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Becoming a Dowser

on a summer day at Mount Pleasant

in the middle of a long paddock

my father took instruction

arm tops tucked close to the side

forearms horizontal, extending rods

a couple of sticks, twisting

in the hands till the bark broke free,

his head thrust back

mouth wide laughing

unexpected divination

with no effort what-so-ever

dowsed with that erection

till the fluid flowed, his power

smashed the paradigm -that

hard work guarantees success

for Dad, 1937 -2022

This poem was written years ago, when my father was at the height of his physical power, so strong and full of life.

It’s not only the end of one year and the start of another, it’s the old Christmas thing etcetera. This first week of the year is building up to the final hospitalisation of my Dad, Peter Colin Creeley in 2022. The last years and months were the time of his slow decline, a very long 1st anniversary since he died in early February after I think, 3 1/2 weeks at the Royal Hobart. There’s been a lot more tears than I ever imagined, and it is working itself out. It’s made me ponder the whole anniversary thing. 

I liked writing about his life – tangled up in memoir as everyone has a unique relationship with their parent, and being the oldest this goes back to the first years of Mum and Dad living in Queenstown, all on the Company ride – a Euclid at the open cut at West Lyle.  Mt Lyell was a mountain once. 

Dad always had a dog- we had Skipper then, a Dalmatian Labrador cross, and we always had a relatively ancient vehicle – the first one I remember was a brown International Ute, it was our ride, very roomy, and he pimped it with fire and other wood which he sold on the semi open market. Dad was a bit dodgy. Skipper went overboard off the back on the Glen Huon Road when we were visiting family, and bounced ok. 

The smell of workshops started then, a most aromatic experience – Huon shavings, oil and grease and metal fragments. He always made a bit on the side, house renovations included. He took the Abt railway to Strahan for a series of weekends working on the local bookies house.  Raised on work, he used his body till the end, cobbled together with a fair amount of metal screws, plates and a hip. His capacity for work was phenomenal. 

Last year I cleaned up and re-boxed his workshop manuals, dusted off the rat shit and took them to the auction house. The Barina was full to the gills, and it was a big thing personally discharging them to the world of grease monkeys and fanatics for old gear. Not many cars but a lot of excavators, tractors, trucks, dozers, graders, rollers, combine harvesters (they had huge spines) etc. I just love exploded diagrams – someone should explain it to me. One man’s working life. And then the rest, wood hooking, helping other people, a bit of boat building, always available. 

Dad started out officially working in sawmills, he was ships boy on the Shearwater and the Naracoopa, servicing the islands and estuaries of Tasmania- these were in his memory the best years, working with a gang of men and the camaraderie of living on the small ships. An improvement on his home life. After that he was driving at the mine, and then working on heavy machinery. He renovated, built a house, and quite a few sheds. Corrugated iron and second-hand bricks figure a lot in my childhood. 

Sheds lead to shedding, like anniversaries.

Image from There Was A Ship, by the late Patsy Adam-Smith

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