Monday, 1 August 2011

Apples and Pears

On the morning following my arrival in Hobart I said, "Goodbye" to Brian and caught the country bus to Port Arthur where I transferred to a car for the rest of the journey to Highcroft - an orchard where I worked at picking apples and pears for six weeks. The orchardist, Mr Hansen, was doing fairly well and had been able to purchase a few neighboring farms. The abandoned farmhouses were used as housing for the itinerant pickers and packers who did not live nearby.

I shared a room with an English and a Hungarian fellow then, as the space was rather crowded, I moved to another room. Soon I had a roommate - a Welshman who did not really like me. One of the 'straw bosses' was a lad from another farm a few miles up the road. His people had some dairy cows so he brought my roommate and I a bottle of milk each morning for which he charged three pence which came to a "penny ha'penny" each (one and a half pence). There was a half penny coin in circulation at that time and that useless bit of metal went back and forth between his pocket and mine until the end of the season!

The general store and the post office were located in the village of Nubeena, about five miles west and down on the shore of an inlet of the Antarctic Ocean. It was to there that we had to go for groceries and our mail.

Highcroft was about 14 miles from Port Arthur - the notorious British penal colony - which sits on a point of land that sticks out into the ocean. It has been many many years since the 'fort' was used for its initial purpose - now it is an historic site and well worth a visit. I was fortunate enough to have been there three times during my visit to that part of the world. Again I would really like to locate the lost box of slides as I have photos that I took while there.

I mentioned in my last post about a huge spider which I encountered. As well as outsized insects there were snakes too - and most of them of the poisonous variety. One of those - the tiger snake - is quite commonly seen in Tasmania. As the orchards were in fields of relatively high grass I was super careful in walking through them - much to the amusement of the locals. This led to an amusing conversation during one of our 'smoke-o' breaks. We got to chatting about 'bush walking' (as the Aussies call country hiking) when I mentioned how much I loved hiking back home in Canada. One of the other pickers looked at me in astonishment and asked "But what about the bears?". I laughed and explained that, even though my family home was across the road from an orchard which black bears liked to visit - I never saw one! I realized that my phobia about snakes was like his about bears - each of us feared something that we MIGHT encounter - but not all that likely!

This idyll ended immediately after Easter - the onset of winter 'Down Under'.

Before I leave this blog I should mention Kevin. He was the local boy who brought my roommate and I our daily bottle of milk. The people who live on that southern peninsula of Tasmania are simple folk and were quite isolated. He and his family attended some sort of evangelical congregation. To him Hobart was a 'Big City' and, therefore, a place of wickedness and evil. The thought of going across to genteel Melbourne was unthinkable - the sin and loose living there must know no bounds! Unfortunately I do not think that 'Kevin' is alone in that thinking - probably there are many isolated folk who look at life in the same way.

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