Fathers’ Stories

2010 August 25
The Trigger for Your Fathers' Stories Can Be Many

The Trigger for Your Fathers' Stories Can Be Many

Men and seemingly fathers in particular, are often reluctant to share their stories.  Perhaps it’s an experience they don’t want to remember or an event in their life that they deem to be nothing special.  After all many of them are from the time when it’s been drummed into them “not to blow your own trumpet”.
Nevertheless you may be richly rewarded by perseverance and patience in seeking your own father’s stories. 

Most Dads have interesting stories; it’s just that you need to find a respectful way to ask them to share them with you.

My Father’s Story – The Flood of ‘56

With Fathers’ Day in Australia rapidly approaching I have been reflecting on fathers’ day and fathers’ stories and a story my own father told me sprang to mind and I thought I would share it.

Dad always wore this particular watch, a pocket watch.  It wasn’t fancy but had a nice face.  I can’t remember now what made me ask about it but one day I asked him where he got it from.  He told me he had been given the watch by Mr & Mrs Clarke, the two “old people” who lived down the end of the shared right-of-way (driveway) that our family house was on.

A few minutes went by and I wondered why they had given him the watch.  After all a watch was a pretty significant thing, especially so to a young boy as I was at the time.

Mr & Mrs Clarke had originally owned the land that my family home was built on and lived in the farm house across the creek.  Their garage was an old broken down shed at the end of the drive and a foot path ran from it across a foot bridge and up a deeply over grown path to their house.  They had sold the land to my parents around 1954 and as the first young couple to build on one of the five blocks that were carved out of the original land my parents knew them well.

But this still didn’t explain to me the gift of a watch.  The naivety of the questions from a young son probably got me past my father’s reluctance to tell the story.  I was old enough to realise he was reluctant to tell it and can still remember that feeling about it.

The story my father told me was that late in one afternoon in the winter of 1956 my parents were placing me in a basinet for my afternoon sleep whilst outside a huge storm raged.  It had been raining for hours and the flood waters were rising and surrounding our house.

The flood had crept up during the afternoon and my parents were keeping watch on them because they were concerned with the nearby creek breaking its banks.  Dad decided that he needed to go and check on the creek level so off he went.  Turning the corner of the Clarke’s garage, at the end of the driveway, he was walking in water that firstly covered his ankles but which got much deeper very quickly.

As he got closer to the footbridge over the creek he could see in the dim light that much of it had broken away.  Right in the middle of the now raging creek Mr Clarke was clinging to one of the remaining uprights of the bridge and calling faintly for help above the sound of the raging water.  Dad called out to him and he responded.  Looking around quickly for something to hold onto he bent a stalk of the tall bamboo that grew nearby and using that as a lifeline he waded out into the torrent.  Struggling to keep his footing on the slippery rocks of the creek bed he reached out and the two men linked arms.

Just as Dad pulled Mr Clarke towards him and they were inching their way back to the creek bank, by this time the water up to their chests, a large log came down and crashed into the remaining upright, sweeping the remainder of the bridge away in the torrent. A miraculous escape!

Supporting a very battered and bruised Mr Clarke my father then brought him to our home where they both dried off and got into dry clothes before settling down in front of the fire to warm up.

My father had saved Mr Clarke’s life!

Some weeks later Mr Clarke presented Dad with a watch in recognition of him saving his life.  No other fuss was made and I have only ever heard one other oblique reference to the event by a neighbour during a flood many years later.  Although that watch itself wasn’t that expensive it is a real connection between the two men, the man whose life my father saved in 1956.

No comments yet

Leave a Reply

Note: You can use basic XHTML in your comments. Your email address will never be published.

Subscribe to this comment feed via RSS