The iconic Australian saying.
It used to always bring to my mind some old bushie talking, with his battered akubra in hand, and an experienced eye, overlooking a bad situation and seeing the positive in it.. Knowing one day, it will be all right.
A few years ago though, I saw a news story about a farmer, 5th generation on the family vineyard, up to his eyeballs in debt, bad season on bad season, terrible prices and then disease ravaged his vines.
He was losing his farm, his business, his children were about to be turned out of their home, he had nothing to offer his wife,and he was standing there, being interviewed for national television. His face was torn and ragged, and his eyes red from holding back tears he just couldn’t let fall… And when the interviewer asked what was he going to do, he gave a broken half smile, and said ‘She’ll be right mate’
I never could understand why this man insisted it would be fine, his whole world was falling apart around his ears, and yet, ‘she’ll be right mate’ was all he would say..
In the old days, they used to say when the going gets tough, the tough get going, and they meant it. Today, many people commiserate and say, its too hard, just give up, do something easier, go somewhere where people appreciate you, don’t put up with those conditions…
On our farm, when the going gets tough like it has right now, the whole family stands tough together and gets going.
We cope with what we have to do, because we do it together, as a family, and support each other through it. And when the worst happens, someone cracks a very very bad joke with extremely poor taste, and far too often has one of those ‘slaps your forehead with it’s stupidity’ sort of puns, and then we all find the energy to laugh, pick ourselves up again and go once more.I believe a sense of humor is essential out here, and I think it applies that the drier the country you live in, the drier your humor gets..
Even my older sister, married and living in Brisbane is an essential part of our ability to cope, our weekly phone calls, where the phone is set on loudspeaker and we all gather round the phone to talk over each other and share stories gives us an amazing amount of energy.
The thing is, even when things are unbelievably bad out here, the love we all have for this amazing land, and the opportunity that we have to spend the time together as a family still means I would not choose another life if I am given the choice. There really isn’t that many jobs where a father can get up and his children share his work day, and hopefully have a bit of fun doing it..
A few weeks ago, Dad gave me some leftover barley, it was a bit rotten, and bit weevilly, but still, he gave it to me and said, you can have that for your horses, I’ll get some new stuff for the cattle.
Sounds a bit second rate, but I was delighted! Barley! Wow, over 100kg of it too! I had plans to boil it up and feed them, and it would give me a break from buying feed, for one week at least. The next morning I danced out of the house, set up the outside broiler, and made my way to the enclosure where it was stored, wrapped in a tarp, I had my bucket in hand… And found that feral pigs had broken in, torn the tarp and tossed it about, and eaten every last grain. I had to sit down and cry. I might also have kicked my bucket too..
I wandered back and told my Daddy, and his strength came through, and lifted me up. Instead of throwing our hands in the air, now every night we set a trap up, and every morning we spend 10 or 15 minutes before the grind of the day begins, the feral pigs caught in our trap become the real life pigs in our real life game of angry birds. Someone releases the pigs from the trap one at a time, and the rest of us ‘git em!’
Its not much, but its a few minutes of fun before our day of hard work, toil and sadness begins. And we are actually doing our cattle a favour while getting revenge for the loss of my horses barley. When cattle get weak and fall down, the feral pigs dont wait for them to die before they begin to chew on them, they attack baby calves, and take and destroy what they wish on the place. Getting rid of a few here and there is quite rewarding.
Its a way of approach to a problem, and a mindset you will find anywhere you go when you get past the city limits, its a different way of dealing with things.
The work we do is hard, heartbreaking, and backbreaking, but it is also good honest labour. At the end of the day we may fall into bed exhausted, but we know that every day we have done something meaningful, whether it is building a fence to improve the property, or helping a young cow give birth to her first calf.
Today we have been mustering in the cattle to try and choose some for sale, I had to ride a horse that is also drought affected, but the sheer courage to work in these animals moves me to greater effort, and greater strength.
Our faith in a greater purpose in this life shows us that nothing we do is futile, we lost 2 cows today, weak from drought, they walked too far into a waterhole, and could not get out. Dad was merciful to them and helped end their suffering before it became too great.
But we also have a tiny baby heifer in our house yard, born in the wee hours of this morning, rejected by her mother, found by my brother and brought home, we saved a life today. And that tiny little life, is so very important right now. Every tiny spark of life shows us that hope can be found everywhere.
The help we have been offered, the help we have been given, men who gave up their time to begin to build us a windmill, to ease our water woes, the man who paid a big bill, and bought milk for our orphaned calves, the prayers and messages from complete strangers around the world..
Yes, now I understand why that man stood with his broken heart, and declared to the world ‘She’ll be right mate’
Because that saying isn’t about it being right, right now. The saying is about one day, knowing that it will be, if we give it the chance to be. We can walk away, we can give up, we can let it be too hard, too much. But walking away is a choice, so is staying put. The only difference is if we walk away, we will do it knowing that more animals will suffer and die, because we didn’t have the strength of character to get out of bed in the morning. If we stay, one day we might just get to look back and say ‘look where I have been’
I worry every day that one of us will give up, or give in, but in the end. What would be the reward in giving in? Where is the reward in walking away? We stay, we fight, we live, and we learn. And one day, hopefully in the not too distant future we will stand victorious… Or we wont.. But if we give up now, we will never know what we might have achieved.
So tomorrow, I will get up, get on a horse, and muster in our remaining cattle, help draft out the few that might make it to sale, and put the rest in the paddock, feed and water them, and pray for rain.
But first, I have to buckle on my spurs, coz its a tough game out there in the big wide world.