Sixty years ago a young girl was walking home from school with an even younger boy. The girl was somewhere between ten and thirteen, already smart and hard-working. She loved school but wasn’t very keen on the four mile walk there and four miles back supervising and chivvying along her neighbour’s young son. They walked along the Bruce Highway, then just a gravel road. They were grateful for any lifts that were offered to them – mostly from people they knew but occasionally a stranger would help them out.
On this day, the young boy was excited to see all the army trucks with their brisking snapping Stars and Stripes pennants adorning every bonnet. Even more exciting were the outriders on their big motorcycles escorting the convoys of soldiers. Right now there was only one motorcyclist in sight and he pulled up beside them. “Have you seen a convoy of trucks? I seem to have lost them.” The girl was surprised – there weren’t that many places around Gympie that a convoy of trucks could go.
“Hey girl, why don’t you lose your kid brother and meet me over in that lane? I’ll give you a ride, but I don’t want the little fella hanging around.” Like I said, this girl was pretty smart even though she had never travelled far from her family farm. She grabbed her neighbour’s son and ran as fast as she could, diving through every fence that loomed in front of her until she was safely home. Sixty years later she remembers the look on the man’s face and her fear. But she still walked four miles to school and four miles back every day.
Around the same time, another young girl moved onto a farm in Tallegalla just outside Rosewood. Now the farm is owned by the mine, then it was a successful dairy farm. She had been going to the Ashwell school and continued to do so. She and her brothers didn’t walk, they rode their horses and pastured them in the school paddock during the day. It was a long ride down the hill to Urry Road then several miles along the plain to the school. She wasn’t too keen on the ride as she wasn’t big and the horses were. One day, a boy riding with them asked her if she knew what horses did if you whipped them. She had a pretty clear idea but said nothing. He whacked his horse firmly and found himself on the ground near the hooves of a rearing horse. He broke his arm. She admits to remembering a small smug feeling of “Serves him right” all these years later. She also remembers being tired all the time from the milking, the cleaning, the ride, school, another ride then the milking and cleaning again.
And the moral? You don’t always hear what you expect when someone bemoans the fact that few children today make their own way to and from school.