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My earliest memory of dad is going into his bedroom when we lived in Melbourne and delivering a hot cuppa as he sat up in bed. I can even remember the stale smell of the bedroom air. After delivering the tea, I got the obligatory hug and inherent face rub and I distinctly remember complaining that Dad’s coarse stubble scratched and hurt my face. Being middle of five kids, we all used to do simple things like this for dad.
When we moved away from the sea and dad moved into “semi-retirement” at the farm, the family moved from hardly seeing Dad Monday to Friday, to seeing him too much! Moving to the country, the regular driving for sailing became the regular driving for soccer. Dad and I would pound up and down the highway, an hour there and an hour back, twice a week. Just he and I. Talk back radio was the constant companion to our chatter. If not talk back, we would sing along to Van Morrison or Roy Orbison, but if I got a chance I would play Jack Johnson; who dad would always call John Jackson. Those one on one car trips were quality time and that’s when I first realized my Dad was his own man. He wasn’t just my Dad who did Dad things, like pay the bills (which he liked to remind us of) and take us to the footy.
Since cresting that realisation that Dad had a personality, I very suddenly had another realization that Dad has an audacious personality! He is a no-bullshit, say your mind, I-don’t-care-what-anybody-else-thinks kind of guy. And I admire that. He is the life of every party and is constantly playing devils advocate to get a rise out of others. Some people don’t like that about him and he pisses off almost as many people as he pleases. But those that really know him, love that about him. Someone described him recently as being eccentric. I’d never attached that word to him before, but now it has been put out there, I can’t de-tach it!
Shooting is a big part of Dad’s life and has been since he was a kid when he shot and fished with his Dad. He now runs a clay target and game shooting business out of our property, which also takes international shooting tours. He lives and breathes his passion for shooting and fancies himself a bit of an English country gentlemen. The English cap is never off his head. He had to work hard for many years to get the clay target shoot approved, with strong resistance coming from the council and neighbours. But he kept at it and has now won more fights than he has lost. “Stick it right up ‘em!” he says when he has a win. He is always full of confidence and takes on fights he probably shouldn’t, but that’s him. He always will. Always has. And I think that’s where I get my confidence from. The thing Dad dislikes most are people that impinge on another’s right to do exactly as they please. His quotable quote on any topic that is a little bit contentious, for example whaling or burqa’s, is; “Who are we to say that they can’t do as they please?! Bloody nanny state!” and I think this attitude is a manifestation of his own experiences struggling with the powers that be.
The day I knew my Dad was my mate, was when I got in a bit of strife at school. I was boarding and was School Captain, but was dobbed in by another student for drinking with some buddies. The school was taking it very seriously, but I denied, denied, denied. At one point, the boarding house master threatened to call Dad. It was 11pm on a Tuesday. I was nervous about what Dad would say, as I hadn’t told him about the trouble I was in. I took a ballsy move and said with all the conviction I could muster; ‘Call him’. I was bluffing. I thought he was bluffing. I thought we would be at a stalemate and nothing would come of it. One; the master wouldn’t call at this hour. Two, Dad wouldn’t get out of bed and answer the phone so it didn’t matter any way. The tension was palpable.
The master called my hand and called Dad. The phone rang. Ten rings. Just as I thought it was over Dad got out of bed and answered. My heart dropped. I thought surely Dad will side with the teacher. I will suffer a loss of face and have my Captaincy stripped. The end of the world. The master explained the situation as he saw it and explained the ramifications if I didn’t own up immediately. He was expecting Dad to tell me to own up. What he wasn’t expecting was one of the best dressing downs I’ve ever heard; “How dare you accuse my son of something without having the facts! How dare you wake me up! Who do you think you are! Etc. etc.” The conversation finished with the master apologising profusely and sheepishly hanging up. I had a big grin on my face and a story to tell the boys. I was politely excused from the office, but did later lose my captaincy. Dad lives by the prison mantra; never tell on anyone. Choose your team and stick with it. Boys club for life.
To me dad is beach cricket, the centre of attention, standing in swamps hunting, barracking for the blues watching from the bar at the M.C.C and barbecues where he always drinks too many beers. Incapable of compromise, generous, punctual, sometimes brutal and always family first, Dad will never be a wilting flower. For these reasons and many more, I will always look up to my Dad. He looks after me, will never point me wrong and knowing this, I’m comfortable saying that my dad is my mate.—Harri