Dad loved any chance to get together to with his mates for a yarn. So he loved any of the sales where livestock was sold, as there the men would gather to inspect the stock, to discuss the prices, the state of the weather, the amount of feed [ie grass] left in the paddocks – in fact anything that caught their interests. If they also discussed the scandalous goings-on of various members of the local society, then that was a subject that was never reported before the ears of me or any other child. But I have no doubt it was shared. They always complained that their women-folk gossiped, but we were always ready to leave town long before Dad was ready to leave the local billiard-room [the gossip-room for those men who avoided the front bar of the Hotel beer-shops.]
One morning each week, the local branch of Goldsborough Mort and Co [ or later Elder Smith ] held a 'pig and calf' sale. This was a chance for the local farmers to sell their excess stock – pigs that had been fattened on skim milk and grains; 3-day old calves born into the local dairy herd, but now competing with the dairyman for the milk its mother produced. Many of these animals were bought by the abattoirs, and left immediately on the daily goods train. There was even a short spur-line to bring railway trucks right up to the saleyards to make handling the stock easier. Late in the afternoon, you could hear the 'bobby' calves in the trucks, waiting to leave, calling mournfully for their mothers. You soon learnt to block your ears to that sound.
If Dad had pigs or calves destined for these sales, he would load them into the latest second-hand Holden 'tilly' [ie utility] with a home-made wooden crate filling the trailer. These still had straw stuffing in the bench seats. On one memorable occasion, during a mouse plague, Dad did not realise that he not only had livestock in the back of the ute, he also had them in the front – in the straw under his bottom. He only found out when a more adventurous rodent began scaling his leg inside his trouser leg! Driving at speed on the highway, he managed to avoid disaster by gripping the unfortunate with his horny hand, and squeezing hard. When he was finally able to stop the ute and climb out of the seat, one dead mouse dropped out of his trousers.
Once Dad bought pigs at the 'pig-n-calf', when he was driving the sedan car – ie he had no trailer or utility to transport the home. Ever resourceful, he dropped each one into a chaff bag, and tied it tightly around the pig's neck, so the animal's legs were restricted while its head was free. Then he put all 6 into the boot of the car and drove home. By the time he got to our school, the sounds from the boot were ominous – evidently a couple had escaped their sacks. He stopped the car outside the school, and 'borrowed' all the students to stand guard while he opened the boot. Their job was to run down any escapees. Unfortunately for the kids, there were no escapees, but it made for a break in our routine!
But Dad also loved the treasures he could find at particular sales. After the stock was sold, there was then a general auction, of the sorts of things that farmers and their wives were clearing out from sheds and cupboards, generally only roughly sorted in to boxes and kerosene tins. One might have a pile of books; another a stack of barely-used saucepans; or a load of hammers nails and bolts. Dad could not resist these treasures. When he brought these home, I had a lovely time exploring them. Most of the books I read as a child came home in this fashion.
Dad also loved the time when farms were sold, and the family leaving would hold a 'clearing sale' – the earliest form of garage sale! All our bikes came from these sales, and so did most of our ponies. Special furniture, like the tall bookcase with glass doors; a writing desk with a folding top; the long ping-pong table from the veranda were all acquired that way. Smaller treasures like my child’s table and chair [painted a bilious green] with its central decal of a small Mexican in a brightly-coloured hat; my special saddle for my pony also arrived that way.
At a clearing sale, the CWA would be selling food and drinks from an open shed. Women who had come for a social event would sit on stools borrowed from the nearest school or church hall, wearing broad-brimmed hats or sheltering under dark umbrellas while they gossiped languidly, all the while kids ran and shouted and played chasey under everyone’s feet. Babies slept, woke hungry and cranky, were fed and went back to sleep in big cane prams.
Dad loved these mixed sales, but Mum never knew what he would be bringing home next. For me it was a chance to discover treasures!