|On the road to the cattle station. Parents and I with a Land Rover. Circa 1964.|
Rule number one when rowing across a river if you’re a teenager. When you’re a teenage boy crossing a river and you want to tip all of your mates, don’t forget to ask if everyone can swim first.
Somehow, I found myself , aged all of seven, in dad’s rowing boat in the middle of a the river with a bunch of rowdy teenage boys, when some bright spark decided to tip everyone all of the boat. I knew that I couldn’t swim but no one else seemed to know that. I had a thing about learning to swim at the time. Dad tried to teach me lots of time. It was probably a good idea when you live close to two intercepting rivers but I used to go beserk every time dad tried to put my head in the water. I had a big fear of drowning. Still do.
Of course, it was a little too late to contemplate swimming lessons when you’ve just been tipped out of a boat into the murky depths of the Suttor River. I didn’t even have time to yell. I just remember going down and down, like I was floating in a huge water bubble. I tried to thrash my legs about but it was like trying to climb a set of stairs when there aren’t any stairs. I was going down. I stopped panicking and started surrendering to the void. Then a hand plunged into the water from nowhere and I suddenly found myself being pulled from the deep by one of the teenage boys.
I was coughing and sputtering my guts out but I was alive. Thankfully the boat hadn’t sunk so someone had been able to pull me back into it. Asked quickly if I was all right to which I responded in the affirmative. I quickly followed that by spewing up a lungful full of water. Then one of them of them implored that I don’t tell my father. And I didn’t until much later. How silly of me. If I hadn’t have been a naïve bush kid, I could have eaten a lot of lollies and chocolates and acquired some more toy cars.