I think I had a sort of love-hate relationship with horses. I thought they were a wonderful intelligent animal but their smell put me off ever wanting one.
There were plenty of horses around during the war. Milk deliveries were done with a horse a strange looking cart. It looked like the Roman chariots of ancient days. Very low at the back, it enabled the driver to just step off and on without a problem. If the 'milko' was late with the deliveries, it enabled us boys to jump on and off too which was great fun. The horses knew their routes and all stops, so the milko never worried about where he was going or where to stop. This was the horse’s job and they did it beautifully.
Bread deliveries were with horse and a four-wheel cart. Here again the driver was a driver in name only. The horse knew exactly where he was going and where to stop. With the bread deliveries a bit later in the morning than the milk, it enabled the 'driver' to meet a lot of his customers, so he stopped often for a talk. At this point, the horse would hesitate for a while but if the horse thought the conversation was too long, he would take off for the next stop. No amount of 'whod-back', 'hold-up', 'come back' or "you stroppy **' would make any difference, so the driver had to run to the next stop.
My favourite delivery was the bread because the smell of the fresh bread was heavenly.
Miss Newberry had a property at the bottom of the School hill (collier Ave) between the main road and the Puffing Billy line. Also a couple of paddocks between the line and Kumbada Ave. She had a lot of horses which she ran there. A creek ran through her paddocks and on the Kumbada Ave., side was where we had our swimming pool. Miss Newberry allowed us to play there. We were never any trouble to her. About six truck loads of sawdust on one of the Kumbada Ave. paddocks for the horses to roll in was excellent for us to roll in too.
Miss new berry had a 'helper', a man that some of the older boys was only 'eighteen and six in the quid'. I watched him sometimes with horses and he certainly knew what he was doing. I often saw Miss Newberry and her helper on horseback. But the most enduring vision I have is of both of them riding the two wheel jinker (I think that is the name) going shopping in Upwey. It looked like a calm civilised way to travel. They would park the jinker in front of the small triangle garden at the bottom of the shopping strip, beside the Puffing Billy line.
Mr. Gould was another with a horse and cart but his horse was a Clydesdale and his cart was huge in construction. He was our, and most people in Upwey district's, woodman. Mr. Gould and Diana (his horse) could be seen nearly anywhere around the district. If Diana moved any slower, she would have been walking backwards. Nearly always, Mr. Gould, eyes closed, rocked back a forth on his seat, a large pipe in the corner of his mouth blowing smoke. They often passed our place because Mr. Gould had his main wood stack up the end of Thompson Rd. When he was splitting and stacking he would go past early in the morning and at dusk go home again. When he was going to deliver wood, he only had to go up, load and then come out again. This took about an hour and a half. When he was only loading and I was around, he would stop for me and I could ride in the stack. On the way, Mr. Gould would drop me off at home. It was a great way to get around and I could get an idea of some of the magic Miss Newberry felt when she drove her jinker.
One time Mr. Gould had delivered wood for us. He was just leaving and mom was talking to Reg.
'Mr. Gould is a really nice man and honest too.'
'Yes, he sure is.' Said Reg.
Now Mr. Gould tells me stories sometimes when we are riding along and because of what mom says about Mr. Gould they must be fair dinkum.
'Did you know Robert that Diana was Phar Lap's dad too?'
'No Mr. Gould.' I said.'
'Yair,' Said Mr. Gould, 'Got into the paddock next door and picked Diana's mom because she was the best looking. You know' He said, looking at me as though I was going to disagree with him. 'Why we called her Diana?'
'No Mr. Gould.' I said.
'She was named Diana after the goddess of hunting, with the winged boots, because when she was young she could move like a rocket.'
'Oh.' I said.
'Yair, in the early days we used to deliver wood into the city. This day I had just pulled up at a crossroad in the city and some toffy coot pulls alongside of us in one of those new fangled tin boxes. The road is clear so I gives Diana her head, and she's off. By the time the silly coot in the car had sorted out the stick he was playing with, we was already at the next crossroad. So he pulls up and winds down his window.'
'By Christ.' He says to me.
'That horse could win the Melbourne Cup, I reckon.' So I says to him.
'Just wait till I get the three ton handicap off her, then see how fast she goes.'
With that, Mr. Gould collapses into the back laughing and puffing out enough smoke to make Puffing Billy jealous. Then he shook his head and said half to himself.
'By gawd, she's been a grand old lady all right, hey.' He looked at me. I nodded and said.
'Mr. Gould, she is a beauty.'
And so where all those working horses that I would remember.