Sometimes it can be difficult to discern a real story from a larrikin jest when talking to Australians. One of the first Aussies I worked with was a woman from rural Queensland on an ocean going ship. Because of the close quarters on a ship, we would often entertain & introduce ourselves by telling stories. This Queenslander would tell us about her pet kangaroo which she kept on a leash and sometimes she would take him to school. We thought she was pulling our collective leg. Did she think of us as such rubes as to believe a hokey story like that? Even if it did sound quintessentially Australian? Well, she was very serious and we believed her. But it still sounds a bit too cliche.
Fast forward to a recent speech I heard in a speechcraft class. One of the participants, Sarah, was talking about her life growing up in the country. She belonged to a farming family and it was all she was and wanted to be. Barefoot and braids, hijinks and early morning milkings. Her country school had between 15 and 30 kids in it, depending on the season. Life was a hayseed dream. And then her mother wanted her to learn to be a lady and sent her to finish high school at a boarding school closer to the City. She didn’t become much of a lady or prissy there as it was chock-a-block with other country girls. They just shared bad habits. To make this experience worse, it was the first time she had been required to wear shoes inside the school and outside for play, too. It was all too unbearable. Sarah just wanted back on the farm.
Alas, modern farming requires more than a plow and a handful of seeds. It requires business skills and our Sarah headed back to the Big City. “But just for the university agri-business degree and then I was heading back!” she exclaimed. “I’m a country girl.” Something happened on the way to to that degree. Sarah found that she actually liked city lights…and even wearing shoes. And today, in a full 180 degree turn, she works as an accountant in the City. In skirts instead of overalls. With ladylike pumps covering her bare feet. I forgot to ask if she had a pet kangaroo, also.
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I was chatting with a man at a bus stop near my home. He was friendly and unfamiliar with the bus system. “I’m in from the country. The Big City is overwhelming to me.” I have to admit I glanced at his footwear and for evidence of a leash. We chatted during the short trip into the business district and he described the small town he lives in. “We have only three businesses. In fact, one day a friend and I counted all the buildings in our town. Including those three businesses, there are 47 buildings total!”
Small town, indeed. Welcome to the Big City.