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U3A Writing: Ester

D Nolan tells of the tough life of Ester Preston who is now in her eighties.

My name is Ester Preston, I am 84 years old. I was born on an outstation close to the big station known as Quilpie Downs My father was a stockman and drover and his name was Riley Preston, who came to Australia and worked as a rousabout back in the early 1920's . Times were tough then and for someone who came from England the work was hard and not much pay.

My mother who worked at the big station as a kitchen-maid was Monica Kilemore and she was born on the station. She was only 17 when she married Riley and then I was born. Whatever happened to her, when I was born, I was never told but she could not have any more children so I was a bit spoilt.
We lived in this house which was not much by today's standards but in those days anyone having a real house was very lucky.

My father would go away droving for months at a time and then he would be home only a short time before he would go again. He used to take mobs of cattle to Charleville and sometimes over the South Australian border.

When I was only 5 years old he first put me on a horse and led me around each day and then when he went away my mother did the same so by the time I was eight years old I was able to ride a horse well.

Not long after that dad took me and mammy on a long cattle droving trip. It's so easy to remember it all even now after all those years. We would race after any straying cattle and guide them back to the mob.

In the afternoons usually we would be coming somewhere near water and the cattle would get the smell of it and they would begin to run and they would make so much dust that we wore scarves over our faces. Oh! how I well remember those long days.

The time I remember the best was when we went over the South Australian border down to the Finke river and when we got there it was already in flood so we had a long break there while dad worked out just when to start off again.

Eventually we handed over the stock after two days mustering before we returned to Quilpie and we brought back 30 new horses that time.

I remember how my dad was killed when he was working on a new windmill which blew over in a storm. It was a very sad time and worse was to come when another man Black Dawson moved in to our hose as he was the stockman who took over from my dad. He was a very tall man with a beard and he drank a lot of alcohol.

When I was 12 years old he interfered with me so my mother took me and a horse and we set off to Charleville with the next mob going there. When we arrived after seven weeks we went to the Police station and told The Sergeant a Mr. Wilson about what Dawson had done to me. He said he would fix Mr.Dawson.
I had to go to the courthouse to sign papers - it all sounded very important to me - but after a few days we moved into a house in Charleville where we both worked as domestics. Mam did the cooking and the kitchen work and I did the cleaning and some work in the garden.

I got married a couple of years later and went to live in another cattle station just outside Charleville but mam stayed on in the town.

I married Jordy Dixon from Cairns who was nearly 25 while I was only just 16 but I was expecting my first son Charlie, that was in 1940 and lots of men were going to the war. We didn't have to move as someone had to look after the cattle. We had six more children and I lived a hard but good life as a stockman's wife.

There were always lots of stories of what the stockmen got up to when they were away but I often went with them and I knew there was not much they could do on the sly. Mind you there were many times when men called to me while Jody was away but I was taught well by my mother and most knew I could use a shotgun like any man.

I now live in Cairns in a retirement home My husband Jordy died a few years ago so I am left to enjoy my children and grandchildren who often visit me here.

On looking back on my life I can say that I have a few regrets but I'll keep them to myself. Many people have been very kind to me and helped a lot when I was bringing up a family with not much of an income.

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