When you’re 12 years old, moving into a new house, new farm, and a new community is a big deal.
Small things become huge, and in the way of young people, things that shouldn’t matter much, leave a lasting impression.
In about 1970, dad and mum successfully applied for a Rural Finance dairy farm at Rochester.
After years of trying this must have been our last hope. When the good news came through, it was like winning Tatts.
Most of my life revolved around the farm until that point in time. There were limited social outings, not much sport and definitely no social media.
Moving a batch of people onto brand new farms in the Rural Finance and Land Settlement Commission program created an interesting social experiment for the Rochester community.
Dad worked like a Trojan, getting internal fences up, building up laneways, putting in gates and trying to fathom the irrigation system.
The new farm was on sandy loam and the ground seemed to drink up every drop of water, while the clover went crazy and caused no end of bloat in the summer time.
One of the most uplifting experiences was the way the ‘settlers’ worked together, and how the established farmers welcomed us.
Geoff Carr had one of those timeless, weather-beaten faces that never seemed to change, and, thankfully, it was often in the shape of a wry smile.
He drove an old Holden ute which had probably seen too many miles and was filled with a thousand nuts and bolts and tools.
Not just the rear, but the passenger foot space as well. I know, because I tried to sit there once.
Our farm was between his property and Rochester and we would often see the unwashed ute whiz by. Sometimes he stopped to tell us something.
He always seemed to be involved in community activities and would often encourage us to play footy or tennis or get involved in some socially responsible diversion.
I was never much of a sportsman, but I benefited from that encouragement and experience in my formative years.
When I got older he gave me a few odd jobs during the school holidays.
I got to drive the iconic ute. That was when I discovered its true state.
The steering wheel rim had broken off at some stage (probably somewhere inside the ute) and the only part of the steering wheel that was left was the two arms, with some sharp, twisted edges on the end. Quite a talent in steering with that.
I remember him confidently propping me in the seat of a huge, noisy Chamberlain tractor that must have been the biggest I had ever seen, in a paddock as big as our whole farm.
‘‘You’ll be right,’’ he said confidently as he left me to plough the ground.
I guess I did the job. I can’t recall him complaining. I even got paid.
We didn’t have ‘mentors’ in those days, but I guess if you wanted to give him a label, you would say he was a role model for a feckless youth like me.
My dad was pretty big on hospitality and Geoff Carr was such a similar character that I suppose that’s why they got on so well.
Geoff died just before Christmas at the age of 93.
The town honoured him with a citizenship award in 1982 and he’s had a few accolades over the years for an astonishing range of accomplishments.
I will always remember him as the affable and hard-working farmer who welcomed strangers and believed the best of the people around him.