Field days – a part of Wim­mera life

AgLife - - News - BY DEAN LAW­SON

For any­one grow­ing up in the Wim­mera the re­gion’s an­nual field days have sim­ply been part of life.

As young­sters in Hor­sham there was al­ways some el­e­ment of ex­cite­ment and in­trigue sur­round­ing the Wim­mera Machin­ery Field Days, es­pe­cially for mates who were from farm­ing fam­i­lies.

Happy de­bates about ‘green’ or ‘red’, de­pend­ing on your choice of heavy machin­ery brands, flowed freely, al­most as much as ques­tions about what all the fuss was about and where all these peo­ple were com­ing from.

Dust, straw, flies, heat, wind, sun or rain – it didn’t re­ally mat­ter what we were con­fronted with af­ter en­ter­ing the gates. From what we could soak up, this event was some­how special and it was ours.

As young­sters we weren’t en­gaged in the pol­i­tics or for­tunes of the re­gional farm­ing in­dus­try.

What we were more fas­ci­nated by were the big, gleam­ing pieces of brand-new machin­ery that spread across the site like giants, some com­plete with fierce metal teeth and oth­ers with dra­matic limbs, com­pli­cated mech­a­nisms and mon­strous rub­ber wheels. Wow!

It didn’t mat­ter that we didn’t know what half of them were for – they were sim­ply im­pres­sive be­cause of how they looked, and it was with cu­ri­ous and de­vel­op­ing minds that we drew our own, at times fan­tas­tic, con­clu­sions.

And yes, there was al­ways some son of a farmer or trades­man in the group who had grown up with toy trucks and Mec­cano sets who was al­ways quick to shoot down our ob­scure fan­tasies.

“Are you blokes nuts?” he would ask of us ur­ban types. “You use that for strip­pin’, not catchin’ foxes.”

It was a droll re­sponse from a fu­ture en­gi­neer­ing guru that was for­ever filed away in the mem­ory bank

To this day, the ‘gi­ant mon­sters’ of agri­cul­ture re­main the most dom­i­nant fea­ture of the field days. The dif­fer­ence is that they are even big­ger and much more amaz­ing than in the past, pos­ing just as many if not more ques­tions about how they work.

A day off school

For us, get­ting to the field days was all about a day off school and get­ting a ride out to the ‘col­lege’ with some­one’s dad who was do­ing some­thing for work or meet­ing some­one im­por­tant, and then ex­plor­ing as a group.

Think­ing back and when com­par­ing with what’s on of­fer at the event now, there was rel­a­tively lit­tle de­signed to en­ter­tain chil­dren.

But the ex­pe­ri­ence was all about wan­der­ing through the ex­hibits, soak­ing up the at­mos­phere, en­joy­ing child­hood com­pany ban­ter, and if pos­si­ble, get­ting a hot dog or pie and wash­ing it down with a Mur­toa soft drink – Portello was a par­tic­u­lar favourite.

But we had to be on our guard. Heaven for­bid if any of us some­how got stuck be­ing minded by an adult farm­ing rel­a­tive in­tent on pur­su­ing the long-held field days tra­di­tion – catch­ing up with farm­ing mates from the other side of re­gion who they knew through footy, cricket, ten­nis, farmer meet­ings, dances, in-laws and so on.

The con­ver­sa­tions for ‘trapped’ pri­mary school-aged kids were a night­mare and seemed to go around in cir­cles for an eter­nity.

In­vari­ably they al­ways came back to some­thing re­gard­ing the weather. But for the adults, these get-to­gether chats seemed like re­vi­tal­is­ing ton­ics.

In some cases, farm­ing friends of our grand­mas and grandads, who us chil­dren had dis­missed as quiet and bor­ing parts of the fam­ily fur­ni­ture, seemed to sud­denly come to life.

Per­son­al­i­ties veiled by hours of lonely toil on the land had a chance to sur­face.

The end of a long day keep­ing our­selves oc­cu­pied at the field days would man­i­fest into a back­ground headache, sore legs, and, if we had for­got­ten a hat, a gen­er­ous de­gree of sun­burn.

But it was some­how worth it, and while our re­sponse to what we had done at Lon­gerenong for all those hours was of­ten a ca­sual ‘nothin’ much’, we had been en­gaged in healthy ru­ral cul­ture.

The field days re­mains, as much as any­thing else, a cel­e­bra­tion of cul­ture – at least for some of us who have grown up in the Wim­mera.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.