WIRE IN THE BLOOD
Growing up on a small farm in Tasmania, I often felt that the whole place was held together with barbed wire and binder twine. Most of our fences were made of wire and wooden ‘droppers’. My sister and I quite enjoyed collecting snagged sheep’s wool from the barbs, but regularly ruined our own woolly jumpers clambering between the strands.
I might add that barbed wire gates had nothing to recommend them whatsoever.
Oh the physical and emotional stress! Small hands trying to slide a loop of wire over a dropper while straining to stretch a multi-strand gate. Sometimes it took two!
Only the thought of my increasingly impatient father waiting on the tractor gave me the necessary strength. Despite this, I felt a wave of nostalgia when I first heard this line from the John Williamson song, True Blue; ‘Would you tie it up with wire, just to keep the show on the road?’ Well of course I would!
Keeping a coil or two of barbed wire on hand in case a hasty repair is required makes good sense!
TYING IT UP WITH TWINE
The primary use of twine on our farm was to secure bales of hay as they were belched from a neighbour’s clattering old baler in a shower of chaff.
We kids would follow along behind, pushing the ends of the twine into each bale with a steel needle. A very satisfying occupation. After they had been turned a couple of time, (usually by we kids) and were dry enough, it was home with them to the barn. Transport was by horse and cart in the early days.
Binder twine had a multitude of other uses. Even my mother used it, to tie up rampant shrubs in the garden. It was also just the thing for making skipping ropes. To provide enough weight, three or four strands were required; knotted at intervals of a foot or so. We made short ones for individual use, long ones for communal skipping when other kids in the district came to play. Oh yes, and lengths of it were threaded through holes in tin cans to make our version of stilts. It’s a wonder we didn’t break our ankles. It provided lassoes and handcuffs for our more politically incorrect games, reins for hobby horses, and steering ropes for go-karts.
To my great joy I have discovered that in Ontario, Canada there is an annual Festival of Twine, culminating with the crowning of the twine Queen. One to put on my bucket list I think.
BIRD ON A WIRE
I find the juxtaposition of a beautiful Australian bird sitting on barbed wire very moving. Many thanks to Lindy, Wanda and Laurie for allowing me to use their photographs.
Sadly, barbed wire is also associated with conflict and confinement. I must thank Sharon Bowen for the photo below. It was taken while she was visiting WWI battlefields on The Western Front in 2015. The photo could just as easily be substituted by one from countless other wars, prisoner of war camps, or asylum centres
The following photo was taken by Laurie Smith. A delicate Blue Wren perches on the perimeter fence of Silverwater Gaol in New South Wales. Such a poignant image.
Here is another interesting juxtaposition, this time with a gorgeous waratah bloom;
In many ways, barbed wire and binder twine symbolize my rural childhood. And yes, I longed to escape what I perceived as restriction and limited horizons. Of course I now look back with nostalgia and affection. This is perfectly expressed in the image below, by photographer Darryl Butler.
My yearnings for the world beyond our little farm led to the horror of an episode remembered as Dear Miss All.