Leading a double life of a Circus Rider

Old circus banner found on the net

Old circus banner found on the net

My mother was a beautiful person. Smart, intelligent, worldly,witty and sophisticated. Her families were very much old money, old school who had come out from England. They had immigrated as settlers, not as criminals as many that had come later were. A great-grandfather was the first Judge of the Supreme Court of NSW in the 1850’s.

My father was always a gentleman. He was a softly spoken man, very self assured and confident as a horseman, and stockman.

Mother entertained her family and friends at our beautiful big house, with its sweeping verandah and views over the valley below. There was a massive garden area, with a circular road around an internal garden. On one side there was a huge Rose Garden enclosing a manicured lawn. On the other side of the garden, there was a small fruit orchard, with plum, apricot and apple trees.

We lived about a mile from the Town Centre. The long road leading to our house was made up of houses for half the length up to a small bridge, followed by open paddocks and  only two houses near the bridge at the half way point. Our house was at the end of the street. My parents also held a large acreage of leased land adjoining the farm proper, including land across the road.

A neighbour owned a magnificent property at the end of intersection. Their house was a further three miles into their property, amongst rolling hills.They too were very proper people, old school old money, very much like my family.

My parents were strict, and fun loving. We were to be on our best behaviour at all times.

Some times we had some fun, being a little wicked, or bored.

We planned our trickery at times, when the neighbours were due to drive past  our property. That timing seemed most appropriate for this behaviour.

My sister and I were training our horses, and teaching ourselves to become trick riders, like we had seen at the circus. We had practiced most of our tricks in the confines of the Ring Yard or training facilities, until they were mastered.

At the appropriate times we took the horses out into the paddocks, in full view of anyone in the vicinity. With perfect timing, after waiting to see the car coming over the hills, on the horizon we performed our tricks.

We rode our horses back to front, facing and hanging onto the tail. We jumped from one horse to another, landing on the back of the other rider, or onto a riderless horse. We rode the horses clinging onto the side of the horse, hanging onto the reins at the side, with just a hand on the top of the saddle for balance. One leg was slipped through a stirrup on the side, but that was rather dangerous. Most of the time we had our legs outstretched along the length of the horse. These stunts took hours of practice.

To the casual observer, It appeared that the horses were riderless, but going around in perfect circles together, or galloping side by side.

These riding tricks also came in very handy when working on the farm. Dodging the magpies, or the Plovers during their breeding season was a hazard. We had no choice, the cows had to be brought in, or taken to different paddocks, and the swooping birds were simply normal part of life. The Magpies had nests in most paddocks, the Plovers near the dam in the front paddock. Bribing my brothers or sister to do my job during these periods was worth it. My allergy of feathers is another story for another day.

We thought our parents were not aware of these escapades, that we were smart and could get away with the behaviour.

The neighbours would phone my parents and express concern over what had been witnessed that day. The children expected to be confronted with an awkward situation. Lying was not an option for us, but how to deny our shenanigans. However it was us children who waited nervously for a reprimand that rarely came. Years later mum told me they had been keeping an eye on us, there was not much they did not know.

My parents employed people to work on the farm, farm hands, gardeners, and housekeepers. There  was always an adult around somewhere keeping an eye on us. I expect our understanding with these employees to keep mum about our shenanigans, was actually fed back direct to my parents.

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