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U3A Writing: Jack Of All Trades

“Am I on the way to becoming a Jack of All Trades?’’ asks Jean Marr. “Or should that be Jill?’’

What a lovely connotation these four words conjured up in the mind.

I see a person who can handle any situation with aplomb. Where do you go to learn how to be a Jack of all Trades? I didn't see it mentioned in the U3A newsletter. Then it dawned on me - perhaps it is something you acquire without even noticing. I searched my memory to see if I had acquired anything that would class me as a 'Jack of all Trades.' Let the reader be the judge.

I was the middle one in a family of three girls. I was chosen by my Dad as his tractor driver, as I seemed to have a mechanical mind. How do you tell, I ask? This in turn led to a proposal of marriage from a man who lived on an adjacent farm. Was it me he fancied or my tractor driving skills?

We selected land for our farm, but it was mostly scrub country and had to be cleared. We decided to ring bark the trees with fire to kill them, and later burn them. My job was to build a ring of sticks around the trunk, throw a shovelful of coals on them, being careful to note which way the wind was blowing, and then move on to the next tree.

As I had to return to the burning tree for each shovelful of coals, my man said I needed some assistance. He made me a wheelbarrow out of a 44 gallon drum, with a perpetual supply of coals in the bottom, (it did have an opening). All I had to do was keep the wood going in the top and the coals dropped through the grate. He lovingly told me he had put a rubber tyre on to make it easier for me to push. Was he trying to build my muscles for future tasks?

In between times we were building a house. One particular day (and I remember it well) the task at hand was lining a ceiling. I had the job of supporting the sheet of masonite while a nail or two would be hammered in to secure it. Suddenly the masonite slipped sideways, the edge catching me on my left eyebrow. Instantly a lump the size of a pigeon's egg developed. Next morning my eye was black. The only help the chemist offered was to attach half a dozen leeches to it. Not for the faint hearted.

We needed some fences, so I was given the job of stepping out the line and laying out the steel posts ready for driving into place. "Just run back and roll out the weldmesh," said he. I did just that. When I got to the end I forgot to secure it. It re-rolled itself, but now the roll was 12 feet high.

Something to learn every day. This day we would make a catching pen in the partly built sheep yards. Tomorrow the sheep would need crutching. The gate had not been made, but 'not to worry you're wide enough to fill the gap, just stand in the opening.' Curse my ample hips.

"I'm busy today,' says he (I hope he is making a gate, I mused) "hop in the ute and check on the ewes." They were starting to give birth so here was my chance to be a midwife. No sterile instruments, just a length of twine from the back of the ute. I tied it to the two little tootsies protruding, put one foot on her rump and pulled. To my joy a darling live lamb popped out. I stood up expecting a round of applause for my wonderful effort, but the only audience was our dog, Bill, with his head on one side and a curious look on his face. A proud moment with no one to notice.

I ask you - am I on the way to becoming a Jack of all Trades - or should I say Jill?

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