Raymond the Ram
An end to the hiatus. Back on the bike.
Sincere apologies for the month-long hiatus. I needed a break after the last posts, to take a deep breath. It was becoming exhausting and painful to write. So, I didn’t put fingers to keyboard for a couple of weeks. Then . . .my work “requested” I go to site (remote minesite) for a few days which ended up turning into two and a half weeks. I was without the modern marvels of computing equipment in my leisure time, so faced with the only option—creating a post via phone, thereby it would likely be riddled with errors—I chose to take the extended break.
C'est La Vie.
The number of readers and subscribers has continued to rise since I’ve been away, which is humbling to see. Thank you. Please continue to share this newsletter with whoever you can so that Ray and Jennie’s story remains active in the minds of those in the vocations of dispensing justice.
While I work on the next post, I offer you a piece I wrote many years ago. Many years ago, that said just goes to show how long we have endured this storm.
Writing this piece proved very cathartic in many ways. I recall hand delivering a copy to my octogenarian mother back when I first wrote it; Clarabelle bawled like a schoolgirl. Which, trust me, is not something you see more than once a century.
I realise writing this memoir is something that must be done, and fortunately I have the will and the means to do so. So, I shall reset the alarms, keep the coffee warm, and get back on my bike! New post coming soon…
Meanwhile, friends and family will have read the below piece before on the Book of Faces, so you may scroll on as you desire. For those new, I offer this as a celebration of life, because this life is all there is, and you only get one.
Thank you for hanging around.
Raymond the Ram
One of my earliest memories is of my brother Ray teaching me to ride a bike. I must have been five years old, because the timing aligns with when I started pre-primary. We were living on a farm in the Eastern Wheatbelt region at the time, around 20k’s from a one-horse country town called Bodallin. Dad was managing a farming property there. The school bus picked us up on a road that bordered the farm, which was about 1km from our house.
Every morning we would pack our school bags, and my two brothers and I would ride off down the road to the bus stop – my next oldest brother Mal on his bike, and Ray dinking me on the back of his – then the same ride home minus the weight of our lunch boxes every afternoon. After [most probably not very long] of this routine, Ray took it upon himself to give me a crash course in the fundamentals of bicycle dynamics, aka the stability of motion, to get this little monkey off his back. This he did one afternoon on the ride home, by sitting me on his bike and pushing me off with little warning, while running behind yelling “keep your head up and keep pedaling!”, added with this his signature cackle of crazed laughter. It was a quick and effective lesson, and thereafter we were a convoy of three, although I do recall he still carried my school bag for me.
I am told this is not the only extracurricular lessons Ray took it upon himself to tutor me in early on. I was already reading and writing before even reaching school age, and my math at what was considered grade 3 level when I entered my first year of school. It would be pragmatic to acknowledge that Bodallin had a total student population of approximately 80 children all up from pre-primary to grade 7, so that correlation needs to be considered and a factor applied, prior to any resulting pride. Also sobering is the fact that I am now, forty years on, hardly what would be considered an academic success. However, what is evident is that someone was responsible for those earliest of skills, and that someone was Ray.
We had a chalkboard set up at home, and for the years before I even began attending school, Ray would come home and run his own strict headmaster like studies with myself and Mal as his students. He was so successful in his tutelage that when I finally entered primary school, it was as if a large sea anchor needed to be deployed in order to keep the class on the same curriculum.
Before you get a mental picture of a studious family of polo necks and polished shoes, note that this was a very minor part of our after school life. What we really loved to do as kids was to run wild and free, and living on a property where the nearest neighbours were a half hour drive away made this very easy.
My fondest memories of early childhood were of when us three boys would jump in the old farm Land Rover and ‘go bush’; we would take a rifle and go hunting rabbits, foxes, and other feral animals, or otherwise any number of Big Brother bush adventures were always on the cards. We were the Three Amigos, all under the age of thirteen, miles from anywhere, like wild tomcats loose in the outback. The first years of my life were entirely this, and that my early development; it would be no exaggeration to assume that my sit-to-stand learning as a toddler was probably carried out in the rear tray of a Series IIa Landie. Ray was always the driver, and Mal and I would stand on the back and act like navigators, banging on the roof and yelling directions like we even knew where the hell we were going. Meanwhile Ray sped along barely able to see over the steering wheel – two loose wheels in unison – cackling away to himself in the cab. Everything we did together was hard, sharp, raw, feral, and above all else, fun.
When Ray started high school he was forced to go to a boarding house, since the local town didn’t have the numbers to cater for the required senior teachers. He absolutely hated it, and it ended a complete disaster. Within a week he had started running away, and was often found trekking back to our home which was over one hundred kilometres away. Not long afterward, a kid a couple of years older than him tried to bully him in the cafeteria, so Ray walked up and punched him directly in the face. It didn’t take long before the school thought it best for everyone’s sake that he go elsewhere, so he got his wish to come home and go feral in the bush again.
Later that year, Dad ended up taking a job on a farm in a different town which had a district high school, and so there we moved. Life went back to normal for a while – school for three each day, then outback survival in the afternoons and weekends.
I was turning seven the following year, Mal ten, and Ray fourteen. It wasn’t long then of course before Ray hit adolescence, and other concerns took focus in his life.
Ray was forever resourceful no matter what he applied himself to, and he was always tinkering away with some new hobby. One such example was his CB radio station that he put together in his bedroom at home. It started as a simple setup but quickly grew into a station to rival a primary repeater base, having built his own aerial tower out of sticks and wire in the shape and size of a three tiered hills hoist. Soon he was sitting up through the night chatting away to people all over the countryside.
I can still hear him: “Romeo Kilo, Romeo Kilo, this is Romeo Kilo, does anybody copy?”, then someone’s voice would join and they’d cackle away together all through the night. I remember he had various regular ‘call buddies’– girls his age – that he met ‘on the air’, so you could go out on a limb and say he was an early pioneer of online dating; the ‘Romeo’ of the Midwest…
I now sometimes wonder how life might have turned out differently for him had he decided to move on from the country. He was obviously an intelligent and gifted lad, since most of what he did was self-taught. No doubt he could have ventured on with school and technology, but ultimately he wanted nothing other than to work on the land and to stay close to his family. Which is what he did for the rest of his life, in one form or another, from those days on.
After I left home and ventured off on my own path, and he by then now with a young family, we didn’t see each other so often, but when we did it was just like the early days – out bush on feral adventures. We were all grown up by then of course, but otherwise it felt the same for those short times we spent together each year.
Unfortunately, our relationship turned sour about fifteen years ago due to my disagreement with the way he was handling taking a new direction in his life. It resulted in the Ram and I butting heads, after about fifteen beers, fifteen years ago, and that night he made the decision to never speak to me again.
While over his last few years some sort of peace had been made, the fact remained that our relationship was not the same as it had been, nor how it should have been, and now will never be. Ray died early 2015, how I can only describe as he became a victim of his own circumstances; his resourceful nature and abilities in the bush were utilised, then he was dispatched and dumped down a hole with little more thought than one of the feral animals we once hunted. To this day, the events leading to his death remain unexplained.
These last years have felt like being set adrift in a rudderless boat, without even a sea anchor to brace for the cyclone that we are all now still within. I have had to focus on that Big Brother lesson on the stability of motion from many years ago, in order to just remain upright: the best way to prevent yourself from falling over is to keep moving. But I have fallen over more than once, despite the motions of time, and I have no doubt I will again. I miss my brother. God, I miss my big brother. The cheeky larrikin with that crazed laugh forever ingrained in my mind, like fingernails on that chalkboard from forty years ago. The truth is, I’ve missed him for thirty years, maybe more. My only solace is that when I look around at the life I have made now, the roots are evident from those earliest of days’ way back when. I now recognise that although we may have grown in different directions, each of us was always a part of the other, and will always be.
I like to think that this was Ray’s final Big Brother lesson for me; to be able to look back at our beginnings and be truly grateful. So now I will try to make up for time lost, by attempting to make him proud, and living a life well lived, utilising those advantages that he first gave me.
Raymond the Ram: June 1967 – March 2015.
You can take the boy out of the country, but you can’t take the country out of the boy.
Rest and Peace, Bro.