With exception to an extreme minority, the greatest fear of any parent is to out live one of their children. Of the many injustices in life, it is said to be the most soul-destroying and the very worst affliction that can be thrust upon anyone with children.
Burying Brooke had its difficulties. Keith and Maude had been told that Brooke’s body would not be released for burial until the coroner had made his investigations. Secondly, as it was a criminal investigation until proved otherwise, the wait could be quite lengthy before the coroner’s report was finalised and passed on to the appropriate Police department, or departments as the case may be.
That the Smiths were originally from Williams, Western Australia, they had made plans thirty odd years earlier that they be buried there. Subsequently, they had purchased plots for themselves. This in itself created another problem. Keith had faced financial ruin through the late 1980’s through to the early 1990’s. The Smith farms’ decline in profitability was directly attributed to a horrific federal treasurer’s actions in 1983, which rolled on to the Prime Minister and his governing party over the latter part of the 80’s, utterly destroying the live export market. From there, the price of wool had been crippled. So bad was it, that wool per kilo had dropped back to its price seventeen years earlier, worse, the value of the Australian dollar dropped by 20%. As a result, the cost of freight to transport sheep from Williams to Perth, some 180 kilometres from the Smith’s shearing shed, rendering sheep less in worth than the cost of freight. As if there could be no further insult to this grievous injury, the cost to feed, mulse, crutch, drench and sheer those same sheep went far beyond any financial return that could be hoped for. Sadly, the result was that the only humane way to deal with the livestock, was for him and his utterly useless 17 year old son to shear all of the sheep themselves. The final tally amounted up to nearly 400 bales of wool, which they put into their machinery shed for storage, having to leave machinery in the weather until further notice.
He, and again his useless bloody son, shot all but a handful of the ten thousand sheep he had on his property, rather than letting them starve unshorn. After they had finished shooting their own, they contracted themselves out to shoot sheep on neighbouring farms. It was a horrible job, and he was pleased his particularly dense blonde headed son didn’t fully grasp the heartbreaking extent of it.
Whilst Keith grew oats for hay and feed, plus a couple of hundred acres of wheat and lupins, the amount of cleared land that could be cropped, plus the uncroppable hills the farm stood on, was not large enough to support the farm. Interest rates had skyrocketed. the end result was that the once beautifully running, and highly successful, generations old farm, was pressed towards to the wall. The only decision Keith was left with was simple, sell up and move on, which he and Maude did in the early 1990’s.
After the farm sold, he and Maude purchased a block of a couple of hundred acres off Clayton Road, to the east of Williams. Brooke, the youngest of the three Smith children by nine years, had had relatively little to do with the town, let alone the family farm. Brooke attended the all girls school, Penrhos College, as a boarder on completing year 7 at Williams District High School, and remained at Penrhos for the entirety of her high school years. She was never to know of the financial strain this added to her parents situation. Inevitably, and as a result of attaining a better than average Tertiary Entrance Examination score, Brooke moved directly on to university, Undertaking a Bachelor of Arts, with English her focus. Degree earned, she was invited back as an Honours student, and then after two years, began her Master’s Degree. Both she and her parents were incredibly proud of her achievements, moreso that she had accepted no financial aid from home directly out of principle. If she was going to take on the world, it would be under her own steam, and on her own terms. She initially shared a house on Hensman Street, South Perth with a friend from school, and then after a year or two, got into her own place. Keith and Maude had moved into their Perth house around the time Brooke began Uni.
Out of school, she had picked up work at Hungry Jacks on Canning Highway in South Perth, and when she turned 18, she attained her RSA qualification, Responsible Service of Alcohol, picked up bar work at the Winchester Hotel on the corner of Mends Street and Mill Point Road, and happily quit her job at Hungry Jacks.
It would turn out to be a God sent job. The hours were favourable, the pay was conducive to her lifestyle, the staff were great, and after a few months the Hotel Manager started to put her on shifts that offered the least interruption in her studies, and with a higher rate of pay. Plus, the Winchester was roughly two kilometres from her flat, and she and another girl from work walked it every shift, giving them their daily exercise. On the very odd occasion that Brooke had to make her way home alone, she would get a lift from one of the staff, or, ring her Mum, and get her to come and collect her.
Once the locals at the pub got to know her, she unexpectedly accrued a following of staunch punters, mostly male, but with the odd female as well, all as a direct result of the way she treated people. In Brooke’s eyes, everyone was genuinely important to her, combined and with a ready smile, a quick conspiratorial wink, a respect for the locals, and a memory like an elephant, everyone loved her. Should anyone regardless of colour, creed, or gender find cause to give the bubbly Brooke grief, they would find themselves surrounded by two or three smiling local patron’s. This usually occurred before the bouncers arrived, once they did, the particular individual would be quietly walked out the door with a quiet word lodged firmly in their ear, along the lines of “Gee that footpath looks hard. Would be a terrible thing to have a fall on a footpath like that. You could lose teeth and who knows what else on that sort of pavement. Be a good lad, and fuck off. The footpath won’t be half as treacherous tomorrow, just you see.”
The security personnel at the Winchester, always highly professional, dealt with everyone using mild tones, a smile, and their ability through size to fully fill any door they chose. They never started fights, they protected all patrons, identification was always checked if there was the remotest chance of someone being under age, and they never chatted up the clientele, plus they were totally unobtrusive, and only seen if they wished to be. Most importantly, if things got particularly out of hand, they would wade in, in an open-handed manner, and quietly defuse the situation. Once somebody was out the door, that is where they stayed. Not one of the staff or any local could recall the bouncers ever punching anyone in at least ten or so years.
Only once had Brooke been the brunt of physical assault by an enormously enraged and drunken patron. With no obvious cause to his outrage, he had grabbed her by the shirt, and attempted to drag her over the bar.
When he awoke in the rear car park behind the pub at around four in the morning, he discovered just how difficult it is to breathe with a shirt full of broken ribs. Another discovery was that in a just a few short hours of unconsciousness he had also become an expert whistler. Losing four top, and two bottom front teeth will do that to a man. His broken nose was a thing bordering on art, and his two black eyes reminded the St. John’s Ambulance Officer that scraped him off the bitumen of a ‘Beagle Boy’ from his childhood comics.
As was to be expected, the Police ‘dropped’ in to the Winchester the following afternoon with a few questions about an assault that had apparently occurred the night before in the car park to the east of the pub. What the Police found was that not only did the bouncers genuinely know nothing about it, the bar staff had no idea that there had been any sort of altercation anywhere near the pub, and the Hotel Manager, smiling genially, had said that the security tapes were available for review, should the cops making the inquiries wish to check them. The tapes, however, were not to leave the premises without a warrant being issued, but they were most welcome to head upstairs to her office to look at them while they were there. Both coppers, having been figuratively around the block a few times, went up stairs, and watched the security tapes in fast forward. The end result being that nothing had appeared out of the ordinary worth pursuing.
By the time the Police were off the premises, local two chaps, both in their mid-forties, known only by their surnames as Russell and Chapman, daily regulars who came in for a post work pint, were quietly spoken to by the Hotel Manager. The end result of the conversation was two pint’s on the house, and “Next time, do it across the bloody road.”
Laying in his Royal Perth Hospital bed, he first saw a nurse, and then two Police Officers. Between sucking his lunch through a straw, the ‘Beagle Boy’ talked from the side of his freshly wired shut mouth, yet was unable to remember exactly what had happened to him, and how he wound up in the car park. He could in no way give a description of his assailant, or assailants. Hence, no formal charges were pressed, and investigations were later ceased.
A day later, the same Police Officers who had ‘dropped’ into the pub, ‘dropped’ back into R.P.H. with a few questions about an incident involving a barmaid at the Winchester Hotel, and, twenty minutes later, formally charged the ‘Beagle Boy’ with assault.
When Brookes final resting place was at last broached and discussed, Maude flatly refused to have her laid to rest in Williams, specifically due to the distance from them, and the fact that she had never liked the town. Perth’s largest cemetery, Karrakatta, was ruled out as Keith found it to be an incredibly impersonal place. Fremantle Cemetery was the next place considered. Whilst quite large by Western Australian standards, it slowly proved to be the best of a bad lot.
It was with considerable, if somewhat ‘numbed’ relief, Maude’s younger sister Liz dropped around later that day to see how they were getting on. Liz, whilst herself grieving not only for the loss of her niece, but tor her sister as well, had taken it upon herself to shoulder the weight of handling all of the horrible, unavoidable, little jobs that must be done when a loved one dies. Her first task was to ring friends and family alerting them to the tragedy. Next she had had to broach the subject of what she was to be buried in. The result was a ball dress that Maude had worn at her 21st birthday, and that Brooke had consequently worn at Maude’s 60th birthday party. Next, Keith had been quite definite about this, was to find a funeral company without advertising on the Herse door, nor a bevy of middle-aged women that bowed and scraped before a coffin. From there, to be expected, the ball began to roll. Liz, phoned the Police, asking them to alert whomever was necessary at Brookes Uni. She busied herself calling real estate agents, cutting off utilities to Brookes rental property. Figuring out where to store Brookes possessions until the family were able to come to grips with dealing was a bigger issue than first envisaged. She would not leave her nieces possessions in someone’s back shed to be destroyed by mice, nor did she have the space in her and her husbands Subiaco home. Thankfully, Liz’s sister in law came to the rescue, and offered up two of her once children’s bedrooms, and would keep Brookes possessions until Keith and Maude were up to going through them. A process that could easily take years to fulfill. In conjunction with this less than savoury task, Liz had her youngest daughter, five years senior to Brooke, go around to Brookes flat to ‘relocate’ any items a parent may discover of a more ‘adult’ nature. Items that may cause embarrassment prior to Liz and her husband, and possibly, although fairly unlikely, Maude, in clearing out Brooke’s little South Perth flat on Strickland Street.
Continuing the lengthy discussion, it became apparent that there was also the problem of a Will. More accurately, did Brooke have one? More questions presented themselves, although not as time sensitive as laying Brooke to rest. Things in the nature of who did Brooke bank through? Where was her superannuation? Worst of all, getting Brooke’s Death Certificate issued and registered.
Three cups of tea into the conversation, Keith arrived home from walking ‘Muffet’ the Jack Russell. Letting the little dog in, and only then removing its lead and hanging it on its coat hook just inside the front door. Wandering past the two ladies, he filled the kettle, and flicked it on. Looking into space he said, “ ‘Pinnaroo’, we’ll bury her there. Grass and trees and kangaroos and birds should surround her. It’s peaceful and personal. She will be laid to rest there.” and that was that. Pinnaroo Valley Memorial Park in Padbury it was to be.
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