Homeland.

They rolled across the flatlands of the Murray River plains like an unstoppable force of nature..for surely that would best describe their tenacious persistence to forge a new Silesia..a new Posen a new homeland in this strange and distant place…a new life they saw as gifted to them from God that with their twisted version of a Christian Faith allowed no deviation from the written word and little forgiveness for those who slacked off in their expected commitment to both community and pastor, and the churches were quickly and proficiently built on land that still held the scent of the free indigenous peoples that were driven at bullet point from their hunting grounds and living sites along river and stream.

The Germanic settlers had arrived…themselves forced from THEIR homelands by a brutal military government that despised both their cultural independence and their version of Protestantism, they arrived on the shores of the newly formed province of South Australia with all the determination of a desperate people with little or nothing to lose, and so the English governors of the day used them to push open that wild country to the northeast of the capital…pushed them into the wild hunting grounds of the indigenous peoples to force a confrontation and so “justify” a brutal retaliation by such renegade militia that the powers that be could muster together…a collection of criminals and prospectors for gain seeking any excuse to break agreement of the Letters Patent that guaranteed cultural and land rights to those indigenous people…a cruel betrayal of both the English governors own King and Parliament and the people who came under their physical power.

But the central government underestimated the determination and perseverance of these new settlers..These peoples, mostly Slavic in ancestry were compelled to Germanise their names, religion and culture as part of the new Republic of Germany or suffer the consequences..hence the migration of entire villages replete with Pastor to Australia in the 1840’s onwards to the end of the century. These eastern Europeans were known mostly to themselves as Wends or Sorbs. And unlike the other two waves of Germanic migration; The persecuted Middle-class from the German cities who settled and brought culture to Adelaide and the proletariat industrial workers from the cities, who brought trade and industrial skills to the state, they held their culture and themselves to themselves and their Pastors. Hence the close-knit settlements around the Barossa Valley and Kapunda / St Kitts / Steinfeld areas of Sth Aust…and right up to the late 1950’s, English in their homes was a second language.

I have noted the many unrecorded efforts of many of those families while they battled with George Fife Angas’s use of their hard labour and their dedicated to family attempts to hold onto their impossible to farm successfully; hopelessly small plots of land and were in many cases left destitute and broken by what must be a deliberate plan to use them to clear-fell those sections of the mallee most suitable for cropping. The same as happened to many “Soldier Settlers” on the Murray Plains around Pinnaroo after the 2ndWW. When they were sent into the bush with little more than axes, picks and shovels and the remnants of their khaki uniforms to carve their fortunes and fates out of the hardy mallee..and in the end only broke their backs succeeding in clear-felling their selections for the local Bush aristocrats to pick them up when they went broke or shot themselves in despair..for as with any families who have lost everything and then been granted by fortune or fate a second grab at life, they took no prisoners in either social or pragmatic concerns..They ghettoed and they clustered together for their own protection…small hamlets under one pastor..a collection of families working together to form a community…land leased from a tyrannical landlord ; The South Australian Company, a fascist corporation that formed a corporate government even before the word “Fascist” was properly defined in its meaning..their sole objective being running a state on speculation and entrepreneurship using cheap labour of the new Germanic migrants to farm the cleared land stolen from the first peoples..; The Kaurna, the Ngarrindjeri, further northern tribes and clans driven from and massacred by the advanced arms imported without restraint from America…carbines replaced the old black-powder muskets that needed close-quarter contact with the indigenous warriors who then had distance enough to use their accurate spear throwing skills to at least fight back…and from then on it was like shooting fish in a barrel.

Once these new hamlets grew with more children and then to become towns and then the farmlands started producing profits, The German peoples started organising local civil governance..town councils organised in conjunction with their church and pastor would liaison with the central governance of the state…but then also at arm’s length…for these settlers were still suspicious of the ultimate intent of the English landlords…after all, they too felt the hard hand of a ruling class that had little use for alternative ethnic cultures and would cast adrift any group that lay hindering their path toward capital domination…so suspicion ruled operation and little was done via civil intrusion into the civic running or health of these strange Germanic clusters with their unpronounceable names and inflexible natures…they were by and large watched with suspicion but left to their own devices..so that when disease swept through the clans, the central administration did what they did to the indigenous peoples…they left them to rot.

Many made their way north to the lower Flinders Rangers..to places like Hammond, Craddock, Gordon, Farina and others even more lost in the sands of time..“Rain will follow the plough” they told the settlers who established themselves in those first good seasons, then the drought set in and it all went to hell…the land collapsed, the farms went dry as dust, the people walked off their properties and the towns collapsed back into rubble and then sunk back into the earth they so wearily rose from.

“Rain will follow the plough”, they said and so the ploughs went back south ..to Steinfeld, Sandelton and Sedan..hard mallee country..with a slender top-soil and below, a layer of “calcrete” so hard every vibrating crowbar strike would ring ; “Gibraltar!” and so they drained and farmed the swamps and the hilltops and the stoney flats..picking up the stones by hand and throwing them into piles from the back of the dray..they farmed them with wood and iron and steel ploughs till the tynes and shares were worn to a slither or blunt as a gibber…They farmed the wind-blown flats till their families died with the diphtheria or in harrowing births gone wrong, attended only by young girls too frightened by the ghastly complications of childbirth to do little but cry in shock of what could very soon be their own fate…or they died in fires and accidents too frequent to collate in a doctors surgery, too far from a doctors assistance and left buried in sad, lonely cemeteries, serenaded only through the fall of time by sighing sheoaks around the perimeter of the church yard.

But again, the central government underestimated the determination and perseverance of these new settlers..and while the cemeteries filled with their children and vulnerable, so that you can see at one settlement of “Peter’s Hill” pioneer cemetery, just under the lee of Marshall’s Hut where there is interred around sixty eight souls, forty two of them are children…and I cannot help but believe that the death of a child then was of just as much grief as now, so that when the count became so high, so intolerable, the settlers moved from what was considered an unholy site to disperse over the flat lands of the Murray River Plains and still you can read of those same families names spread like summer chaff place to place..Dutton to Steinfeld to Sandelton to Sedan…they were driven by a courage unstoppable and a faith inviolate.

And even there, after successive droughts and, yes, floods, some moved on even further to the Adelaide Hills, to Lobethal and Hahndorf to join an already flourishing German community…some travelled further east to Hamilton in Victoria to set up anew their Lutheran Faith and churches and settled on more rich and promising soil…but they were still the same tenacious pioneers who stepped off ship with all the stern determination of a surviving peoples.

But that all ended with the second world war, for once the soldiers had returned and the community got back to normal, the technological gains that the machine of war had developed into machines of sowing and harvest, the social glue of combined manual labour and community reliance on that labour intensive population that held a district together and could prosper from such, fell victim to the culture  of the individual…families that once relied on more children to accomplish the labour intensive farming practices, could no longer carry so many inheritors of the one property, families broke up…districts that relied on populated towns now lost their labourers and the shops closed down, the surviving farms that shifted from draught horse to mechanical tractors needed to borrow from the banks to tool-up so they too became victim of capital/compound interest…the end of a whole era drew to a close.

Now we only have echoes of what once was..A ruined settlement, crumbling huts and houses, one or two surviving members of a once dominant local family, clinging to their marginal farmland in hope of a better time to come, Memories of lost opportunity and relatives, a cluster of plastic flowers falling from a broken vase on the lichen covered marble of a grave of a once familiar name. What was once THE dominant culture now peppered with a desperate overflow of aged or unemployed from the cities and regional towns seeking cheap rentals and having little interest in joining the local community.

It was into that once thriving community between the world wars that my Cornish/Irish ancestors stepped with faltering feet just as the great depression bit into the soul of the nation….and like those early German pioneers, they were on their own.

Warrior.

Old man and woman in black clothes are sitting at home in front of a  laptop. | Premium Photo

A short biography of a working-class warrior.

Let me present to you an image of an aged man, rather heavy-set, sitting deep in a relaxed posture in a large, plump, rounded sofa purchased “unused” from an eBay seller five years ago that was gifted to this same man sitting in it from his children on Father’s day. The sofa is large and the man is content. You can see he is content by the fact that he is looking plump and relaxed with a remote control for the CD player in one hand and a stubbie of “West End Draught” beer in the other….there is a smile on his lips not dissimilar to that which plays on the lips of the “Mona Lisa” painting currently held in The Louvre in Paris.

Mark Price is a contented man.

Wisdom, according to the ages is a thing learned not with education, but rather accrued through pragmatic experience. That experience can be one personally lived..the most instructive method..or one witnessed with the actions or situations enacted upon others. Mark was a witness and experiencer of both methods of instruction from a young age.

Mark Price was a learned man.

But Mark Price held no trade, no profession, no specialised employable skilled base or self-employment record at all. In this world of “market-based” consumerist demand, Mark Price was never “in demand”. Oh, yes..he worked..at menial labouring tasks, applied when requested or required to put shoulder to the wheel for family sustenance and need..but never was he recruited for any specialised skill or trade application. And that was precisely the way he wanted it, having learned by witness at a young age just what a consumerist society really wanted from those most willing to give their precious time of life to the wheels of industry..the consumerist society did not want your intelligence, your applied skills, your hunger for promotion or “recognition”, it wanted your blood!..pure and simple, along with the many disposable items consumed by society, the “market society” wanted to consume YOU…for body and soul has a value to be bought and sold.

Mark Price had learned this from a young age. In high school, he would see his teachers drive in everyday with their aged cars..step out in their workaday clothes..the same ones for quite a few days..holding that same brown-leather satchel…lock the car and if chance placed them near a favourite colleague, they would flirt whilst on their usual way to the staff-room. They did not see Mark, but he saw them..he did not make a habit of deliberately watching the teachers, workers on the trains or anyone else for that matter, they were just acting out their everyday roles and Mark saw them..and in seeing them and other people and family acting out their everyday roles, he began to recognise a pattern of social behaviour.. a pattern of conversation..and a pattern, eventually, of a predicted ending.

Wisdom is a learned thing..and through his growing years, Mark was being pragmatically educated by the practicalities of his impoverished upbringing. Mark was learning.

He learned the meaning of “losing with grace” from his friend at school when the friend was chastised by the station master of Brighton railway station when the friend, who was captain of the school baseball team tried to re-position some of the hopelessly inept players in the team to different positions so as to improve their chances of winning at least one game…”You are the captain, NOT the coach..and I will decide who plays where!”…his friend was scolded. “But we can’t win a game” the friend complained “It is not all about winning”, the station master lectured, “it is also about losing with grace…one must learn that when one loses, one should show dignity.” The collector of the Sunday Catholic mass plate collections informed Mark’s friend.

Mark saw examples of “dignity in losing” amongst his family and friends as he grew.

He saw the working men down at the Seacliff Hotel drink themselves drunk on a Friday night to alleviate the pain of strained muscles and arthritic joints..he saw them make fools of themselves whilst in this drunken state..trying with their limited vocabulary to explain what was missing in their lives…when what was missing all the while was that love of self that had been beaten out of them with labouring or war so many years before..He saw the dignity in losing on the bruised face of Ruth Holmstrom around the corner of his street, after being beaten once again by her drunken husband while herself also drunk. He saw the dignity in losing in the lonely eyes of Jack Mitchell who lived out his loneliness with his old spinster sisters, the three of them sharing the same family home they all grew up together in…He saw Jack slowly drink himself to tears down at the Seacliff Hotel, always dressed in a salesmen’s suit, tie and polished shoes..the last vestige of his respectability..oh yes, Mark learned from witnessing others the dignity in losing. He saw a friend’s father drunk on the train coming home after the day’s work at the building site, drop his ticket and the smirking porter give the workman surreptitiously, a nudge with his knee as he struggled in his fuzzled state to bend down to pick the ticket up, sending the old bricklayer sprawling onto the floor of the carriage in front of so many laughing passengers…

Mark Price saw the lifetime of honest work be debased in the dignity of losing.

Mark Price was learning that there was something remiss with the promise told him so many years before by his school teacher that hard work and an honest forbearance was what “got a man through life with success and happiness”….Mark was learning that there was a war going on between those who HAD and those who NEEDED…it was very difficult to get what was needed from the hands of those who had. There was a lie being told that was never being voiced..a lie that was being heard but never audible, printed but never read..there were those who would be warriors and those who would remain slaves.

Mark Price saw what slavery looked like..and he didn’t like the look of it.

Mark had by now reached an age where he developed a philosophy to guide his steps through this battlefield of demands upon his time and his own needs to survive without falling into slavery..His learned experiences and the witness of others attempts at suburban security has shown him that there being so many variables that await to ambush the best laid plans of mice and men that it was almost impossible for someone like himself, with absolutely no assets available and no working skills to sell to gain material possessions without resorting to thievery or skulduggery, but seeing those who had tried and failed through no real fault of their own taught him that in most cases of making a decision one way or another, the best thing one could do was to do nothing and await fate to direct his hand. This was the most wise and fortunate philosophy someone of his position in an uncaring society could attain. In a world where “doing something” was wasted value, Mark Price succeeded most well at doing as little as possible.. so that having time to see opportunities arise while others were too busy “achieving”, he was able to place himself in the right place at the right time. Some would call it luck, but Mark knew that it was a strategy that allowed him to move about freely to pick up many rewards that a lack of time and availability denied to so many of his friends. Mark built a network of job-sources with foremen and hiring staff of different industries so that he could always find casual employment in a menial job with local councils or a building project..he never took a job that demanded higher responsibility..Mark had no interest in contributing to the good or welfare of a society that respected only profit and materialism..he only had interest in maintaining his and his own family’s needs, for the rest, they could go to hell!

Mark learned the price and value of many things..He knew what was most valuable to himself..; Time…”You can always make money but you cannot remake time.” He would say.

Fortune smiled upon Mark in the companionship of marriage. It favoured him that his future wife knew of his behaviours before she even started going out with him. Mandy frequented the Seacliff Hotel regularly and was able to notice Mark’s more exuberant behaviour..she didn’t mind his behaviour and she accepted his invitation to accompany him. Mark was wary of marriage..he had witnessed close friends, tradesmen in the building industry marry and build the family home…several family homes in fact, for disgruntled women…unhappy wives who resented even the name “wife”, who resented the idea of being a companion to a male..who resented having to defer to the husband to make, repair and structure a home for their mutual benefit. A society that profited from the separation of the sexes MORE than the unity of the sexes would promote dissention between men and women, even in the case where both parties were of the same working class, the same level of struggle, the same struggle to improve their and their children’s lives…anger, dissent, distrust…these were the tools of divide and rule in the world of middle-class profiteering..TWO adults needing double the housing, furniture, whitegoods and cars made for a more profitable bottom-line…divide and rule it will be, even if both parents be impoverished and the children denied…A happy wife is a happy life was the theory that guided many men…now it made many men despair of ever attaining such.

Mark had no intention to build many houses..he only wanted one home and fortune had placed Mandy inside his realm of satisfaction..they both were content with what they had.

And what they had improved as the years went by and children graced their table. Five healthy children grew by Mark’s table and garden shed, Five healthy children grew and did in turn find partners of their own and produced grandchildren that grew by Mark’s table and garden shed..Now, secure with an aged pension, Mark could look back on a life well managed, on fortune envious of nothing and no-one, for here with the evidence of so many arrows in his quiver, could the suburban warrior arm himself against a future that would be denied some of the more industrious, worked to the bone for little gain save the bitter gall of seeing their hard-earned possessions snatched away from them when old and care-worn..to be left to rot in the ironically named “aged care” facility…to be forgotten by those children that a quarrelling world of men versus women made resentful of the feeling of being abandoned when the administration of divorce forced them to take sides. No, this was not the fate of Mark and Mandy, laugh if you will of their seemingly comical circumstance that a more “sophisticated” person might spurn, but here they were and deny them you cannot, surrounded at every celebratory event by generations of caring children and grandchildren, Mark would revel in idle appreciation of fuss and touch of his tribe. The noise of laughter and delight a song of assurance for the continuing health of the family.

Mark realised the blessings of good fortune and he worshipped at fortune’s altar with suitable penance.. for deep in his soul and spirit, he was sincerely grateful…Mark had the Pagan’s respect for chance.

It was Christmas day, the entire family with grandchildren..all ten grandchildren..were in the house making merry and preparing the Christmas dinner. Mark had one grandchild on his left knee as he sat deep in the club lounge chair given to him on Father’s Day by his children five years before. He sat in a contented state with a stubbie of beer in one hand and the remote for the CD player in the other..under his instructions, his grandchild that sat on his left knee had just inserted a CD of Mark’s choosing into the player and awaited Mark to select the track and press the play-button…which with great satisfaction he now did and turning up the sound so the music bellowed out over the cacophony of Christmas noise, Mark smiled his “Mona Lisa” smile and wallowed in the pure saturation of Jimi Hendrix’s “All along the Watchtower”…. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TLV4_xaYynY

Wisdom is a thing learned not with education, but rather accrued through pragmatic experience. That experience can be one personally lived..the most instructive method..or one witnessed with the actions or situations enacted upon others. Mark was a witness and experiencer of both methods of instruction from a young age. Mark Price was now a wise man.

The Warrior feasted on his victorious bounty.