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BORN IN 1949? WHAT ELSE HAPPENED? 69th BIRTHDAY

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FEBRUARY:  YEAR OF THE RABBIT.

1949softarthur.jpg

IN 1949. The Reds in China could rest from their Long March, and the Reds in Australia took a battering in the pits. The rabbits ruled the paddocks, and some Churches suffered from outbreaks of dirty dancing and housie. Immigration Minister Calwell crudely enforced the White Australia Policy, so that huge crowds on the beaches were nervous about getting a tan. There was plenty of petrol for motorists in NZ and Britain, but not here, so Bob Menzies cruised to another election win over Labor.

AN EXCERPT FROM 1949:

Some people say that rabbits are cute.  City children, travelling in the country, often exclaim “Oh look, Mummy, there’s a rabbit”, and Mummy usually slows down and says “they’re so cute”. Other people, in 1949, had a different view of them. They saw them as shiny skinned carcases that were thrown into the fridge or ice box, waiting to be stewed for the evening’s meal. But another group, the farmers and graziers of 1949, saw them as nothing better than a plague that was destroying their livelihood.

The trouble here was that the little vermin ate the same food as the sheep, and were, at the same time, destructive to the pasture, because they scratched and dug into the soil. So, when a great plague of rabbits came to live on all sheep properties in Australia, it was at the expense of the sheep. This made the graziers hopping mad.

They tried to shoot them, but there were too many. They tried to trap them, but the rabbits could breed faster than the traps could. Fumigation and poisoning killed more sheep than vermin. Harrowing and digging up the land just put the land out of use for too long. Even the hungriest of  dogs were no match for a few thousand bunnies.                  

So the fall-back was to put up long wire fences, and to gradually clear paddock after paddock. But, alas, after the War, Australia was still desperately short of wire netting.  Every grazier in Australia was crying out for netting, and every farm was faced with financial hardship as their sheep starved to death. So the pressure for “somebody to do something” spilled over into the newspapers. 

The Land Editor of the SMH painted a solemn picture. He pointed out that this nation had 100 million sheep, but that the number could be halved in six months. It had become a battle between the sheep and the rabbits for every blade of grass, and the rabbits were usually the winner. For every 100 miles of fencing needed, only one mile was being produced locally. Some graziers had not been able to buy a roll in eight years.

He went on to say that “the grey army” was massed in denser formation than ever before known. One typical owner had poisoned, trapped and dug out tens of thousands of “the buggers”, but as fast as he killed them, the paddocks were invaded by new hordes. Six-month old lambs were dying in droves because all the nourishing food had gone. In desperation he bought a huge tractor-ripper with which to tear the warrens and burrows to pieces. There was terrific slaughter. Every yard of ground was torn up, and the soil was littered with mangled carcases. But to no avail, the grey army kept advancing and the dead were replaced by new generations.



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EXTRA READING --  COMPLETELY OPTIONAL

 

YOU WILL NOT BE EXAMINED ON ANY OF THIS

 ABOUT THIS SERIES   …  But after that, I realized that I really knew very little about these parents  of mine They had been born about the start of the Twentieth Century, and they died in 1970 and 1980. For their last 50 years, I was old enough to speak with a bit of sense.  I could have talked to them a lot about their lives. I could have found out about the times they lived in.  But I did not.  I know almost nothing about them really. Their courtship? Working in the pits? The Lock-out in the Depression? Losing their second child? Being dusted as a miner? The shootings at Rothbury? My uncles killed in the War? Love on the dole? There were hundreds, thousands of questions that I would now like to ask them.  But, alas, I can’t. It’s too late.

 

Thus, prompted by my guilt, I resolved to write these books. They describe happenings that affected people, real people.  The whole series is, to coin a modern phrase, designed to push the reader’s buttons, to make you remember and wonder at things  forgotten. The books might just let nostalgia see the light of day, so that oldies and youngies will talk about the past and re-discover a heritage otherwise forgotten. 

Hopefully, they will spark discussions between generations, and foster the asking and answering of questions that should not remain unanswered.