The Lue General Store
Pages: 1 2
Don Hobbs, Preserving History
Pages: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12
John Wooldrick, My Mudgee beginnings
THE LUE GENERAL STORE p.2
By John Honeysett
“Johnny, grab a couple of those brown paper bags over there, we need six pounds of sugar in one and four pounds of flour in the other.” Can you weigh it up on those scales and I will tie it off for you with some string?”
Quickly and methodically I opened the large wooden flap of the bulk sugar store from under the counter. Shaking the dark and sturdy brown paper bag opened I scooped the sugar from under the counter into the bag and then placed the bag and its contents onto the scales. The red needle of the scales shot up and wavered for a moment then it rested on five pounds and six ounces. Carefully I dipped the well worn metal scoop into the sugar bin and slowly drizzled a steady stream of sugar crystals into the top of the brown paper bag. The needle of the scales moved ever upwards passing the ten ounce mark, then the twelve, then the fourteen coming to rest on the six pound mark. I quickly folded the sides of the bag along its creases as the sugar expanded its capacity folding the top of the bag over a couple of times to make a neat little parcel I quickly reached up to the bale of tying string. Wrapping the string around the bag horizontally and then vertically I cris-crossed the string tying a secure knot. Now carefully running the string around my finger and pulling one piece of the string against the other I gave the string a sharp pull. “OUCH!” I exclaimed as the string pulled across the soft skin of my right index finger.
I looked up. Uncle Ken was standing there with a grin from ear to ear.
He chuckled loudly. “Well Johnny, what did you do wrong?”
I could not answer. My finger was sore and throbbing. Uncle Ken took hold of the bag of sugar placed it on the counter took the string in both hands and like a flash he pulled on the string cleanly severing the string and leaving a little two inch tail of string running from the knot on the sugar bag.
“How did you do that?” I said
“It’s a trick; well, not really. It’s more about having the string in the right place at the right time and then snap.”
Whilst he spoke he had broken another length of twine.
He just smiled at me and said “a bit more practice and you will work it out mate, it’s not that hard, I have been doing it since I was your age.”
We quickly got about our task and before I knew it both wooden boxes were filled with all manner of foodstuffs, including bags of Arnott’s biscuits, tins of fruit, corned beef, baked beans and Billy Tea and, of course, the sugar and flour. Alongside of the boxes sat four pouches of Champion Ruby cigarette tobacco and several packets of Tally Ho cigarette papers. Leaning against the counter my uncle had just finished writing the items into his docket book and adding the total. As he tore the top page from the docket book, placed the piece of carbon paper behind the next docket in the book and placed the completed docket on top of one of the wooden crates the two men from the truck suddenly appeared in the doorway of the shop.
“There you go, you blokes, that should tide you over till next week’s mail run.” said my Uncle Ken
“Thanks Ken, we’ll fix you up at the end of the month and we will probably see you on the track next week when you do the run.” said one of the men as they picked up the crates and started to walk out of the store.
“Right you are Reg. Ah, Jack I should have those boots in tomorrow on the train so I’ll bring them out with the mail next week.” replied my uncle.
“No worries.” said the other man as they disappeared out of the doorway.
“Johnny, fetch that tobacco and papers off the counter. Those coves left it sitting there. I reckon they’ll be looking for that later on.” called my uncle.
I picked up the pouches of tobacco and the small packets of cigarette papers and ran out to the front of the shop.
“Excuse me Mr Walsh I think you have forgotten these.” I said as I held out the small parcels in my hands. One of the men turned around and as he focused on the items put his hand out to take hold of them.
“Thanks young fella.” he said as he firmly grasped hold of the tobacco and papers in his large and callused hands. Both men then climbed into the cabin of the old truck. Moments passed and then I heard the groaning of the truck engine turning over, slowly at first, and then gaining its ‘revs’. I watched the truck rumble down the dusty road towards the wooden railway bridge. As I stood there I watched it disappear into the dust only to re-emerge on the other side of the railway bridge. As I followed the stream of dust up and over the hill I saw the truck finally vanish from my sight. Within a few minutes the dust had settled or wafted away in the very gentle summer breeze, the blue hazy sky as the backdrop to the greenie/grey of the gum trees and the endless contours of the dry yellowing grass once again unaltered, constant and almost timeless.
I pulled the old door to the store closed and turned the key. Click went the lock. This time locking the door between me and the past.
“Dad, are you OK?” asked one of my daughters.
I looked over my shoulder to where the old petrol bowser had stood. It was gone. I looked down the road and there stretched before me, only bitumen, as far as my eyes could see. I looked over towards the front of the old weather beaten pub and saw my shiny new four-wheel drive. I looked over towards the old railway station platform, the buildings now dilapidated and in need of paint. The fettlers tents all gone. I looked up over towards the hills, the blue hazy sky as the backdrop to the greenie/grey of the gum trees and the endless contours of the dry yellowing grass once again unaltered, constant and almost timeless so that it was almost as though none of this had ever happened at all. But it had happened in my memory and in another time; a long time ago.
“Time to go girls, it’s time to head for home” I said.
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