My Uncle James taught me how to run after cows like Usain Bolt in gum boots. He also taught me how to use as many swear words as linguistically possible in the space of a sentence.
My earliest memory of him is sitting on the motorbike next to the dairy while we waited for Mum to walk over and catch me when he would lift me over the fence. As she got closer, he whispered in my ear to stick two backwards fingers up to her. I can picture him throwing his head back and laughing while Mum gave him the finger back.
I remember sitting in the tractor next to him while he chased my cousins and brothers around on the rows of hay bales before he went to feed the cows. I was always too scared to run around myself so I would hide in the tractor and we’d both laugh.
I remember him tipping the motorbike on its side doing donuts in the lumpy paddock. On the way home he told me not to tell my Mum, even though he knew I would. Then every time I told that story, he would remind me that his leg was so big it saved mine from being squashed and that he was practically a hero.
I remember him teasing me for driving the motorbike too slowly through the paddock and whining that we had heaps of other jobs to do. Then swearing and complaining the whole way home when I did speed up and had to swerve to avoid a calf; throwing him off the back. Molly was sitting on the other side of the motorbike and the image of him literally rolling like a log down the hill in his blue overalls makes us laugh out loud.
I think anyone that went for the cows with Uncle James came back feeling like they had a new lease on life. The slow ride back behind the cows always included a deep and meaningful conversation. We’d talk about the farm, my friends, the news, life, school and family. Then right before I’d get off the motorbike so he could go up to the dairy, he’d tell me what a champion I was and how well I was doing, and he wouldn’t let me climb over the fence until he was convinced that I believed it too.
When I got sick last year, he called me every two weeks to see how I was going and to tell me (every 10 seconds) how proud of me he was. He also would throw in some goss about the folk from Simpson (always appreciated).
A phone call from Uncle James, like a ride for the cows, always left me with a smile. His ability to talk shit and whip out hilarious one-liners made me wonder if he had scripted them before getting on the phone. But mostly I was smiling because his words always made me feel proud of myself. Every time I anticipated introducing him to one of my friends, it would always be prefaced with “wait until you meet Uncle James”.
I think a lot of people don’t fully comprehend the value they can and already do bring to the lives of the people around them. My world was undoubtedly a better place with Uncle James in it.
Every time we would leave the farm, he’d give me a big bear hug and say “the pleasure’s all yours, Katie” before falling into hysterics.
It certainly was, Uncle James. Rest in peace.