our uncle when growing up.
Shortly after 2 pm, I called out to the family, “We are here, this is Riveren Station,” and Rhodes peered out the side window, “It looks extremely dry and bare down there bro,” I said to me, “Yes, apparently they have had some very dry seasons, with very little rain,” I replied, as I made a wide circle around the homestead and sheds, before lining up to land on the airfield just to the south-east of the homestead.
The airfield was surprisingly smooth when we landed, as I spun the plane around and came to a stop near a small shed near the middle of the airfield, and were two vehicles had just come to a stop. After shutting off the engines, Rhodes unstrapped himself and headed back to open the main door, and to help everyone out, while I completed shutting down the planes electronics.
“Owen, it is good to see you again after such a long time,” Mum said, as she gave her brother-in-law a hug, and he kissed her on the cheek and hand. “Wow four kids as well, the same as me, but I only remember the oldest one, when you last came here for Christmas,” I heard my uncle say.
“That would be me Uncle Owen, I said when I climbed out of the plane, and I saw the surprised look on his face. “Five kids, my you were busy, and how he has grown into a strong man. Who is the pilot?” our uncle said, “That would also be me Uncle, I have a commercial pilots licence, as I am a Zoologist and veterinarian,” I replied.
“Wow, now I didn’t expect that,” Uncle Owen said as he turned back towards the vehicles, and motioned the driver of the other vehicle to come over. “This is my eldest, Samuel who is 14 this year, my daughter, Alexandria, 12 and twins Justin and Quincy, who are 11 years old, and are at home,” Uncle Owen said.
My oldest sister, Mary and her twin Rhodes, who are 16, youngest sister Julia, 14 and youngest brother Wynn, who is 12,” I said making the introductions to our uncle. “Nice to meet you all, now let’s get all of your bags, and get out of this heat,” Uncle Owen said, and ten minutes later we pulled up outside the homestead, which looked like it had seen better days.
The lawn was barely green, and the garden was fairly bare, with just the mature trees and shrubs still alive, and I noticed that there are four cottages to the south of the main homestead. “I have arranged for your family to share one of the cottages, but I will get that changed, so the other free cottage is available. Daisy, can you come here please,” Uncle Owen called out.
An aboriginal women stepped off the back verandah and walked around to where the vehicles are parked near the front, “Yes Boss,” she asked, “Can you quickly give the second cottage a clean, we have more visitors than I thought, my sister-in-law and her two daughters can have the first cottage, and her three boys can have the other cottage,” Uncle Owen said to her.
“Yes boss, right away boss,” the women replied and she rushed off to do what was asked. Let’s go inside and meet the others and cool off a bit while the other cottage is being cleaned,” Uncle Owen said, and Mum agreed with the idea, and we all followed our uncle up the main stairs of the homestead.
“Do you have many staff on the station, Uncle?” I asked, “We used to have 6, but with this ongoing drought, we are now down to Jimmy and his missus Daisy and their daughter Eliza, who is an excellent cook,” Uncle Owen replied, and I frowned in annoyance, with the feeling that they were not been given good working conditions and pay, and I intended to ask them about it when I can.
Inside the homestead, Uncle Owen’s wife was well dressed and was reading a book on a comfortable lounge, in the sitting room, with a long glass of iced drink on a small table beside her.
I could hear the sound of children arguing down the hallway, at another part of the homestead, “Cut out that racket you lot, we have visitors, come and meet them,” Uncle Owen shouted a little too loudly, which was followed by a loud scream, and uncle Owen jumped up and dashed down the hallway.
“What the hell is going on here, we have guests who are your aunty and cousins, so behave yourselves, or you will get the strap,” we heard our uncle say, “But daddy, he pulled my hair,” we heard a girl’s voice say, only because you kicked me in the shin, you little she devil,” we heard a boy respond.
“Right, you can all go with out dinner, so go to your rooms and stay there, until you can be civilised and act normally,” Uncle Owen said and we heard his footsteps heading back this way. “Sorry about all this, the last few weeks of school holidays are always the toughest in this homestead,” Uncle Owen said before retrieving a beer from the fridge and sitting down on the same couch as his wife but at the other end.
I looked over to Mum, who frowned and shrugged her shoulders a little bit, “So, Uncle Owen, where do you think is the best place to release your brother’s ashes?” I asked, “Eww, you are not doing that anywhere near the homestead, I forbid it,” Aunt Jennifer said.
“Actually Flint and I had discussed it, and we would like to release his ashes where we first met, on that track west of the homestead, in amongst the hills,” Mum said, “Yes, that will be fine, Amanda, I see no problem with that,” Uncle Owen said.
“What about my washing, if it is a Westerly wind, the ash will go all over my clean washing?” Aunt Jennifer complained, “Well since you don’t actually do the washing, since you are too lazy to get off your padded backside, to do any of the house work or cooking, then it should not be a problem, should it!” Uncle Owen responded sharply.
“Well, I never, I should not have to put up with this nonsense from you,” Aunt Jennifer said in reply, glaring at her husband, and looking quite upset. “If you are going to have another one of your headaches, maybe you should go to bed without any dinner,” Uncle Owen said to his wife, “Well, I might just do that,” Aunt Jennifer said as she stood and stormed out of the room, and a few moments later a door slammed shut.
“Funny that, every time she goes off with a headache, she always slams the door shut,” Uncle Owen commented, and I heard Mum try and suppress a giggle, and her brother-in-law smiled. Jennifer has never liked life on a remote cattle station, and I just let her do her own thing, and I am left to run everything on my own,” Uncle added.
“Have you thought about letting her go on a holiday, maybe with the younger children?” Mum suggested, “If I did that, I may not ever see them again, she is a city girl from Adelaide, and she married me because she thought it would be a great adventure, but now 16 years on, I thinks she has had enough. The mail plane is due in a few days time, maybe I will suggest that she take a holiday to Adelaide to visit her sister,” Uncle Owen said.
“I think that would be good, and I am happy to stay here and help out with the homestead if you like, as I have no other commitments anywhere else,” Mum said. “What about the Airbase?” Julia asked, “I have spoken to Mr & Mrs Parkinson, they have everything under control there, and when I last spoke to Hedley, he said that they had received an offer for both stations, which I told him to accept if it is a reasonable price,” Mum replied.
“What about our schooling?” Mary asked, “Yes, well we do need to work that out don’t we. How about we wait until we have made our final farewell to Dad, then we can all sit down to discuss that,” Mum suggested. Samuel is supposed to start boarding school this year, and he is enrolled to attend, college in Katherine,” Uncle Owen announced.
“Is that to study agricultural studies?” I asked, “Yep, Agriculture and Rural Operations they call it here in the NT,” Samuel said, who had been sitting quietly reading a book.
“I just went to Grammar school and learnt everything about station work, when working at our old home on the station,” Rhodes stated. “Almost impossible to keep you away from station work on school holidays is more like it,” I responded, “You were just the same, and look at you now, a Zoologist, Veterinarian and part time soldier,” Rhodes said to me.
“What’s this about being a soldier?” Uncle Owen asked, “I am in the Army reserves, and I hold the rank of Corporal, but I am not attached to any particular company or battalion at the moment, as I am on special leave,” I replied. “Oh, I see, did you know your grandfather was in the Army?” Uncle Owen asked.
“Yes, I know all about it, thankyou, now excuse me for a moment, I need to go for a walk since I have been stuck in the pilots seat for a day and a half,” I replied, as I stood and headed out the front door and down the stairs. “Can I join you please cousin?” I heard a voice say behind me, as I neared the bottom of the stairs, "Sure, you can show me around,” I replied, as I waited for Samuel to catch up. After walking for a few minutes, Samuel cleared his throat, “How old are you Jexon?” he asked me.
“I am 23 this year,” I replied, “Wow, and you already have two university degrees?” Samuel stated, “Yes, but I had to work very hard for them both, I almost went into ADFA too, but the Army decided that I was better use in my home state,” I replied.
“Wow, nine years older than me, so which of your brothers is closest to my age?” Samuel asked, “Well Wynn is 12 and Rhodes is 16, so you are closer to Rhodes age,” I replied, and I saw Samuel look a little disappointed, as he kicked a stone with his boot, and I wondered if he was trying to ask me something else, “So are you having troubles at home with you being the oldest?” I asked.
“Yes, it really sucks, that I have to always do this and that, and my siblings are always fighting, and quite often I get the blame for it,” Samuel replied. “Does your dad really take to you with a strap?” I asked, “No, thank goodness, but is often threatens to do it, instead he just sends us to our rooms.
Mum is no help at all, she just sits on her own reading a book and complaining about he harsh conditions outside and how she would love to have a beautiful garden with green lawn, but with water restricted, there is no chance of that happening,” Samuel replied.
“So is living and working on stations what you want for your future?” I asked, “Not really sure now… I have… Oh, I just don’t know what I want to do!” Samuel said sounding very frustrated. “Ok, well if you ever need any one to talk to, I am here for you cousin, anything at all, and I will keep it to myself,” I said to Samuel, who just nodded his head in understanding.
All of the family except Jennifer sat at the table for dinner, and my siblings and our cousins, seemed to be getting along quite well for the short period of time they have known each other. With a bit of encouragement from me, everyone pitched in to help with cleaning up and washing the dishes, so as too give the staff an early night off.
The following morning, Owen and Samuel were already gone by the time we sat down for breakfast, and there was still no sign of Jennifer. Good morning all, I said as I entered the dining room, and Mum smiled to me, as I sat down. During breakfast, Mum discussed what she wanted to do with release of the ashes.
She informed us that she wanted all family members to attend the release of the ashes, and that it would take place just before sunset at the location where she and Dad had met all those days ago. After breakfast, I went for a walk, to have a bit of a look around, and when I heard some noises happening in the main machinery shed, I headed in that direction.
When I walked into the workshop, I found my cousin, Samuel tackling removing a tyre from the rim, “Hey Cousin, what some help with that?” I asked as I walked in.
“That would be great thanks, this one has decided to be real stubborn, and I have changed lots of tyres on the station, this one has a huge wooden stake hole in it. I need to plug it on both sides,” Samuel replied, and I spent the next twenty minutes helping Samuel with repairing the tyre and putting it back on it’s rim.
“Where is your Dad? I asked as we finished the job, off doing a water run, Mum’s behaviour is getting worse, and he needed some time to himself, as they had a huge argument after you guys headed to your cabins last night,” Samuel replied.
“Does that happen often, them arguing I mean?” I asked, “Yes, a lot more than usual lately, they usually wait until the younger ones are in bed and asleep, but I am always awake when it starts up, and lately Dad has been sporting some fairly good sized black eyes. I tend to ignore the noise and go to sleep,” Samuel replied.