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NOLENE - LADY OF THE LAND


Nolene Stark is an energetic 70 something just starting a new career as a retired person.

From her painfully shy childhood through to waving placards at a protest march, follow her through a life both rich and  complicated, complete with tears, fears, laughter and triumphs.

In Store Price: $AU34.95 
Online Price:   $AU33.95

ISBN: 1-9211-1833-4
Format: B5 Paperback
Number of pages: 349
Genre: Autobiography
 

 


Author: Nolene Stark 
Publisher: Zeus Publications
Date Published: 2006
Language: English



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AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY

 Nolene Stark was an intelligent, sensitive child, cocooned by her parents and later her husband. A woman of the early 20th century was expected to have her place in society as a wife and mother. Nolene resented having to class herself as a ‘housewife’. She was just as much a ‘dairy farmer’ as her husband Charlie was.

Throughout her life, she found herself questioning who she was and the purpose of her being here.  

Nolene was married for thirty years and reared four children in the bush. She suffered a complete nervous breakdown after nursing both her mother and father through Parkinson’s disease until their eventual deaths. Then, after living with a husband who thought the sun, moon and stars shone out of her, she had to come to terms with his unexpected, tragic death. Her whole life changed in a split second.  

Though she had desperately wished for greater personal freedom, when it was thrust upon her she had to recover from the guilt of that wish.  

For another two decades, in spite of flood, drought and every other adversity that Mother Nature could throw at her, she and her son managed the dairy farm successfully. Finally, despite a spirited fight with government that included protest marches through the streets of Brisbane , she was forced to sell the farm because of the deregulation of the dairy industry accompanied by the worst drought in one hundred years.  

On 30th May 2000, the Sunshine Coast Daily newspaper published an article about her fight to try to save the dairy industry, stating: “If you were to cut one of Nolene Stark’s main veins, chances are it would run rich with full cream milk.”  

Now a very healthy 74-year-old who is often mistaken for 60, Nolene is starting a new career as a retired person. She finally found her place as a strong, capable woman of the land. The journey there is compelling.  

This book is an expedition of living, learning and surviving and the love that ties us together.  

If you are interested in learning more about Nolene Stark, visit her web page at

www.ndstark.spiderweb.com.au

Chapter One

1931-1940

It is strange, but when I sat down to record this story of my life, I found it very difficult to remember much about my early childhood; it all seemed to be so far away. It was as if I was looking in and observing another little girl who wore my body, sixty odd years ago. What was this little girl like? Was she a happy little girl? Was she a sad little girl? What did she eat for breakfast? Who was this little girl who was me sixty years ago?

I didn’t know her at all. She was a stranger. I allowed my mind to drift back into the past and the memories gradually formed into tiny segments of information, vague at first, but becoming clearer as I travelled back through the mists of time.

 

~ ~ ~ ~

 

Crow’s Nest, situated on the Great Dividing Range , is a very cold place in winter with severe frosts and very heavy fogs almost every morning. As well, the westerly winds are so fierce they don’t go around you – they go straight through you.

I was born at home on our farm into a normal busy farming family just a few kilometres up the main road from the small country town of Crow’s Nest on the Darling Downs in Queensland , on the 4th of October 1931. I don’t think there could have been a hospital in the town at that time, but there was a district nurse or midwife who attended to expectant mothers and stayed in the home to attend at the birth. I know that a private nurse stayed in our home for three weeks at the time of my birth, and my mother thought so much of her that she gave me her name, ‘Dell’, for my second name - Nolene Dell. My mother told me she had the town doctor in attendance as well. As we were certainly not rich people, I can only imagine it was the local custom at that time. I do know that the nurse who attended my mother at my birth was a nursing sister, as I have photographs of her in full nursing sister uniform.

One of my earliest memories was of my father telling the story of my birth. Like most children I was curious about where I came from. One of the most common answers from other parents was, “Oh, we found you in the cabbage patch!” In my case, Dad always said, “Oh, we found you in a jam tin under the clothesline in the back yard. The wind was blowing a gale that day and it must have blown you along until you landed on our lawn, because that is where we found you.” Obviously, I must have been a very tiny baby.

I was the second child born to my parents. My sister Jean was six years old when I was born and because of the age difference I felt we were never as close as we could have been. We had an older brother, Frank, who was adopted by my parents some time after their marriage. Frank was always accepted as our brother but, as he was much older, my younger brother Mervyn and I didn’t really grow up with him. Mervyn arrived on the scene three years after I was born and my parents’ family was complete.

Of course I do not remember this, but my mother often told the story that I used to pinch Mervyn’s bottle from him and go and hide under the squatter chair on the veranda to drink it. To this day Mervyn loves to repeat the story to everyone we meet. I always add, “Well, it didn’t do him any harm, as he is about three times heavier than I am now.”

Our family lived a fairly quiet life on our parents’ farm. My father and mother were married on the 3rd of October 1923. (I always imagined I was an anniversary present.) They were married at my mother’s parents’ home at Pechey, where my grandfather owned a small farm. Pechey was just a small settlement on the road between Crow’s Nest and Toowoomba. For their attendants, Mum had her sister Lily as her bridesmaid and Dad had his friend Albert as his best man. Albert was later to become his brother-in-law when he married my mother’s sister Bertha.

Dad’s father had owned a farm at Douglas , but he sold that farm and bought another at Crow’s Nest. I believe this farm was given over to my father on condition that he made a home for and looked after Grandfather as long as he lived; which is just as well as, in those early days, there was just nowhere for elderly people to go to be looked after in their old age. Therefore, Grandfather lived with us until he died when I was fifteen.

The farm was not big at first, somewhere around fifty to eighty acres, but as time went on Dad bought another couple of blocks of land. Milking was done by hand but, as the farm increased in size, milking machines were installed and up to about thirty cows were milked. Dad bought the town warm milk run from his brother-in-law. We milked the cows and sold most of the milk in the town.

I have few memories of my very early life in that long ago time; some are good memories, but some were not so good. Christmas Days spent on my grandparent’s farm were very good memories. It was a sad fact of life in the very early pioneering years that the women produced babies at a fast rate, and many died before they had a chance to see their family grow up. My mother and father both lost their mothers when they were very young, leaving their fathers to rear a large young family. In my mother’s case, her father lost no time in marrying again and producing more children, so Mum was raised by her stepmother. Sadly, my mother and her brothers and sisters were never able to feel close to their stepmother.

My mother’s stepsisters and stepbrothers were not very much older than we were, and up until they married and we drifted apart, we enjoyed their company. They never seemed to tire of having us running after them and took us exploring on their property. They had the largest hay shed I had ever seen and it was full of exciting things to explore.

Another very happy memory that I have of Christmas spent on my grandparent’s farm was of the many big apricot trees in their garden. At Christmas they were always laden with ripe fruit and my brother and I wasted no time in climbing up into the tree to eat our fill.

Another luxury was the very large prickly pear tree beside the back steps. As their name suggests, prickly pear trees are extremely prickly and bear fruit that is extremely prickly as well. We were only able to pick the fruit because it was growing close to the high steps. If there happened to be fruit on the tree, Grandmother would peel off the prickles with a knife and we would eat the fruit. I cannot remember what they tasted like, but they must have been good as we considered them to be a treat. Christmas Days at Grandfather and Grandmother’s home were always happy days of feasting and exploring.

My mother’s brother, Uncle Ernie, and his wife lived in the town, and I had been invited to stay with them for a few days. I loved my Uncle Ernie. He often put me on his knee, bounced me up and down and sang, “foops the feazel the foom”, which is where I got my nickname, “Foops”. I would have been about four at the time of my visit, and it was the first time I had ever been away from home alone. At first it was fun staying with my cousin, but he was a real little devil. He told me there were kittens in an old dilapidated shed. I was a bit doubtful, but he coaxed me into the shed and then slammed the door shut behind me. I found there was no handle of any sort on the inside that I could reach, so I was securely locked in. It was dark and I didn’t know what could be in there with me, but I knew now there weren’t any kittens. My cousin, of course, thought it was a great joke and stood outside laughing. No amount of begging could coax him to open that door.

Finding myself totally alone and securely locked in that pitch-black shed, the terrors of the dark got to me; I started screaming. Believe me, I really intended screaming that place down. My aunt must have thought the devil himself had me. When she found me ‘only locked in a shed’ and by her ‘beloved baby’, of course I was the one she tore into.

“What on earth is this entire racket about? You’re crying like a baby.”

I was so terribly upset that I insisted on being taken home. It took a long time for me to get over that unhappy incident.

Another instance occurred when I was very small, and because I can recall it so vividly, it obviously affected me greatly. My sister Jean had one of her friends up to our farm for the day and they were playing with their dolls. I wanted to play too, but I was rudely told to “Clear off, you are too little to play with us”. Most children would have taken the rebuff in their stride, but being very young and sensitive, I was deeply hurt and cried many tears.

 Jean recently told me that when I was a child I was a ‘rotten little kid’ (to use her words) and when I asked her to give me an instance of why I was such a rotten kid she said, “You broke my kewpie doll. It was the only doll I ever owned and you pulled its arms and legs off.” As I could not have been more than two or three at the time, I have no recollection of the incident; however, apparently, she had never forgiven me for that.

(Recently, to make up for my misdemeanour, I bought a doll to give to Jean for her 77th birthday. I hope that I am now forgiven for breaking her beloved ‘kewpie doll’ as I found a really beautiful doll for her which she named “Kate”.)

                         

~ ~ ~ ~

 

One of my jobs as a child was helping my father deliver the milk to the people in the town each morning before school. I can remember walking on frost so thick you could skate on it and turning up for school at nine o’clock, not being able to feel my legs below my knees.

Some of my school friends loved to come with us on our milk run. The milk was delivered in the town by horse and cart in the early days, but Dad had an old ‘Tin Lizzie’ motor vehicle, an old Model T Ford utility, when we started the milk run. We carried a large can of milk on the back of the truck. It had a tap at the base from which we measured the milk into one pint or quart (two-pint) measures. We then poured the milk into a billycan and delivered it to the homes. People left containers on the back steps, or some other convenient place, for us to deliver the milk to them.

One morning, my girlfriend Beris came along and she wanted to help. Dad measured out the milk and gave it to her with instructions to go around to the back of the house where she would find a container on the back steps. Beris came back after the job was completed and we continued on our way.

Next morning we were met by the lady of that particular house who complained that whoever delivered the milk on the previous morning had poured it into the wrong container. It had been poured into the ‘chamber pot’ instead of the milk billy. In those days of back yard dunnies, people used chamber pots to go to the toilet instead of going outside in the night. After being emptied into the dunny, the chamber had been left on the back steps and Beris had mistaken it for the milk container. Luckily, the lady had a great sense of humour and laughed about the whole incident. I don’t think Beris ever lived that one down.

On cold winter mornings Dad had his own way of dealing with the cold. About halfway through the milk run we drove past the local hotel and on cold winter mornings he always ‘dropped in’ for a stiff shot of rum. At that time of morning the pub was closed for business, but Dad was a frequent patron of that establishment and well known to the publican, so he had no trouble getting in the back door and being served. In time the ‘dropping in’ to the pub for his rum became a well-used habit in winter or summer. I didn’t mind because I sometimes ended up being given a raspberry drink, which was a luxury to me, and after running around delivering milk I appreciated a thirst quencher.

Our surplus milk was separated and sold as cream to the local butter factory. There was not much cream to be taken to the factory. I remember my Grandfather telling us that he used to take a can of cream to the butter factory in a small trolley he had built out of a wooden box. The box was set on an axle with a wheel on each side – old pram wheels were excellent for this purpose – and pulled or pushed by the two wooden handles attached to the sides of the box like shafts.

When we children arrived on the scene we just loved those trolleys; we were always on the lookout for a wooden box and axles to make our own trolleys. No old wheels and axles from any old pram or pusher ever went to waste. They were great fun and one of our principal toys as children, but in his day, Grandfather’s trolley was very useful as he walked the cream along the easy distance to the butter factory.

My brother and I eagerly looked forward to going out into the bush with our parents. While they worked, we roamed from one end of the farm to the other exploring. There was so much to see and discover. My mother was not very tall; in fact she was less than five feet tall, but what she lacked in height she made up for in weight, as she was always between twelve and twenty stone. Even her wedding pictures show her as being quite plump, but in spite of all the extra weight she carried she was extremely strong.

I remember her as being a very strong and forthright woman, with a great sense of humour and a very big gutsy voice and a laugh to match. She was made of the stuff that true pioneer women of the land were made; standing by their men and working with them no matter how hard or unpleasant the task might be. She was certainly the backbone of our farm. Dad might not always appear at the cow yard to milk the cows, but Mum was always there.

Our mother always made sure we had a great Christmas. I was brought up in a Christian home and Christmas to me as a child meant the birth of a tiny baby born in a stable of humble parents. I guess at the time I didn’t understand the full meaning of the birth of this little baby. However, as children, we looked forward to Christmas Eve when our local church and the children of the Sunday school held a special service to commemorate the birthday of this special little baby, Jesus.

On Christmas Eve, a couple of the men would go out and collect a big pine tree, which was placed in the front of the church and decorated by the ladies with all sorts of special decorations. The last decorations placed on the tree were real candles in their special holders clipped onto the very tips of the branches.

On Christmas Eve night the excited children of the Sunday school performed the little recitations and short plays and sang the Christmas hymns that they had been practising for weeks in anticipation of the Christmas Eve program, all telling the story of the birth of Baby Jesus.

The real candles on the tree were lit and to this day sets of Christmas lights do not have the same effect as those real candles lighting up our church Christmas tree. Gifts, lollies and prize books were handed out to the children.

On arriving home from the service, we children excitedly tied our pillowslips to the end of our beds, hoping that during the night Santa would fill them with lots of gifts. Of course he always did. Was it because we were very good children? Or was it because we were some of the more fortunate children in this world who had a wonderful caring mother who, no matter how poor we were, always, somehow, scraped enough money together so that Santa could fill our Christmas stocking?

One Christmas that stands out in my memory was the one when I awoke on Christmas morning to find the most beautiful doll sitting in the very top of my Christmas pillowslip. I had begged for a doll, but my mother had always told me she would not get one for me until I was old enough to appreciate it, so to finally see this beautiful doll in my pillowslip filled me with joy. She was dressed in a pink knitted outfit, including panties, vest, dress, bonnet and bootees. My mother must have spent hours knitting the whole outfit while I was in bed at night so that I would not see it before Christmas. We certainly had a wonderful, caring mother.

Our parents didn’t have much money to spend on toys and things to amuse us, but we made our own fun. I can never remember being bored. There were always animals to play with and other diversions to keep us occupied. Kittens, pups and even baby pigs were dressed up in dolls’ clothes and carted around by us as ‘our babies’.

One of my favourite pastimes was making cubby houses. There must have been something of an architect in me, as I loved finding sticks and placing them on the ground in the design of a house. Many years later I was finally able to plan, design and build my own dream home; obviously something that had been in my blood from my long ago childhood stick house designing days.

I loved to visit the house next door across the very scrubby laneway that separated our properties. This particular house was vacant and had been for as long as I could remember. There was an underground water tank there, covered by a huge wooden top. When the lid was lifted up and I looked down into the dark murky depths below it always sent a shiver down my spine, especially as we knew that at one time one of the then residents of that house had been found dead under mysterious circumstances. Even as children we had very lively imaginations.

Eventually, a couple came to live in the house and it wasn’t long before we became friendly with them. One day Mervyn and I both went across to visit them. The husband loved to tease us unmercifully, and started telling us ghost stories. He knew ghost stories that had supposedly taken place from all over the district, and one special one about Neddy Burke’s ghost roaming around our area.

Neddy Bourke was a very old man with a long white beard who had lived in a house near our school. To get to school we often took a shortcut through a dingy laneway beside his house. I don’t think he liked us using the lane because he often frightened us by yelling at us. On the other hand, it could have been because we often raided his big peach tree, which grew near the lane. Those peaches were the biggest and juiciest peaches and we couldn’t wait for them to ripen. It is a wonder we didn’t get really sick from eating green peaches.

Our teasing neighbour certainly had a way of making his ghost stories believable, and the one he told us about Neddy Bourke riding his horse around on a moonlight night certainly scared the pants off us. We were so scared that we were not game to go across the laneway to our home, even in broad daylight. We were sure Neddy Bourke’s ghost would be there waiting to grab us. We walked quite a distance around to avoid crossing that dark, forbidding, tree-lined lane.

Mary was younger than her husband and she had a lovely singing voice. It was so powerful that she could be heard singing from our own home. I often visited her by myself; she had a little baby boy and I loved to spend time with him. On one particular day I was invited to go for a ride with them in their horse and sulky; there were not many sulkies left even in those days, so I eagerly accepted the invitation.

I remember sitting on the seat between them and, as we clip-clopped along the quiet country road, Mary started to sing. Cecil, who also had a good voice, joined in. They sang ‘Moonlight and Roses’ in beautiful harmony. That day has a special place in my memory.

As I write this, I cannot help but compare our present day lives of rush and bustle and never seeming to have enough time for anything, to that long ago day of peace and quiet and harmony as we glided along behind a well trained pony. I was only about nine or ten years of age at the time and that trip is one of the most treasured memories of my childhood.

When I was about nine or ten, Dad sold our Model T Ford utility and bought our first car. It had a canvas hood supported by wooden bars across the top. Just after we got it, my mother’s father wanted to go out to Pilton, near Clifton , to visit one of his sons who had a property out there. Mum’s stepbrothers, Colin and Sid, were going and I was given permission to go too.

Dad drove for quite some time and then Grandfather wanted to have a go at driving the new car. Dad let him take the wheel. Grandfather was having such a good time driving the new car that he almost missed the turn-off into Uncle Fred’s farm. Suddenly realising that we were about to go past the road, Grandfather sharply turned the steering wheel to try to take the corner. We were going too fast! Dad, who was sitting in the front passenger seat, could see that we were in danger of rolling the vehicle, so he grabbed the wheel and tried to keep the car going along the straight road.

Narrowly averting a disaster, he prevented us from overturning but the car ended up leaving the road and running into the round post of the fence surrounding a paddock. However, before it hit the post, it had to cross a very deep gutter beside the road. I was sitting between my two uncles on the back seat and, with seatbelts unheard of in those days, we were bounced high off our seats and tossed into the air, hitting our heads on the wooden cross bar of the car hood.

Uncle Sid had blood pouring out of his nose and I received a tremendous whack on the top of my head. I remember it so vividly because it was the one time in my life that I can remember seeing stars.

The impact damaged the front of the car quite badly, but rolling over would have been worse. Somebody rang Uncle Fred and we were taken to Toowoomba to stay with my Dad’s sister, Aunty Lena, while Dad made arrangements to have the car towed in to be repaired. I had a tremendous headache, but nobody thought of taking me to a doctor to be checked out. I suffered bad headaches for years afterwards.

It was only recently when I had my back x-rayed that the doctor asked me if I had ever suffered an injury to the top of my head, as one of the vertebrae in my neck at one time had been badly damaged. That explains why to this day I still suffer severe neck problems with bad headaches.

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