Collapsing on the tennis court, he clutched his heart. Voices echoed above his head, but he did not recognise any of them through his delirium.
Then, a hand brushed his cheek and tears dripped onto his face. Looking up, he could see his wife, Mary, sobbing, as she held him to her chest.
A siren announced the arrival of the Paramedics, and shortly after he was in the Ambulance, Mary by his side. But he did not make it. His heart gave a weak beat, and then was still.
“He’s gone,” the Paramedic beside Mary whispered.
Nodding dumbly, the enormity of the tast ahead of her was not yet in her mind.
Dairy farmers, Mary and Doug had three young children. Coming from the City, Mary spent her time in the house, while Doug ran the farm. Her job was to make sure there were clean clothes on everyone’s backs, and food on the table. Doug’s sudden death changed this.
Her Mother rang from Sydney, to ask her to move back with them.
“No Mum. I’m fine. I want to raise the kids here.”
Smiling, she hung the phone down.
With Doug buried a week ago, it was now to get up and have “a go” of it. The children, the eldest six years old and the youngest only two, Mary had much to do.
Firstly, she spoke with the Dairy Hand. The Dairy Hand, a young lady in her twenties, had grown up on a Dairy Farm and was working her way through a Vet Nurse Course. Well informed and intelligent, Diane had many skills and insights. It was Diane, who taught Mary how to attach the milking machine to the cow’s udders, and who gave suggestions on the best grass seeds to sow in the fallow paddocks.
The three children all had their own jobs too. Six year old Claire had the job of chasing the cows into the yard so the herd could be encouraged into the herring bone structure where they were milked. With Bennie, their cattle dog, she would wake earlier than her siblings and ride the four wheeler bike down to where the black and white splotched Fresians were.
Years later, she would realise this was not normal, but as a child it made her feel important.
Looking back, Mary, Claire and the children, have no idea how they did it. All stayed on the Dairy Farm, until adulthood.
Claire still lives and operates the farm.
“It was the best childhood ever,” she laughed to her Mother, as Mary sat in the sunshine at the local Nursing Home.
Mary’s smile stretched her lips too, at this.
“Yes, we did it, didn’t we.”