* this is an undated letter from the 1920s - in the first year or so of Oz's arrival in the Red Cliffs district.
Hope you received my letter on Saturday but feel doubtful as the letter would not reach town until about 11 o’clock & that would be too late for the delivery. I told you in my last letter that I had started graft. I have been picking figs for a couple of days. I cannot say I like fig picking as the figs make your hands very sore. I had my first lesson in plowing yesterday & didn’t do too bad. It is rather hard at first but when you get into the knack it is easy.
We are making a tennis court up here, the next door neighbours are pretty keen so they come over & give us a hand. If you have my racquet you might send it along, that is if you are not going to use it. Last night we drove into the town Saturday night being the late night up here. All the people seem to come in from the surrounding districts & the town is just packed with people. It is rather a nice town; the streets are nice and wide & the main street has nice green lawns up the centre. The band generally plays on Sunday evening & a pretty good crowd congregates. The only drawback is that the roads are not metal but lately they have been putting limestone on. It would be simply awful if it rained much here as a few points of rain make it very muddy.
I met two 21st boys at the boarding house when I was there; they said they had been all over Victoria but couldn’t settle down to anything & when I went down there to see if there were any letters last night they had gone. Well dearest what have you been doing since I left. I can just imagine you dressing up in that pretty frock this morning & going off to church. The Applebys are Methodists so I suppose I will be the same for a while; the Presbyterian is the nicest church up here. I think it has only been built recently; your church is also represented but is rather small I think. I asked you in my last letter to send up my [xxx]. Take a tally of all it costs you, sending me stuff & I will fix up when I come down. Well dear old girl I have nothing more to tell you but long for you every day & only wish you were with me, never mind, we must take the good with the bad & hope for the future.
Au Revoir Sweetest & dearest. Write me a nice long letter like the last.
Fond love Ozzie xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
Love to Mother & Kind regards to your family.
Image: Katy Mutton 'Red Cliffs, Early Days' 2015, acrylic and ink drawing on kozo with carbon impression
Dearest Old Girl, Sunday March 13 1921
I am lying under a tree trying to keep cool. I received your dear old letter yesterday & feel a real culprit at not being able to write before but I know you will understand. Last Sunday Allan & I rode in before tea to post our letters thinking we would be able to get back before it was dark but misfortune overtook us , I got two punctures in my bike & had to mend them consequently we had to ride back in the dark. While we were in there Allan bought a new billy also a dozen eggs which we packed carefully in the billy after my slow riding and a few spills we managed to reach the hometown & we were priding ourselves on our ability as night riders when all of a sudden I crashed into a big pine tree & came right over the handles of the bike, luckily I did not hurt myself very much. Allan came back & took the billy of eggs from me & we started off again. He had not gone more than fifty yards when he shot clean over his bike. When we got home we pulled the lid off the billy & alas there were only two sound eggs, the other were all mixed up in the bottom of the billy so we had scrambled eggs for tea. Eggs are very scarce up here & we were looking forward to a luxurious tea. Proverb never count your chickens before they are hatched.
Friday evening I rode in to send the wires. I also wired Ben. I hope things are fixed up alright. So far things are going alright, the only thing is when you come home tired at night you have to turn round & cook meals but nevertheless the food is good & that alone compensates us for our bother. Allan washes up & does handy jobs. We are troubled very much with flies & ants & if you don’t cover up everything they simply swarm it, not the little ants you get down there but great big ones. We are both priding ourselves on being able to stick the heavy work even big chaps who have been used to hard graft all their lives find it very hard at first in fact dozens cannot stick it longer than a few days. So we are not on contract work dear; those on contract work have to provide all their own implements. The other day we struck a very big mallee. Which took us the rest of the best part of two days to get out, we broke three cables & in the end had to dig it out & chop the roots from underneath; In trying to mend the cable a chap hit me on the back of my hand with an axe. It is very stiff & sore & a lot of proud flesh is forming on the surface. Today I bathed it with water as hot as I could bear & put [xx] powder on & bound it up. So you see dear I am writing under difficulties. Any flesh wound does not heal too well. I will have to be careful or it will turn into septic poisoning.
Yesterday afternoon Allan and I went to the river fishing, we caught nothing but snags. We enjoyed ourselves nevertheless & had a real good swim. It was simply beautiful in the water. We got home about nine at night. This morning we did not get up till about 10am, had breakfast & I put on the dinner a roast of beef, baked potatoes & onions. I cooked it in a camp oven & it turned out beautiful. Allan thinks I am a bit of a wonder at cooking he doesn’t know how to cook a potato. If at any time you think of some nice little recipes within our reach don’t forget to send them along. I have not come across that fellow the Blairs are enquiring about but if I do I will let you know. This is all up to the present sweetheartmine. I hope you can understand the scrawl. Give my love to your mother & accept the love of the one who is always thinking & longing for you. Yours ever. Kind regards to your dad and family.
Image: Photo WE Phegan of Woy Woy, NSW in the 1920s.
Collection of the National Museum of Australia.
We came across this great image of Ozzie and Myrtle on their block probably toward the end of 1923. They're on the settlement block in Red Cliffs, Victoria. Oz stands legs apart, hands to hips at the back door of the home he's been building on the block. Myrtle appears to be reading, she is wearing a beautiful white dress, stockings and shoes - they appear so pristine given the unsealed ground around her.
Myrtle had remained in Melbourne for several years while Oz built up their block. In many of the letters he wrote to her about the challenges of being on the land, his loneliness and longing for the time they would finally be together in their home.
Here are some excerpts from a letter written to Myrtle, from Oz in March 1923:
"I have ordered a 1000 gallon tank. I don’t know if the commission will grant me the money but in any case it is absolutely essential that we have one. We cannot afford to lose a drop of rainwater. Forgive me for being cross in my last letter. I felt very off colour, had a bug & full head for 3 days & quite a queer feeling came over me. I tried to work but trembled all over & felt so weak so I had to stop. I am feeling much better to-day although I have still a touch of the headache..............................................".
"This is all for the present sweetheart. If I only had you with me tonight. Im such a lonely bird. Goodnight beloved. Yours ever xxxxxxxx Oz xxxxxx"
Again, I am so grateful to the family of Oz and Myrtle for allowing the contents of their letters and related ephemera to be shared.
thanks to all for the help with this! the consensus is that the mystery word in the previous post is 'batching' as in bachelor.
This is the relevant excerpt from the letter......(a Red Cliffs soldier settler writing to his future wife who was living in Melbourne, 15th Sept. 1921).
"Your dear old letter arrived yesterday, it was a lovely old letter full of cheer. Just the kind of tonic I was in need of. You are just the dearest & sweetest girl in the world sharing my worries & troubles. I also wish with all my heart that you were here with me, then all the big worries would be as nothing compared with the joy of having you always near to comfort me. This batching life is rotten to say the least of it. I often dream of our future home with all its comforts and you darl. Just the biggest part of all. Its horrible to have to break my thoughts & look round in an 8x10 tent with flies buzzing round & everything untidy “ugh”."
image: a piece of bracken fern found in a letter from the suitcase
We've hit a wall on transcribing. There is a word in this sentence that I just cannot figure out, nor can anyone else I've shown - can anyone help? please?
The section reads:
"This ???????? life is rotten to say the least of it. I often dream of our future home with all its comforts and you darl, just the biggest part of it. Its horrible to have to break my thoughts & look round in an 8 x 10 tent with flies buzzing round & everything untidy "ugh". "
Katy Mutton is a Canberra based, Australian Visual Artist whose practice is informed by an ongoing concern around trauma and warfare and how these relate to our cultural identity and history. For more information on her artwork visit www.katymutton.com