The Farmer’s Wife – Motorbikes aren’t Bicycles
I was nervous. Sure, I could ride a bicycle, but a motorbike was a totally different story. The rusty old Suzuki ER 185cc with its bright yellow tank and muddy cow shit covered spokes looked harmless enough. It was aged beyond its years from some seriously tough farm work. Thankfully, George was a patient teacher, (something that still rings true today), he had spent time explaining how everything worked and how once I was moving the bike would feel more balanced. I rode around on the flat areas and I had been going ok, getting the hang of it quite nicely. Now George can be very encouraging and maybe just a little overly optimistic at times. I think this was probably one of those times when his expectations were beyond my ability. He asked me to ride up to the top paddock and check to see if the water tank was full. The farm was fully reliant on water pumped from the Murray River lower lakes, in particular Lake Alexandrina. Our pump station was a few kilometres away and the header tank was high up on the hill so it could gravity feed all the cow troughs, house and dairy water supply. George might have been full of confidence on this day, but confidence was not really my strength when it cam to new skills. Ignoring the little voice inside my head, I rode off across the paddocks. I rode down the track, through the sandy slope and off to the mud flats where I stopped to open up the gate. I jumped back on and rode up the hill to the tank and stopped again to jump up over the edge and peer in. All good, off I went to report my findings, my confidence building now.
I was nearly back to the dairy after stopping to shut the gate; all was going well until I reached that sandy slope which stood between the flat paddocks and the hard packed track leading to the dairy. As I rode up the sandy hill to the dairy, the bike began to labour. Whoops, I was in the wrong gear, damn. Quickly I shifted down, but not quickly enough. The bike stopped in the deep sand and simply laid down to die. I half jumped, half slid from the bike as it landed heavily on my left leg. I wasn’t going to be outdone by a ‘bloody’ bike. So I leaned over, grabbed the handle bars and tried very unsuccessfully to lift the bike back upright. I tried a number of times, sliding on the sandy slope as the bike tried to roll back down the hill, its weight too much for me to hold in place. I know what you are thinking. I am thinking it too, right now as I write this story. Why didn’t I put the brakes on as I lifted it up? Der, I was only a learner and if I recall, this was before we got married, so still new to driving a car, let alone a bike on sand. I can clearly remember kicking the bike, which of course hurt me and not the bike at all. I then stomped my way back to the dairy, red faced and frustrated. George was full of sympathy between gales of laughter as I re-told my story. I couldn’t make up my mind if I was angry with the bike, him or my lack of skill. Most likely the latter. I have always had the habit of expecting perfection without practise. Although I still became the Farmer’s Wife I never did ride the motorbike again. Now after having achieved so much more in my life I actually feel quite sad about not pushing myself to ride again, but there was no way I was going to push past the failure back then. It was years later and many more farming fiascos before I learnt not to give up so easily and not to expect to do everything perfectly first time or not at all.