ABOUT THE AUTHOR
The author was born in Brisbane in 1948. From age 16, for
three years he worked on cattle and sheep properties in Central Queensland as a
jackaroo. He returned to Brisbane and competed as an amateur boxer, winning a
Queensland Golden Gloves Championship and went on to fight 21 professional
Prior to semi-retirement at the end of 2015 he was employed
by DeLaval, a world leader in dairy technology as a project manager working
across Australia, overseeing key installations of robotic milking equipment.
Where the Penny Falls is his second manuscript and
the main locations are where he spent his early working life.
He lives with his wife, Debra, in Stockleigh, 40 minutes
south of Brisbane.
ALSO BY THIS AUTHOR
Werna Creek (Zeus, 2017)
The author would like to thank his wife, Debra, who took on
the challenge of the preliminary editing. Debra’s patience and resilience were
truly tested. Also his daughter, Annalese Jack, sisters-in-law, Lee Kemp and
Kath Wilson, and good friends, Tatiana Dorofeeff and Tara Fahy, all avid readers
who read Where the Penny Falls in its infancy and passed on their
comments, which helped in the presentation of the finished manuscript.
I should give a special mention to my grandson Chase for
standing in for the cover photo. A grandfather couldn’t be prouder.
Finally, I want to thank Rick and Jody Ruhland for allowing
us to use their property as the backdrop for the cover of Where the Penny
To my wife, Debra, whose unwavering love and support has
inspired me to be the best I can be.
At nine years of age, Luke Harris had no understanding of
what was happening. Kathy, his elder sister by 18 months, knew but didn’t have
the heart to tell him. The two men in uniform had arrived an hour earlier and
the children were ushered up the stairs by Mrs Gibson, an elderly neighbour, to
the small bedroom they shared. His mother was wailing and Kathy put both her
arms around Luke, pulling him to her chest in an attempt to console him. He
reciprocated and held her as tightly as he possibly could, not only because he
was terrified about what was distressing their mother, but because his big
sister was trembling all over and sobbing like she’d never done before.
Luke never received a proper explanation of what had
occurred from his mother, Barbara, but Mrs Gibson had taken it upon herself to
reveal to Kathy that their father had been killed and it would be up to Kathy to
help look after her younger sibling. Barbara avoided all mention of her husband
and when either of them asked she simply broke down and wept.
The following day, with the help of a young friend of their
father, she had them pack all their belongings in the few suitcases they had.
Without saying goodbye to anybody, not even Mrs Gibson, they simply left,
without leaving a trace of where they were going. Luke, at that innocent age,
could never have foreseen how the tragic events leading to that night would
impact on him and the people close to him throughout the rest of his life.
Luke Harris locked the calf in the pen, away from its
mother, and removed the saddle from the back of the old mare. He tossed a slice
of hay to the horse and another to the jersey cow sniffing its young through the
rails. He took a deep breath.
‘The old man isn’t going to be happy,’ he thought to
himself as he trudged back towards the house.
The old man was his paternal grandfather. Luke’s father had
been a soldier and died fighting the Japanese in New Guinea five years earlier.
Luke, just 14, his sister, Kathy, 15 going on 16, and his mother, Barbara, lived
on the family property with the old tyrant, Frank Harris, under sufferance. They
were reasonably well provided for but the old man took every opportunity to let
them know it was he who put a roof over their heads and demanded that they show
their appreciation and do their fair share.
Luke’s mother said part of the reason for her
father-in-law’s hostility was due to losing his son, her husband and their
father, Bob. The old man had worshipped her deceased husband and the similarity
Luke bore to his father seemed to inflame him to a point beyond reason.
As tough as he was, Frank Harris recognised the importance
of a good education. In his mind, Luke was going to take over from him sometime
in the future, and the boy needed firm discipline and strong direction to
improve his attitude. He had him enrolled to start the coming year at Toowoomba
Grammar. That afternoon, Luke had brought home the results of his final year at
primary school. They were only just good enough to get him through and nowhere
near what was expected of him. He cursed at the thought of facing his
To make matters worse, without permission Luke had taken
the farm truck, a Bedford, to bring in the milking cow. He’d got it bogged in
the paddock and was forced to walk back and catch the horse to finish the job.
The truck was still where he had left it.
Luke entered the yard and saw his mother talking to the old
man at the kitchen door. Kathy was unpegging the washing from the line and she
was clearly distressed, her face showing the concern she had for her younger
brother. Even though he was clearly a head taller and two stone heavier than
her, she took her role as the elder sibling very seriously.
Frank turned away from Barbara and saw Luke walking across
the yard. His mother reached out and put her hand on the old man’s shoulder.
Ignoring her, he reached out for his stockwhip that was hanging by the door and
stepped into the yard. The rage was so great that his weathered old face had
“Luke, you ungrateful, lazy good-for-nothing, get over here
and explain this,” he demanded, holding up the report card in his free hand.
Luke walked to within a yard of his grandfather and said
quietly, “It was the best I could do. I haven’t got the time to study.” He
didn’t think it would help to mention that apart from attending school, he
worked until after dark every day and was up at six each morning, putting in two
hours before breakfast.
“Always you have excuses, boy. I’ve just invested a lot of
money in your education and the best you can do is this.” He shoved the report
card under Luke’s nose. “What about my truck? Apart from being too lazy to
saddle the bloody horse, what other reason do you have for doing what I told you
As was Luke’s nature, he remained silent. There was no
value in mentioning he had unloaded 40 x 120-pound bags of corn from the back of
the Bedford, stacking them in the feed shed by himself. It was true he’d gone
against his grandfather’s wishes, but it wasn’t out of laziness, it was more to
be expedient – a trait the old man hammered into him at every opportunity. There
was no sense in arguing; Frank despised him and the feeling was mutual.
Luke consciously made the decision to stand, cocksure, in
front of his grandfather and didn’t offer any sort of justification. The
arrogance as Frank saw it only infuriated him further. He began flogging his
grandson on the shoulders, back and forearms with the coiled whip. Luke clenched
his fists, stood still and took all the old man could dish out until finally the
coiled kangaroo hide slipped from his grandfather’s hand.
Luke held the old man’s angry glare for several seconds
then bent down, retrieved the lash and, maintaining full eye contact, he saw the
doubt in Frank’s face as it dawned on him that his grandson may retaliate and
strike him back. This gave Luke additional fortitude; he simply handed the
weapon back and stood with his hands by his sides.
After dinner Barbara found Luke in his room, being consoled
by Kathy. Luke knew what she would say. He understood the fear of being alone
terrified her more than staying here and she would find sound reasons to support
her argument. This time it had some merit.
“Luke, I know it all seems unfair, but in six weeks you’ll
be going away to boarding school for four years. Kathy and I are treated well
enough and your grandfather has never beaten us. He provides a place to live,
food on the table and helps financially with clothing and incidentals. For the
two of us, it’s not all bad.
“For our sake, go to Toowoomba and get an education at his
expense. You’ve earned it. Remember, this place is your birthright; the old
bastard won’t live forever and you can decide for yourself at the end of four
years whether or not you want to come back.”
Luke did as he always did and hugged his mother, telling her he would do as she
asked. He loved her unconditionally, even knowing that when the time came and
Luke decided he didn’t want to return, she would present a number of good
reasons to convince him otherwise.