On my Facebook Christine Larsen – Author page, I happened to mention one of my special rings in the context of some things in life that are truly treasures. I also hinted at an amazing story behind that beautiful ring, and promised I would give another sneak preview from the second book of my farming memoirs, by publishing it here. Please remember this is only in first draft form yet. I am wading through 2nd edits of the early chapters at the moment, and there will probably be several more edits of the entire book before I’m satisfied that it’s the best I’m capable of at this moment in time.
‘Old McLarsen had some Farms’
The Milky Way
Here’s a sneak preview of another chapter to keep you hooked (I hope). It comes from right near the end of this book, and it’s called –
A Two Ring Circus
“Terrible news. I’ve lost my wedding ring!” One look at Kanute’s miserable face told me it was the sad truth.
Next to our dairy was a feed silo high on a stand to provide gravity fall for the dairy feed to flow into bags from an outlet at its base. Kanute had been at the top of the ladder suspended alongside the silo, cleaning out the powdery build-up of dust from inside the rim. This dust had become sticky with the moisture in the air from fogs and heavy dew, and his fingers had become encrusted in a thick layer.
Without a cloth to wipe hands on, the trusty jeans had to suffice and from time to time a good flick of his fingers to dislodge the finer stuff – until one unfortunate time his wedding ring went too! It flew high in the air, glinting brightly and bravely in the sun, over the space next to the silo where a tractor and trailer could usually pass through, only to disappear somewhere in our tall hay shed. It would of course be the year the shed was filled with a near-record number of bales of golden hay – so many they were stacked outside as well, more than half filling the space between.
Luckily for us, a few weeks earlier the carting of this bumper year’s hay cut was achieved with the help of friends AND a large trailer behind our tractor capable of carrying 90 bales of hay at a time. Could we ever forget the first year of our dairy enterprise when we were so poor, all we could afford to buy was a small wooden trailer (with wooden wheels) able to cart only 25 bales at a time, stacked precariously high. Thanks to its great bouncy springs and the slope of our land, we would lose a large part of the load any time we hit a hole or a bump… and there were many of them on the trip back to the shed. Of course, that would be the all-time record year we cut four acres of pasture and made 3,000 bales of hay, wouldn’t it? Great for the pocket – but murderous for our backs. Youth, grim determination and absolute necessity do have distinct advantages when the going gets this rough.
Meanwhile, back at the site of the unimaginable loss, Kanute searched high and low – not for the proverbial ‘needle in a haystack’, but for one bright, shiny golden ring tucked away somewhere in the mountain of shiny golden hay. For weeks and weeks he searched – over and over again. Me too! Every visitor had a hopeful but luckless look, and even the kids were lured into the quest with the promise of $20 to the lucky finder (in the late 1970’s this was a small fortune for a kid). Every time Kanute lifted a bale of hay to take to feed out to the stock, he would look again, eternally hopeful it would miraculously be uncovered. All hopes were consistently dashed.
Months went by and as the stack of hay shrank, we despaired of finding it and finally abandoned all hope. We were certain it must have been in a bale fed out to the cows, somewhere on our 165 acres – or had slid between the bales, to be buried forever in the deep layer of broken down hay that remained after the last bale was lifted and would form a base for the following year’s harvest.
Life went on but the pale dent in Kanute’s finger remained, as did the sad empty space in our hearts. You don’t feel a wedding ring on your finger after a few years of wearing it – and yet you certainly DO feel the loss when it’s no longer there. Kanute can attest to that.
Until… some six months later, on a day no different to any other, he was lifting bales of hay onto the back of the ute to feed out to the cows. Nothing new about that – except that in those six months the exposed hay had weathered to a dull brown on the outsides of the bales. As he turned back from the ute, ready to lift the next bale by its trusty baling twine, sitting there gleaming cheerfully on the top of the bale was his wedding ring!
Shock, disbelief, wonder and then the greatest joy flashed by as we studied this unimaginable find. Like a pirate discovering hidden treasure, Kanute had struck ‘pure gold’. I wish I could report that the lottery ticket we bought in celebration was equally joyous – but it would seem we had received our quota of good luck. It mattered little to us. We were more than happy to settle for Kanute’s most special discovery.
I cannot leave this triumphant moment without sharing a story of another ring in another place, even though it’s an off-farm tale. We were in Western Australia, finding our way around our first Royal Perth Show, when we were attracted to a crowd of spectators in front of an unusual stand in one of the pavilions. A long glass aquarium contained all the usual sea grasses and rocks and small plastic ornaments. Instead of real fish languishing in the water, brightly coloured fake fish and turtles bobbed around above several thick layers of closed oyster shells.
The small Japanese showman encouraged his audience to pay $2.00, to go fishing with a net on a handle, “give it a twist, a flick of the wrist” and catch an oyster shell. He would shuck it open and reveal… maybe just a grain of sand, or even nothing at all! If that was the case you could have a second dip, but no more chances after that. Anything larger than a small peppercorn with a ‘pearly’ hue was considered a fair return for your money.
Now and then someone would get one a little larger and that was the appeal and charm of this unlikely ‘fishing trip’ – and the reason for the crowd. We thought it all a bit of a joke and dutifully lined up for our turn to choose ‘the’ one, following serious and careful deliberation. Lady Luck had a grin from ear to ear that day, because my pearl was enormous! And it had the most beautiful and rich cream glow, with warm apricot and palest pink hues. There was only one tiny flaw where it had been joined to the shell.
The poor little stall-holder paled and looked near to collapse as a collective gasp came from all the onlookers. I could barely breathe and wanted to laugh and cry all at the same time… and I did. How well I remember the shock and disbelief on the vendor’s face as he told us this had never happened to him before. The first offers to buy my pearl were made right then and there by envious onlookers in the crowd. But there was no way we were parting with our $2.00 pearl.
For a long time afterwards we agonized over the best way to handle our beauty until we made the decision to keep it intact until a future, more financial day arrived. And so our beauty went into safe-keeping for some years, as we struggled through the toughest and leanest of our farming life. Sometimes years would go by without a thought of this treasure, until 1980 arrived and we realised this would be the year of our Pearl wedding anniversary, by Modern count. Traditionally, Pearl is the 30th anniversary – but that seemed a lifetime away… back then!
Now we remembered our wondrous pearl and fetched her out of safe storage to gasp and wonder anew, and fall in love with her all over again. We took her to a trusted jeweller for his advice and were not disappointed – by his reaction, or his suggestion after much careful deliberation. He was profoundly impressed and confirmed what we already suspected – this was a valuable pearl. (In fact, it measures 8mm across and we believe it to be 5 carats and 1 gram in weight). Our highly experienced jeweller saw it as a ring, sitting high on a strong but simple gold claw on a plain gold band so absolutely nothing would detract from its beauty. We needed no convincing. It sounded wonderful… and it was a perfect choice.
The ring was ready for us to collect a few days before we were, due to our farm commitments. Our jeweller kept the ring in pride of place in a locked glass cabinet on his counter-top, so he could continue to admire the treasure and his own artistic contribution. It apparently attracted much attention and several offers to purchase. One lady returned a couple of times, bidding more each time, to an amazing high of $450.00 (a tidy sum in 1980). At this stage, the jeweller promised to speak to us in case we would consider selling it, but he was correct when he suspected we would refuse.
As I write this, we head towards our 49th wedding anniversary and I have just put my beloved pearl ring on as I finish her story. Impossible to believe it is more than 45 years since she emerged from her shell, to be greeted with the shock and wonderment of all who witnessed her unveiling. Her mellow beauty never changes, never diminishes or dulls with age.
This would have to be the BEST $2.00 we ever spent.