Graham Brammer was born in Brisbane in 1944 and through necessity left school at age 13 to join the workforce. He enlisted in the Army in 1966 to support the Australian Government’s commitment to the war in South Vietnam under the South East Asian Treaty alliance. After two operational tours of South Vietnam in 1968 and 1971 with the 2nd SAS Squadron as a patrol member and Patrol Commander Graham continued to serve with Special Forces as an instructor and Staff Officer until his discharge in1995. Since retiring, Graham has written Uncertain Fate, a novel based on the operational experience of the Australian SAS in Vietnam, and been involved in the corporate sector as a facilitator on Leadership Development programmes. He is now completely retired from participating in strenuous undertakings but continues to produce entertaining stories.
Corrie Baker was startled by the sudden, violent act that tore Joe Harvey from her arms. She lurched sideways and turned to find the crazed face of Joe’s father glaring at her. The band stopped playing and the dancers around Joe and Corrie stepped back in shock.
‘Get your hands off her.’ Bob Harvey’s screamed words boomed in the silence and his eyes, wild with fury, were now directed towards Joe. Nearby dancers were speechless and uncertain how to respond. Joe’s surprise was evident from the mix of confusion and concern in his face.
Bob grasped Joe by the shirt, drew him in until their faces were close. ‘You’re not to speak to her again. Ever! Do you understand?’
Joe’s eyes widened and he shook his head in bewilderment. His raised open palms showed the confusion he felt.
Corrie burst into tears and Colin Baker appeared at her side. He took her gently by an arm and led her to one side of the hall. She sensed a change in her father’s normally calm demeanour and stopped crying. His expression was solemn, and he was quite sober. This wasn’t unusual for a card night, but she could tell that he was definitely concerned and excited about something. ‘C’mon lass, I’ll explain when we get home.’
Colin eased her along the wall towards the door where she glanced back over her shoulder to see Joe’s father drag him roughly by an arm towards another exit.
Tears flooded her eyes as Bob Harvey looked across at them and she saw pure hatred in his face. ‘You haven’t heard the last of this, Baker.’
His florid face and hate-filled expression made Corrie shudder but her father didn’t look around. He kept gentle pressure on her arm and guided her to, and through the door.
Corrie stopped outside and faced her father. ‘Why is Mr Harvey so angry?’
Colin never answered. He kept her on the move, ever so steadily persuading her away from the hall towards a modest house they occupied on the edge of town. In a while she gave up resisting and allowed herself to be directed away from the hall. She loved her father’s calm, gentle but stubborn nature and knew that any attempt to sway him from his decision not to discuss the matter until they got home would achieve nothing.
Their walk from the hall was an unusual experience for Corrie. Her curiosity was suppressed by Colin’s behaviour. There was lightness in his step and an aura of joy about him she hadn’t seen for many years. They passed the Hillsborough Police Station and he took her hand and swung it gently as they walked. It was something he hadn’t done since she was a very little girl.
Outside the front gate he released her hand and she ran upstairs to open the door and turn on the lights. As the door opened her father called from the gate. ‘Put the kettle on, luv.’
Without question, she rushed into the kitchen to comply. There was no hurrying her father. Soon her curiosity would be satisfied in the same way he did most things, over a nice hot cup of tea.
Their new electric stove was on and a filled kettle sat on reddening coils when Colin appeared at the kitchen door. She watched in amazement as he began to pull five and ten pound notes from his pockets. He advanced on the kitchen table and dropped the notes in the centre. Her eyes continued to widen as notes kept coming from every pocket and even from inside his shirt.
‘Whaaat…? Where…? How much is there?’ The stammered words escaped before she realised she uttered them.
He threw the last of the notes on the table and sat down with an envelope still in his hand. ‘I don’t know. There must be over two thousand quid there, could be close to three thousand.’
The news shocked her and she was forced to sit before dizziness overcame her. She reached out tentatively and picked up several notes before she abandoned all caution and thrust her hands into the pile, rustling them, squeezing and tossing the crunched notes lightly in the air. She hadn’t been so happy or shown such uninhibited behaviour since before her mother died. She continued her antics until a whistling kettle broke the spell.
Corrie suddenly became serious. She briefly fixed her eyes on his as she rose to attend the stove. A question formed there, but her attention shifted to the task of making tea. With graceful yet automatic actions she turned off the stove, poured boiling water into a prepared teapot and returned the kettle to its off-stove resting place.
She turned with the teapot in one hand, a teapot stand in the other and sat them on the table. ‘Why was Mr Harvey so angry with you? Did you win all his money?’
His eyes misted as he handed the envelope to her. ‘No! It’s much more.’
Her hands shook as she took the envelope and slowly opened it. Despite her youth, Corrie knew a lot about life and her eyes widened when she realised what she held in her hands and what it meant.
‘This is the deed to Harvey’s Run.’
It was a statement and a question. He nodded sadly and, for the first time, she could see that he was suddenly very unhappy about having it.
She chastised him with her eyes. ‘How could you let him lose his property in a card game?’
All Colin could manage in response was a shake of his head. It was obvious that he didn’t want to discuss the game but she was determined. ‘I want to know what happened.’
He shifted uncomfortably under her intense scrutiny. ‘Bob Harvey is lucky he only lost the run.’
‘You could have given the deed back.’
Colin gave a deep sigh. ‘I intended to, but he carried on like a whining rich brat who’d lost his marbles in a street game.’
Corrie studied her father’s expression closely. Colin had raised her for the past five years since her mother died and she understood him perfectly. He was a prisoner under Imperial Japan for a good part of the war and his tolerance towards people who grumbled about any misfortune they brought on themselves was extremely low.
She raised her cup slowly and took a small sip. ‘I’ve probably lost Joe Harvey as a friend because of this.’
‘Well, lass… you’re just fifteen years old and if Joe Harvey is any judge he’ll make sure that your friendship isn’t lost. Besides, what’s done is done and no amount of regret will change anything. We now own 640 acres of river land and 80 head of prime beef so I expect we’ll have to live with it.’
She searched her father’s features for a sign that there was more to tell, but his poker face shut her out. ‘But Dad, we don’t know anything about cattle.’
The look on her face reflected the panic she felt but Colin just smiled. ‘We don’t know much about a lot of things but we’ve got a free shot at learning about cattle; with a square mile of lush pasture and 80 head of prime stock to practice on.’
Corrie gave him a small smile and raised the cup to her lips. She had three wishes for that evening when she entered the Country Women’s Hall for the monthly dance. Her principal wish was that Brett Andrews would ask her to dance. Her second wish was that the band would play some of that new rock and roll music and the third was that her father wouldn’t lose too heavily at his monthly poker game at the police station.
She conceded that there was never any chance the oldies would allow rock and roll music to be played at their dance. A brief sadness touched her at the memory of her short dance with Brett Andrews before he left her standing on the dance floor. She was in love with Brett since she was thirteen years old and decided long ago that one day she would marry him. At least her father didn’t lose at his poker game but she couldn’t dismiss the strong premonition that no good would come from tonight’s events.
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