picnic story

Poem #9 from Small Town Kid

Back to Small Town Kid – Introduction

papa said

mama come on
we’ve got to get away
come on I want to
get away

mama pack
the picnic set
let’s all
get away
mama I’m taking you away

hurry little children
we’re almost
at the getaway
come on little children
today we’ll get away


around the base of mount buffalo
between myrtleford and porepunkah
on the low green flats of king river
snuggled under the purple
of the un-cleared slopes of the mountain
the business was mostly tobacco
from seedlings in hop gardens
to planting growing picking
and finally airing in rows of kilns
before packing leaf to market

a picnic visit to friends there
needed a whole weekend and three families
starting before one dawn and ending
not long before the next

the slaughtered pig was transported by the men
to an old bathtub for cleaning
in scalding hot water that made the flesh stink
and seared the skin for close shaving
with a deftly wielded cutthroat razor
honed for the job on an old leather strop
that reminded me over-much of school

offal for sausages and exotic concoctions
was cooked in a squat laundry copper
heated by a small fire tended with loving care
to the right temperature by my father
who would often tell me

the only thing we waste from a pig
is the squeal

skewered on a wooden spit
the porker was stitched
with a belly full of apples and onions
before suspension above glowing coals
to slow-roast

the women were responsible for cooking
for preparing sausages
and keeping up the food supply
the men were responsible for the pig
and for closely supervising the women
while consuming the pungent treasure
of liquid-fire rakiya
yielded by specially grown
and lushly productive white plums
intended for a higher purpose
than simply being eaten

it was the particular job of my opa
while he was sober enough
to sit at one end in the warm of the fire
and to turn the pig for hours over the coals
at just the right speed with the apples and onions
tumbling hollowly in a settled rhythm

sometimes when it rained
the job was only made tolerable
by the constant replenishment
of his rakiya supplies
to maintain internal warmth

on those occasions another man
would take over much earlier from opa
as was only right on a wet day

my own special job
was to keep well out of the way
by going with a friend into the low hills
with shotgun and rifle in hand
to frighten rabbits and snakes
until early evening brought us back
with the enticement of fresh roasted pork
beckoning on the breeze

then singing dancing and mysterious card games
were played under lights that banished shadows
from the row of tobacco kilns
until the women put the children to bed
and the men could no longer stand


papa said

mama come on
I want to dance with you
hey mama come and dance
it’s good to get away

© Frank Prem 2009

Small Town Kid Poem 10: from inside the outhouse



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