Five things I’ve learned from my pop



During my childhood school holidays were looked forward to with much anticipation. At the end of each term my parents would load us into their green Ford station wagon (remember the ones with the orange stripe down the side?) and make the four-hour trek to drop us at ‘The farm’.

The farm was where our nan and pop lived, on a large sheep and wheat property in the Victorian Mallee. The Farm was our happy place. It was where three kids could run wild, go on adventures with cousins and leave everyday life behind.

Everything was bigger and better at The Farm. The sheer scale of the property, the hundreds of sheep and Nan’s glorious pavlovas. I am pretty sure the sunsets were even brighter at the farm.

On returning home to start a new school term it would take three weeks to scrub the Mallee dust out of our pores and twice as long for us to recount the tall tales to our parents.

If the farm was a magical kingdom for three small children, then Pop was surely our king. It has only been in adulthood that I have come to realise The Farm was just a farm (although I still feel a touch of the old magic when I wander around the sheep yards at dusk). But Pop, he was truly magical.

My pop is my yardstick. He is the kind of person that I can only aspire to be like. Everyone and everything, is measured up against my pop – and most fall short.

Once a rugged farmer, Pop is now confined within the four walls of the Ouyen Hospital Geri wing. But somehow, he still manages to put a positive spin on life. We grandkids visited him recently, and whilst I was taking in the bleak carpet and musty old person smell, Pop was pointing out the lovely view of a dusty Mallee paddock out the window.

I can see him becoming less and less like him as his body and mind fail – and quite frankly it scares the living daylights out of me, mostly because my children will never have the opportunity to learn life’s lessons from him as I did.

So this is my attempt to leave a little bit of Pop on paper, so my kids can at least read about the man who is their great grand father.

Here is five things everyone should learn from Pop…

1. Give your time freely

“All aboard for Bullamacankup!”

This was Pop’s catch cry as he loaded all the grandkids into his dilapidated Nissan farm ute, sometimes half a dozen of us at a time – plus three or four cattle dogs. Let’s not tell the authorities the ute had one door that was permanently wired shut and the other flew open if you went around a corner a little too fast. It also had no brakes, but that didn’t stop him teaching each and every one of us, and plenty of our friends, to drive in it.

He would load us in and head off to feed the cows, catch a sheep or fix a fence. It didn’t really matter where we were going, we were just happy to be with Pop.

Our favourite task was droving sheep. Nan would send us off at first light with a lunch box filled with her famous cooking and two litre empty juice containers of water, and we would disappear into the blistering heat for the day. The further we had to move the sheep the better – because this meant our adventure lasted longer.

As I came of age I realised Pop was strategic with his farm management, he would save up the sheep droving jobs for when we visited. I even have my suspicions he made some of them up. I am sure there were times we moved sheep from one perfectly good paddock to another!

The important thing is, he would put aside whole days to just be with us. When I reflect on this as an adult in a world that moves at a blazing pace, I find this kind of generosity gob smacking.
2. Reduce. Reuse. Recycle.

I find it almost amusing there is a new trend called minimalism. It is a current fad, which focuses on having less stuff in our lives and more meaning. While this is an admirable pursuit, it is hardly a new idea – my pop (and probably yours) were the ultimate minimalists!

For many years we would ask Pop when he was going to get a new ute. He would tell us that while the old girl is still getting him where he needs to go, he has no need for a new ute. In my lifetime I never saw Pop with a shiny new vehicle – ever.

Pop’s ability to make do and to create something from nothing was never more evident than in his stockyards. The fences were made of old farm implements and junk collected at local clearing sales, his highest purchase price was $1 (and this was not 1950!). The drinking troughs were recycled and remodeled car parts.

Funnily enough – the cows didn’t seem to mind.

Nan and Pop would eat seasonally. Meal times revolved around what was flourishing in the veggie patch. I remember zucchinis bigger than our heads and sitting in the strawberry patch stuffing myself silly.

Nan would milk the cow in the morning and once a week churn the butter. Every once in a while Pop would kill a beast and the carcass would hang in the cool room for a few days to tenderize. They would eat lamb, or maybe some beef for variety, every day, until it was time to kill another beast.

There was no Indian take out, no Macca’s down the road, no dial-a-pizza – just real food.

3. Ah well – not to worry

When we stayed at the The Farm it was Pop’s job to get us through the shower of an evening while Nan cooked tea. My youngest brother Josh was quite little at the time, so Pop would diligently wash his hair and scrub behind his ears as instructed by Nan.

By about day four of one particular visit Josh’s hair was looking a bit odd – rather straw like. Nan arrived in the bathroom that evening to supervise the hair washing procedure and discovered Pop rubbing Josh’s head with the Palmolive cake of soap. Nan erupted into a disapproving flurry of words, huffing and puffing, and lots of hand gestures at the bottle of No More Tears shampoo that had been specifically purchased for our visit.

After Nan left the bathroom we all looked wide-eyed at Pop (who had until this point said not a word) and he gave us a grin and his trademark response;

“Ah well – not to worry!”

How many of us need to inject a little of Pop’s “Ah well – not to worry” into our daily lives? Don’t sweat the small stuff.

Live for today.

4. Patience is a virtue

My Pop is the most patient human I have ever encountered – closely followed by my husband.

One day we were out checking the sheep in the safety mobile I mentioned earlier. My two brothers and I were in the front with Pop when we saw a young fox playing in the paddock. Pop had been having problems with foxes taking lambs, so we began circling the fox in the ute. We didn’t have a gun with us so I wasn’t sure what Pop planned to do if we actually got close to the fox.

My brother Mark jumped on the two-way radio and called up Nan back at the house to commentate this interesting turn of events. The call went something like this…

“You on channel Nan?”
“We’re chasing a fox!”
“We are going around and around the paddock.”
“We are still going around and around the paddock.”
“We are still going around and around the paddock.”
“We are still going around and around the paddock.”
“We are still going around and around the paddock,” (you get the idea).
“Pop’s jumped out and Lisa is driving!”
“Pop’s grabbed a pig drinker off the back off the ute!”
“Pop’s donged the fox on the head with the pig drinker!”
“The fox is dead.”

I have no idea how long we drove in circles around that paddock tiring the young fox out – nor do I understand why it didn’t just run off in the other direction. What I do know is that we were having a fantastic adventure and pop wanted the fox dealt with, so we continued to drive.

These days I am always looking for the short cut, how can I make my day easier, quicker, or more productive? Instead, maybe I should just focus on enjoying driving in circles.

5. Don’t judge

I remember sitting in the Tempy Church as a little girl, all dressed up in my Sunday finest. I would watch with awe while my pop, the local Uniting Church Minister, delivered his simple messages.

Treat others like you want to be treated. Be kind. Be caring.

As an adult I carry Pops messages with me every day, but somewhere along the line I decided the religion side of things in its traditional form was not for me. I am certain Pop knows this (given his great-grandchildren were never baptised), but he never once, in 38 years, preached, pushed or even hinted that I should follow his beliefs.

Pop’s acceptance of all and their flaws was never more evident than when I separated from my first husband. Given Pop’s role as a minister he has strong values around the sanctity of marriage – as did I.

I remember the time around my divorce as one of shame and apprehension. I was judging myself – surely others would judge me too. On the first visit to see pop after the separation I was worried I had let him down.

I shouldn’t have worried, I should have had faith in the man he is.

At some stage during our visit he looked at me and said, “You look better, you look happy again. Well done Possum.”

I decided then and there, if he can forgive me – I can forgive me.

Pop has very little ego – in a good way. As a young farm consultant one of the things I saw destroy family farming businesses the quickest was the older generation hanging on too tight. Old cockies who couldn’t let go of the reins to give sons and grandsons the chance to have a crack.

I remember discussing this exact issue with Pop, telling him how proud I was of how he was letting the younger generation win and lose by their own decisions. He looked at me as if I was nuts and said, “It’s their turn now.”

Oh, stupid me!

Pop’s own identity and happiness were never wrapped up in the fickle seasons of his work.

Pop has started talking about the end – the very end. I don’t cope very well when he does. He likes to talk about his accomplishments and the legacy he will leave behind.

He doesn’t talk about the farm.

He never talks about the things he didn’t get to do, or the things he didn’t own.

His accomplishments are his family. He talks constantly about the pride he has in us and the wonderful things we are achieving.

I can’t tell you how privileged I feel to be Stan Emonson’s grand daughter.

I can tell you however, that I have no flippin’ idea where Bullamacankup is – but if Pop’s there, I’m going.

“All aboard for Bullamacankup!”

Blend it your way,

Leese x

As always, I would love you to comment or come have a chat with me at Booken Blend on Facebook. Who is your special person?


9 thoughts on “Five things I’ve learned from my pop

    1. Thanks Elisha! Yep – he is a good man. The best in actual fact! I love that so many people can identify with this story – makes me wonder what stories our grandchildren will tell one day??

  1. Hi Lis
    I know where Bullamacankup is ……Its that magical place the old timers used to go to learn the most amazing things like speeches like …
    Ladies and gentlemen and baldi headed kids with their hair parted down the centre , we’re here because we’re here and not because we’re there !!
    where they learn t how to plat hay band which could be tied together and turned into a Tarzan swings and this knowledge they duly taught their kids and grand kids, nieces and nephews
    where they perfected the art of making riverbank mud slides and learnt that getting dirty was all part of the fun and passing that knowledge on as well
    where life was hard but simple and if you let it teach you, you could learn so much …..Like how to circle a pesky fox

    I am glad you know about Bullamacankup and all its wonderful attributes .. In this world of hustle and bustle it might well pay for a lot more of us to take a trip there and enjoy this special place like Pop did

    1. Oh now I know where Bullamacankup is!Wow, I hadn’t thought about it like that – but I will now, forever.
      I absolutely love this xxx

  2. Hi Lisa I had the great honour of nursing your Pop in Ouyen a few years ago before my family relocated to Bendigo. He was certainly a gentleman through & through. I loved listening to his stories of farming way back when life seemed so much simpler in lots of ways. Maybe not physically but definitely a much simpler lifestyle where everyone made do with what little they had. It was a pleasure to assist him with his daily needs & he ensured you didn’t forget to shave him on a daily basis as he always took pride in the way he was groomed. A true Mallee farmer who had a very loving & supportive family who he so looked forward to their regular visits. May Stan now RIP. Cheers.

  3. Thank you, Lisa, for your wonderful reflections on Stan – a true gentle man.
    I was inspired by his sermons from time to time when he was a guest preacher around the Mallee because they were based in the reality of living well and faithfully. He was a living sermon.
    His life around the farm and in the community was constantly civil, caring, dedicated and true.
    His family’s tribute to him reflected this lovingly.

  4. Stan spoke at my mother’s funeral in 1967. I’ve always been grateful to him for this. His kind ways, and his lovely sense of humour always made him popular with all the nurses and domestic staff at the Ouyen nursing home where I am an Enrolled Nurse. It’s been a real privilege to care for him in his twilight years and he’ll be greatly missed.

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