Money was God.
“Working hard and getting nothing” was another of Dads sayings, usually in response to somebody innocently asking “How are you going Merv?”
While he had just about given up on hard physical work by this time he was certainly working hard mentally, forever concocting new schemes to make money.
His reasoning for this love of accumulating money and hatred of spending it, unless it was as a means to making more, was that having grown up poor and having to battle just to get a job during the depression, he just couldn’t bear to spend money.
By today’s standards the Flint family certainly had grown up poor, there was little to eat that wasn’t grown or killed by themselves, there were no luxuries of any kind, no television or even radio, no electricity, no running water, no motor car and the list goes on, yet they still managed to survive and for the most part, enjoy life.
One of Dads few failures was an entry he submitted to a competition run by the Sun newspaper to name a Bluey & Curley comic strip they ran. Bluey & Curley were a product of the late Alec Gurney, about a couple of lovable larrikins whose wartime adventures kept us all smiling.
The strip in question had Bluey, Curley and a sentry all uttering a surprised, “you” as they came across one another unexpectedly, Dads caption typical of an ex shearer was;
“The case of the comeback ewes (you’s)” (Comebacks were a breed of sheep with Merino bloodlines reintroduced) we all thought this should have won, not the totally forgettable entry that did win. Dad was never a big fan of the Sun from then on.
His love of money was tempered by a sense of fair play and basic honesty that I was to run up against in my early years, typical of boys, I pinched a packet of tobacco and cigarette papers I’d found in a neighbors shed, while Dad was a non-smoker he felt this crime had deeply deprived someone of their rights.
Much to my dismay he made me go and knock on the neighbors door, return the tobacco and confess to what I’d done, this was typical of his creed, I don’t ever remember him smacking me, maybe he should have?
Over the years he lectured me about saving my money to the degree that I went the other way a bit and became a spendthrift for some time, eventually though I guess I saw the wisdom in his advice.
In our later debates over money matters I would sagely advise him to spend some of it and get some enjoyment from it, his response was that he got pleasure out of accumulating it.
My response in turn was, “you might as well spend it Dad, I will if you leave it to me,” His reply, “well Son, you won’t be getting any then.”
Years later , after he had done a couple of overseas trips and was buying a new car every couple of years we again discussed the issue of his money.
Why don’t you spend a bit of it I asked, “what would I spend it on Son?” well I thought, “I’ve got you now, buy a decent house with all the mod-cons in it,”
“I’m pretty happy with this house” he said, and in fairness to him it was a far cry from our 4 roomed shack at Dixons Creek.
Ok what about a better motor car, “the one I’ve got is only a year old and I’d get most of my outlay back as a trade-in” he said.
Each of my arguments met with much the same fate when attacked by the logic of my Dad.
As a final effort I suggested a world trip for 12 months and that he leave me a few signed cheques, I would welcome him home to one of the best thoroughbred horse establishments in the land, racehorses had become a passion we didn’t share by then.
After what he described as due consideration he rejected this plan, stating that it wasn’t that important to him to spend his money.
But he held forth for most of his life that, unless you wasted it, once you had accumulated a bit of money, “it’s pretty hard to get rid of it.” I know a lot of people, myself included, who will find this hard to believe, but my Dad believed it.
There was always a love of the land in Dad and as my Mum was also a country girl it was inevitable that they would once again try farming, while it may have been inevitable it was also doomed to failure as Dad had become very used to city life and the romance had gone from their lives as well.
The selected farm was a nicely setup property 10 kilometers out of Benalla in the North East of Victoria, a property with the potential to be just what we wanted but while it supplied a few precious memories, and a couple of good stories, that was about all.
No story of this era would be complete without a description of our moving day, days actually, Benalla is only 200 kilometers from
Dad had bought 2 ex army Chevrolet trucks for the move, these were duly loaded up with all our worldly goods, we set sail at about 10am on a nice morning with Dad, Mum & Merle in one truck and an uncle and good friend in the other, I was in the back of the family truck with our faithful old cat, (my choice by the way).
Everything went according to plan until we reached “Pretty Sally Hill” which is part of the
Investigation revealed that a piston and con-rod were protruding from the side of the engine block, in lay terms the engine was stuffed!
The lead truck gallantly returned and it was decided that we would continue on with our one good truck towing the other one, all this and we are only 40 kilometers along the way.
Progress was now pretty slow and it didn’t help when our nice day turned nasty and it started to rain and blow up a storm, my location in the back of the truck, while still my preferred option, wasn’t too comfortable until my uncles army overcoat came to the rescue.
Again we were making slow but steady progress until the branch of a tree blew down and smashed the windscreen of the lead truck, remember it’s raining and by now blowing a gale and I’ve got my uncles coat, I’ll bet he cursed me!
Off we went again only to come to a sudden stop a bit further on and those behind watched in disbelief as a blazing seat was tossed unceremoniously out of the lead truck, a dropped cigarette stub, no doubt lit to calm some rather frayed nerves, was the culprit.
One could say our day had gone to hell by now, several hours after dark we arrived at an aunt & uncles house in Benalla where they graciously put us up for the night.
We continued on for the final 10 kilometers next morning and arrived without further mishap to take up residence in our new home.
The farm had the normal mix of good cleared land and some bush country, Dads ambition was to clear out the bush and have good grazing land for sheep.
To this end he and I would set forth each day with our axes and chop down trees all day, cutting the trunks into 6 foot lengths and stacking the branches for burning, this was fine until the city life lured him away.
Having taught me how to cut wood and measure and stack into “cord” heaps he said he would pay me for any wood I cut while he was away.
While the rate wasn’t high, my energy levels were, and I cut so much wood over the next few weeks that my contract was cancelled.
True to his word though he paid me for what I’d done and that gave me my best trip into Benalla ever, with spending money my young mind couldn’t believe, I was 13 at the time.
Dads interest in race horses first came to light here, he bought the most adorable little filly which used to follow me around like a puppy dog, one day Dad and one of my inevitable uncles hoisted me aboard this docile little filly, my next memory is of lying flat on my back on the hard ground with both pride and body hurt.
Dad said that I’d done well and rode out a couple of bucks before coming to grief, but I’m pretty sure he was just trying to make me feel better, I think she got me with the very first one.
I also had a very quiet old horse and a couple of dogs, a border collie sheep dog named Rover and a young greyhound named Bouncer because of his jaunty stride. These two hunted together and made short work of any rabbits they put up, neither of them however would kill a rabbit, just hold it until I got there to do the deed.
There were quite a few hares around too, but these speedsters were always too quick for the dogs, they did manage to catch one after about 20 minutes of team effort one day they finally got him.
I arrived on the scene to find 3 totally exhausted animals lying in a heap on the ground.
We had an old 4 wheeled buggy which my horse would pull around, one day a cousin and I decided to go for a buggy ride.
We’d gone a couple of miles down the road when the horse decided he’d had enough of this, so turning around sharply, he headed for home.
We were quite sure the buggy was about to tip over so both jumped clear, we watched the horse and empty buggy disappear towards home, where we found him 30 minutes later waiting patiently at the gate to get in.
Not that he needed to wait at the gate, he could open gates with a chain and ring catch by nuzzling at the ring until he got it over the hook.
Dad made an oft repeated story about this miss-adventure which had us desperately yelling “bail out boys” and in fear of our lives.
Another of Dads saying came to light here, it was used when rain threatened, “we’ll have to do what they do in
We dealt with a produce store in Benalla where an ex Carlton footballer, named Bob Chitty worked, Bob used to tuck a bag of wheat under each arm and stroll out to our truck where he would nonchalantly toss them onto the tray.
This so impressed Dad that he became an instant fan of football where in the past he had no interest in the game at all, not so my Mum who had for years been an ardent follower of the South Melbourne swans, (pre the Sydney Swans.)
In a bitter and bloody grand final between
So once more Mum and the kids farmed on alone while Dad went back to his much loved
Dad, Merle and Harold, (her 2nd husband.)