September 24, 2010

A small memorial to "Bluey" Ray

Bluey in retirement

By John Ray

My father's real name was Frank Edward Ray but only my mother and his kids called him "Frank". To everyone else he was "Blue" or "Bluey" -- because he had red hair -- a feat of logic that you may have to be British or Australian to understand.

His religion was work -- hard manual work -- and he did that throughout his life. He started out cutting down forest trees for the sawmills -- with an AXE and crosscut saw -- long before chainsaws were heard of. And he also was a cane-cutter in his younger days. He would come home "as black as a n*gger" from that work -- as sugarcane was burnt before harvesting in those days,

But in his later years be worked in the tallow rendering section of the Queerah meatworks outside Cairns. He used his very developed biceps to move around 44 gallon of drums of tallow -- a job in which he seemed to be much appreciated by his employers. And if you have ever tried to move a 44 gallon drum of anything (usually motor fuel) you will know how heavy they are. And when filled with a dense material like tallow (rendered-down animal fat) they are REALLY heavy. But he would have enjoyed that challenge.

I also remember him while I was just a kid sharpening and "setting" his crosscut saws -- something that was part of his trade as a "timber feller" (lumberjack). He would be out in the bush during the week and come home for the weekend. And that was saw sharpening time.

He also had an old .22 rifle. He said that where he was camped out in the bush he could hear crocodiles roaring -- so he was definitely wary of them. What good a .22 would do in an encounter with a croc I do not know. If you were a good shot it might help, I suppose. But I remember him buying bullets off "Thompson" (the Stratford store keeper) as a prelude to a trip.

My brother still has the .22 concerned. If I ever had to deal with crocs, I would want a .50 cal sniper rifle for the purpose -- though I suppose an old .303 might also be useful enough (and a lot more available).

And, as I think I have mentioned before, Frank was a "king hitter". The biceps developed through many years working as an axeman were very handy for flattening anybody who disrespected him. He once hit a man so hard that he broke his hand. He did have a short temper. I remember his flashing blue eyes when he was annoyed. Though he never laid a finger on any of his family and was a real gentleman unless provoked. How can eyes flash? I don't know. But his did somehow.

I am sad that my father is no longer among us. He was a man of his time but was perhaps the better man for that.

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