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.
I am sitting out in front of the hut writing in the moonlight. I went over to the Nursery camp & got your two letters of the 7th & 10th. Your letters mean so much to me darl, not the writing itself but all the goodness of heart that prompts you to write. I would have liked to be as regular with my letters to you but at present it is impossible. I don’t think there is a day passes that I don’t think of you & oh I am just longing to have my arms around you & forget all the cares & worries of this life. I have been very optimistic about everything up till now but I am gradually being converted into not a pessimist but rather a fatalist. The fill keeps breaking & the water just seems to keep out of our grasp. The chap I had with me has gone back to Swan Hill so I am on my own. You will be wondering if I had a quarrel. No. he went of his own accord & I am very pleased as I have given up batching & am now boarding with Mrs Jones. I am up to my eyes in work & I felt too tired to bother cooking anyway it is impossible here in the Summer. It has been frightfully hot for over a week now & the mosquitoes are bad at night. I have hundreds of bites while I have been writing. I have about two days before I finish pegging out. The head ditch I made is all filled again. The wind blows clouds of sand from off the block & consequently all holes & ditches get filled in. It was too blessed hot to work today. I generally cut pegs at night. I have used about 5000 & I still need about 2000. Did I forget to mention about your cakes darl. What an ungrateful fool you will think I am; they were very nice darl. I won’t tell a lie & say they come up to Lil’s but with a few lessons (from me) you will be an A1 cook in fact I would like you to commence your job of cook on this ranch as soon as you like. I want to write a lot more. Tonight I seem to feel that you are near me & that you are thinking of me but the blessed mosquitoes are eating me alive so goodnight my beloved. Give my love to your mother & kindest regards to your dad & a heart full of love from Yours ever, Oz.
(This is an undated letter from Oz to Myrtle that we found in the suitcase - most likely written toward the end of 1921)
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