I'm assuming everyone in the the Blogger-sphere and beyond is writing about the death this week of Steve Jobs and what he mean't to them. And who am I to buck the trend? But my Uncle Colin Kerr died this week as well, two days before Steve. And he mean't more to me, even though I'd only met him several times more than I'd met Steve. Which was none. But I admired them both, if not for different reasons.
Steve was a distant, cult-like, celebrity figure who made computers, gadgets and movies I adore, (how long will it be before the first post-death sightings begin to surface?) My Uncle Colin was my Dad's cousin who with his wife, Eileen and their sons, owned and ran one of those big old sprawling Australian Sheep Stations that were the envy of the world back in the day, but later struggled through mountains of debt and endless drought in Western NSW.
I'm too young to remember early childhood visits to 'Wattlevale', west of Young but east of Quandialla and Bibbaree, but I remember vividly our family holiday out there in my early teens. In the late seventies, we trundled out in the family Holden Kingswood towing one of the old, modest sized Viscount Caravans and parked ourselves under the shade of the coolibah trees* that bordered the area of the Farm. I don't remember it being excessively hot but I do remember it being bright, flat and brown with bits of olive green in between a cloudless blue sky.
I've only flashes of memories now. I remember the homestead and it's enormous kitchen with the smell of the wood fired stove in it. The creamy fresh milk that my sister and I excitedly helped milk straight from the cow that very cold morning and poured out later at breakfast onto our bowls of Wheet-bix. Stomping down the wool, shawn fresh from the sheep into the canvas bales and the laughter of the shearers at my chubby size and young enthusiasm. The heat of the sun outside in the flat pasture and the coolness of the Wool-sheds interior. The overwhelming, sweet smell of lanolin and spreading out the wool onto the table to be sorted. The farm dogs, Pepper and 'D-fer' ('D fer Dog' geddit?) who seemed so pleased to be running with kids and the attention they got as a change from being yelled and whistled at. 'Smoko' breaks with all of the shearers and drinking hot tea from a battered old metal Thermos and eating thickly cut fresh sandwiches from an equally battered old metal esky left over from the fifties and perched on the rear tray of an old Bedford truck.
My Aunty Eileen Kerr (left) and Mum at Wattlevale
I remember my Uncle Colin especially. He loomed, like the cliche to me, larger than life. When I see the independent politician from Tamworth, Tony Windsor on the telly I get a sense of him. Strong, solidly built. Conservative but based on common sense and experience rather than any blind right-wing ideology. Balding and pale on top from the sweat stained old Akubra that only reluctantly left his head to come indoors and a tan line across his forehead below which was a sun-weathered and kind, smiling round face. He was soft spoken, good humored but the quiet type. He taught my sister and I how to slaughter a sheep. A taste of reality for us townies from the coast. We had a hilarious adventure chasing it down that day in the paddock, putting it into the boot of the ole Kingswood and bringing it back to the Homestead. Uncle Colin held it down and showed us how to cut it's throat cleanly and quickly so it wouldn't suffer. We watched in intense fascination as the blood spurted out from the wound. Then as he began butchering it we pulled out the long ribbon of it's intestines down the length of the farm so we could see how long they got. But it wasn't gruesome or cruel. It was instructional and to us at that age, extremely interesting. We were taught to be respectful of the creature who gave up it's life for us to eat cooked to delicious perfection for the rest of our all too short holiday. (a couple of weeks I think).
From what my Dad has told me, like him, Uncle Colin worked hard all his life taking over the property after his father died. The last few years were a constant battle. I don't believe in god. But if there is one it's an arse-hole deity with a questionable sense of humour for the last few decades of shit it put my Uncle and Aunty Eileen through. If there was a break in the constant drought it was always just over the hill and not on Wattlevale and if there was rain there was so much it washed any benefit away.
He had a couple of strokes and didn't recognise anyone in his last days which ended earlier this week. They're burying him today and I'm sure that there will be a lot of folk from the district there to celebrate his life and say hoo-roo. I feel for my Dad at the moment who I know was really close to his cousin as men of that generation can be. Dad and Mum visited them often. My sister and I never made it back to Wattlevale. Not because we didn't want to. It just never happened. One of those things. But Uncle Colin has a particularly special place in my heart and memories.
Steve Jobs was a distant celebrity figure who headed a company that make beautifully designed and engineered computers, that for me are a pleasure, rather than a chore to use. All of the fidgety, tech stuff is done 'under the hood' leaving me to just get on with creating stuff. And I've never been as productive as I have since I switched to Mac. Apart from anything else about them - I love how they look like we imagine computers should look rather than the dull and utilitarian beige boxes of their uninspired competitors.
I love the iPad which rarely leaves my side. I take my books, magazines artwork, newspapers, amazing apps everywhere with me and interact with friends and the world on it. I'm continuing my education and expanding and challenging my consciousness and thoughts on it. I'm still in awe of the iPhone as a companion device and the things you can do on it. I don't watch much free to air Telly anymore, it's all streamed from the net onto my AppleTV and I hire the latest movies on it without having to worry about being fined for late returns. All with a couple of clicks of a small, splendidly designed remote control.
Steve Jobs pushed computers and technology to be what we imagined they should be and not to settle for what we were given as a compromise.
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* I don't know if they were Coolibah trees or what even a Coolibah tree is, but it seemed poetic to put them in. Facts are for Journalists' not story tellers. (Hey! Does that make me like Allen Jones?)