The reason we we left Elliot Street (besides me burning that bridge with my loud, five-year-old mouth) is because mum had met, and started dating, and then married, Aaron. Not only that, but after six and a half years of being a spoiled only child, I was going to learn about sibling rivalry and tiny screaming babies with the arrival of my sister, Lauren.
The tiny Elliot Street flat wouldn’t fit four people, so off we went. We moved just to the outskirts of Gin Gin (who knew it was possible to find somewhere smaller?); an area that didn’t have a name, it was just known as Tirroan Road.
It was a large, bland house with a large, bland backyard adjoining a large, bland paddock. In the paddock lived three large, bland horses.
As a 33-year-old, I understand now that the owners of the house owned the horses, and kept them there because paddocks are where you keep horses. But as a six-year-old I assumed the horses were ours. We lived in a new house, now we had new horses. We were a horse family. Perhaps, when I was older, I would join Pony Club, wear jodhpurs, and understand the importance of an offshore bank account?
No one bothered to explain to me that the horses weren’t ours. I told everyone I knew that I was a horse owner. Admittedly, I was six, I only knew like nine people, but still. There was a certain lifestyle to which I had become accustomed and I needed everyone to know it.
The biggest horse was white with black patches, and was called Trigger. The middle horse was brown and was called Flicka. The smallest horse was white and was called Midnight.
Let me repeat that, for effect. The smallest horse was white and was called Midnight. As if the lack of imagination in naming the horses wasn’t bad enough, apparently there was also a distinct lack of looking at the horses. Or maybe they were being unimaginatively ironic. Did they have irony in 1987? I used to try to tell mum the horses looked sad because I wasn’t allowed to ride them; in truth I think they were just embarrassed.
I did find it odd that I was never allowed to ride the horses. I also wasn’t allowed to feed the horses. Nor was I allowed to be in the same paddock as the horses. I could pat them and talk to them through the fence, and that was it.
A smarter child could have perhaps put two and two together and realised they were not my horses. Instead I simply assumed that, as horses were a thing you only had when you were upper-class and snobby, it was treated like all the other upper-class and snobby things, like good silverware and expensive bric-a-brac: kept out of reach and hardly ever touched. We had the good china, the good towels, and now the Good Horses. Had they stayed still long enough, I probably would have tried to put a doily under them.
So here I was, already a tiny loud-mouthed know-it-all, now being introduced to unfettered snobbery. In the Darkest Timeline version of my life this would result in me growing up into a grotesque, utterly insufferable cockslap. Some may argue this is exactly what has happened. It’s probably for the best that it didn’t last: Aaron got a fancy job at Mount Isa Mines, and we were about to move cross-country.
Shortly before we left Tirroan Road, as I was coming to terms with having to farewell the Good Horses, Aaron made a dumb joke about horses and a glue factories. I had no idea what it meant, or why horses would go to a glue factory, so I asked my mum. She told me the truth about horses and glue factories:
“Sweetheart, glue factories are very old, and don’t have electrical machinery like modern factories. They still use horses, like the old horse-drawn ploughs you see in black and white movies.”
I would believe that story for at least another thirteen years.