When I was share milking for him he’d come and help and I got flak from others that he was still doing this. So, in an effort to stop him I hid his gumboots, but he came down and milked in his slippers, so I gave up. He would appear mid-way through the morning milking, milk a couple of rows then go up to the garden, do some work and then go and have breakfast; it was his morning ritual.
Dad often took concrete-breaking jobs and I was the muscle of the gun. He was the boss. We worked together on a lot of jobs and it stays in my memory as some of the best times in my life. I still consider him to be one of my best mates now.
Dad was always warning us about springs on our farm, as back at Spring Farm one of the horses founded in the spring and disappeared. Over time in true Simmonds-style the story grew. When retold by others the cart went in as well and disappeared.
It was when I joined the army that I found out how well he had taught us. I found the Morse key lessons were very easy for me and the others in training were struggling to learn what I had been taught as a child. Grandad has shown by example in life to all of us how to be a man, a grandfather and great-grandad. He is my idol and very loved by all of us. He truly is an awesome grandfather and I feel blessed to have been so lucky to have had his influence in my life.
Many memories fill my mind
Of holidays, Christmas days
And many other good times.
To us he’s our unsung hero
As he braved the terror of war
He fought gallantly for our country
Through hardship he did endure.
They captured him, they tortured him
This we cannot comprehend
The youth of today could not survive
What was done to these brave men.
A life that’s full of history
Many turmoils along the way
No one knows what you’ve been through
As you never really say.
Thank you for being a grandad
Who’s always had the time
To sit and chat to all of us
You’re truly one-of-a-kind.
Even though we might not say it
We appreciate all you do
Richly blessed is how we feel
Having a grandad as great as you.
You’ve always been our hero
You’ve always been our pride
You’ve always given so much love
And shown what’s deep inside.
Love Trina, Mike, Jake, Sam and Brooke
Lance and Gavin Simmonds
Another day on the farm
Gavin and I were always looking for different things to get up to on the farm, and during the school holidays it was always fun and adventurous. This particular school holiday was no exception. We were left alone for a few hours, tearing up the farm on the motor bikes when we thought it was a great idea to try and get the four-wheeler stuck in the effluent pond, which formed a drain that didn’t go anywhere. We must have been riding in and out of it for at least twenty minutes before we realised we were being watched by Grandad to our horror and shock. He was not happy at all and came storming over to us, yelling, “You little shits! Give me the keys, I’m telling your father.” The bike was still buried deep in the pond and there was no way of escaping this one, so we biffed the keys away keeping an eye on where they landed. Grandad spoke in the tone that says, “You’ve taken it too far.” I can’t remember exactly what was said, but I know it was bad enough that it couldn’t be written down here anyway. After the telling off, followed by our sore bums from being kicked, he left in the direction of the house yelling after him, “I’m calling your father to tell him what you little shits have been doing.”
We quickly scrambled for the keys knowing it was a race to get home before he did. We grabbed the keys and fired up the bikes and we were off, leaving a trail of destruction behind us. Well Grandad heard the bikes start up and he was mad; he turned to us and proceeded to chase us down the race-way towards home yelling everything you can imagine at us. He gave up after a hundred metres or so and we headed for home. To our surprise, Dad was already informed about what we had done and the mess that we had made. We were turned around and made to go back and apologise to Grandad for our actions. I remember the look of satisfaction on Grandad’s face as we arrived on our push-bikes at his place. It was the look that says, “I’ve WON!”
With a smile, I remember how as a little girl, I collected strawberries from the orchard while Dad and Grandad helped me. That memory tickles me still whenever I enter the orchard even now. I remember how I used to play on the rusty swing set in the front lawn. Dad captured a moment when Grandad was on the swings with me when I was perhaps three years old. We are both laughing and having fun and that photo is on my computer as my wallpaper.
I remember Grandma bustling in the kitchen cooking dinner, then Grandad cleaning up afterwards, and running around the humungous lounge room playing with the toys that are still there today. Even now, Grandad is very particular with doing the dishes, and he provided some practical advice when it seemed I broke the dishwasher recently.
Each year we visited, there was always something new to learn and do. I used an air-rifle for the first time with Grandad, Dad and James. We were shooting tin cans and a hand-drawn target nailed into the tree. Both Grandad and Dad gave advice on resting the end of the gun on a post to steady it, to gently squeeze the trigger and hold your breath as you shoot. It was great fun. I remember roaring around the farm paddocks on the quad bike, where the wind would stream through my hair and make my eyes tear; it was a simple fun way to take in the landscape and celebrate being on Grandad’s farm. Even now, it’s something I look forward to doing again.
Grandad was never a talkative person, however, whenever he did have something to say it was always either informative and educational, an interesting story of his time in the army or a hilarious joke. Even now he still cracks a joke if the opportunity is there. He has always been active on the farm; Dad has a great photo of Grandad standing on top of a tractor when he was in his eighties and we’ve watched him ride his bicycle out to the mailbox.
Grandad has been a significant part of my childhood as well as a great role model and I will never forget these fond memories on Grandad’s farm.
Grandad’s sense of humour will be always with me. He’s a person that tells it like it is, a straight shooter. Most of the time he keeps to himself but when he does say something it’s nearly always funny. How can I forget this person? He is so caring, loving, funny, sharing and most of all, he left his family to serve the world so we can have freedom in this land we live in. We thank you Grandad from the bottom of our hearts and you will always be in our hearts and prayers.
James Simmonds Jr.
The farm in New Zealand was a place of joy, I never lived there but it felt like home, endlessly spoiled by Grandma and endlessly put to laughter by Grandad. Humour is probably the most memorable aspect of Grandad to me; every lesson was with a laugh, every laugh a lesson. Cushion fights in the lounge started with me sneaking up to his chair and, with all my wobbly toddler strength, gently landing a cushion on him and me fleeing. They ended with a sniper-like accurate throw across the room taking my legs out with precision. Hugs were quick and often paired with a playful jab in the ribs or a tickle, in fact I don’t think he missed an opportunity to make us grandkids squeal. Outside of the house on the land, Grandad shared with us his knowledge, describing everything we city-slicker-kids looked at, the function of this, the meaning of that, here, eat this. Hey! Don’t eat that. My youth is highlighted and defined with times at the farm.
We left New Zealand and lived in Australia after 1994, the farm became a place we had to visit during holidays and less often, however it never lost the feeling of home. In my mind, it would never change. As I got older and learned more about the world I was able to understand and further respect Grandad’s journey through life. I had an interest in history and global conflicts, the hard, sobering facts of the world’s history were fascinating to me. My Grandad lived through a dark moment in the world’s history, and his journey alone through that period is staggering, something that thankfully our generation and more will hopefully never encounter. Grandad’s sense of humour stood out to me even more so after that, every laugh shared with him is precious to me and something I will keep forever.
My grandad is the golden standard in my world, fighting a turbulent time in history as a young soldier, to tending the water and earth as a farmer. He’s the strength in the hammer and the resilience of the anvil that’s forged a blessed life for all of us. And mostly, he reminds me, don’t forget to laugh and enjoy all moments of life.
I remember the things you’ve shown me. Watching and learning from you when you used to come and help Mum and Dad on the farm, drilling bores, making septic tanks, building things, working on your tailgate on the back of the Bedford truck, teaching us about helping others and just getting on with the job.
You’ve taught me that nothing is too hard to fix. If it is, you haven’t thought hard enough about it, like when you got a drill piece out of a bore that undid itself a hundred feet (approximately thirty metres) below ground. The near misses; burying the drill monkey into the ground next to where you were standing, riding a quad bike through a seven-wire fence while chasing bulls at seventy-plus years of age, you really should have known better.
The war stories; from your enlistment to your capture in the desert, the time as a POW and eventual escape and reuniting with the allies are all stories I never got tired of hearing.
So, thank you for the things you’ve taught me and my family Grandad – love, humility, sacrifice and wisdom. I wanted to show people who read this book (and there will be many), what my Grandad means to me and the ways in which he continues to influence my life, and those of my family. We love you and will be always grateful; thank you Grandad.
When it came to converting the dairy shed into a Herringbone; he worked all day smashing concrete with a sledge hammer and younger men couldn’t keep up with him. He helped us build the hay shed at Tauherenikau runoff, lay a new water line from one end of the farm to the other, build the pump shed down at the lake for draining swamps and the big workshop at the main house.
When Dad took down a huge macrocarpa outside the main house, he cut the branches half way through and attached a wire rope from the drilling rig tower to the branch. He then took off in his drilling rig, pulling the tied branch off in a direction that wouldn’t cause damage to any nearby buildings. He was very agile up in the tree with the chainsaw, which he was still using into his nineties. We now manage to keep him on the ground!
Dad built the big arch with me in the gardens. He carted loads of wood chips for the gardens and laid them out to stop weeds growing and keep plants moist.
So, I say to you Dad, thank you for the numerous things you fixed for us; for always being there for us, helping and sharing your knowledge. You saved us no end of money over the years and allowed us to do things we would never have been able to manage without your help. You’d drop everything if we needed help even though you had plenty of your own work. The only thing you didn’t do was help with the sheep! You didn’t like the smell. Thank you Pop, I have greatly appreciated all your help and advice.