Tin Kettling

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They married quite late for country folk.  They’d been busy in their own ways.  He was thirty, she was twenty-five.

He’d been run over by a road grader and had both legs crushed, and even though he was completely healed and healthy as a bull he couldn’t wear the boots the army issued.  So he didn’t go to war and he didn’t die like so many of the young men in the small town, like his brother and two of hers.

Times were tough.  There was a depression and she came from a big family.  Nine left, plus Mum and Dad, and none of them with work except the boys on the farm, and the farm wasn’t paying.  She was the only one with an income.  She played the piano and she gave lessons to the richer families and was paid to play for church events, socials and dances.  

He came to a dance and you’d never know he’d nearly died after his legs were crushed.  Never know he’d spent six months in hospital flat on his back with his legs suspended in traction by steel pins in his hips, ankles and knees, and nearly died again from pneumonia.  She soon learned he’d been bitten by a brown snake and they could definitely kill you, so she knew he was a man to be reckoned with.  

He was the best dancer in the hall.  And that wasn’t just her opinion.  He won the competition.  He was the last man left whose eggs hadn’t broken.  It was all the rage and eggs were cheap.  The men would tape them to the heels of their boots and whoever didn’t break them was the winner.

There was nothing to win except a free drink and applause, but he won her heart.  He was big and gentle.  She fitted under his arm and he could lift her like she was made of fairy floss.  She knew that because they danced together.  He didn’t say much except that he thought she was his prize.  

They met again a month or so later.  He was selling farm equipment and her father wanted to see it.  She was the only one other than Dad allowed to drive the car.  She drove him to Ginty’s farm.  But he was strange with her.  He wouldn’t look at her, stood very awkwardly and it was obvious she made him uncomfortable.  Her father made her go sit in the car and she was disappointed.

He came to the next dance she played at.  He came straight up to her in her tea break and told her he was sorry for how he’d been when she’d come to his farm.  You see, he was embarrassed and didn’t know what to do.  He had a hole in his overalls – the whole bum ripped right out of them and no underwear so it made him act silly like a galah.

They talked that night and she learned more about him.  He was a drinker, but then all the men were.  A hard worker, she could tell.  He owned his small plot of land outright, no mortgage.  He had two sisters and he looked out for them.  He was clean-cut and handsome.  He was shy but he had a nice smile.

She wasn’t the prettiest of her sisters, but she had style.  She made her own clothes from patterns she drafted and she wore them well.  They looked good together and it didn’t take long before people started assuming they’d marry.  His parents were dead.  Hers approved.

When they married, their friends gave them a tin kettling.  The night of their wedding party, they went to Ginty’s small house.  All their friends arrived with kettles and pots and pans and pieces of metal, anything that would make a noise when you banged on it.  And make a noise they did, all night.  It was supposed to stop the couple settling down for bed; supposed to disturb their peace.  And other things.  But Ginty and Kel found a peace together no amount of empty noise could disturb.

Ginty put his land up for sale but there were no buyers.  They moved to the city.  They had no money, but their town was going backwards so they had to try to make a go of it in Sydney.  They lived in a small flat in Kings Cross, just one room and a kitchenette.  They shared a bathroom with others on the same floor.

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