Guest Appearance -Blind Visit By Alice

I thoroughly enjoy reading a lovely website called A Growing Delight and learning all about life in Australia through the eyes of Alice and her family. Alice belongs to a writing group and back in August she wrote the story you are about to read for her writing group. She has kindly sent me her wonderful heart-warming story to share with you all, so sit back and enjoy reading about Gordon the farmer and the blind visit….. 

Gordon was an amazing man. I don’t know anything about his early life, and he was in his early 20s and I was still at Primary School when I first met him.  My friends and I knew Gordon by sight but he didn’t know any of us by sight, for you see, Gordon was blind.

However, blindness didn’t stop Gordon’s determination to become a farmer.  His family lived in Melbourne but each Monday morning he would board the train for the 100klm trip to the tiny West Gippsland town of Lang Lang.  On arrival he would walk the 15klm to Heath Hill along the Westernport Road, sometimes being given a ride by a passing motorist.  Gordon came to know this road well, and many of the local farmers came to know the tall, dark haired figure of Gordon very well, too.  On Friday afternoons he would set out from Heath Hill on the return trip to Lang Lang to catch the train back to Melbourne, sometimes accepting a ride from a farmer or even the local school bus.  His weekends were spent in Melbourne, no doubt some of the time with his fiancée, Rita.  During the week at Heath Hill Gordon was engaged in building a large, corrugated iron shed, divided in two by a passageway open at both ends.  Half of this shed became his milking shed and the other half was to become home for many years for Gordon and Rita after they married, and their increasing family, which ultimately numbered 4 girls and one boy, plus another boy whom they adopted.  All of their children are now grown up and married and Gordon and Rita are grandparents many times over.

Gordon was responsible for one of the most memorable days of my life.  I was 19 years old and teaching 3 days a week at the local school, where two of Gordon’s children were now attending.  This one-roomed school had an enrolment of about 25 pupils in 7 Grades, all of whom were taught by the Headmaster, Paul, on the days that I was not there.  Gordon walked up to the school one day to have a talk to Paul about an idea he had for bringing a group of children and teachers from the Royal Victorian Institute for Blind to the school on a day visit so that they could see how a country school operated.  But it wasn’t only the school that Gordon wanted these children to experience, he wanted to share the experience of country life.  His initial suggestion, when put to the district families, was readily accepted and an invitation was sent to the RVIB.

On the 20 September, the school was the venue for a miracle of co-operation resulting in a miniature agricultural show, and an experience long remembered by all those who took part.  Early in the morning tractors towing a variety of farm machinery such as ploughs, mowers, rakes and hay balers, began arriving at the school, closely followed by sheep, pigs, goats, horses and a variety of pets.  The tractors and machinery were parked in a paddock next to the school ground and the animals were either tethered or penned in enclosures nearby.  At 10 o’clock a bus with 20 children and several teachers and other staff from the RVIB arrived. 

The children had of course been told about the sort of things to expect, and all were keen to explore.  The parents who had brought the machinery and animals stayed and became integral players in this amazing day.  The sighted children each formed small groups with their blind visitors and their teachers and eagerly showed them around the school, slowly and carefully explaining all that their visitors could not see.  Time was spent not only patting but also running their hands over the animals to build up a picture in their minds.  They learned to identify the animals not only by shape but also by smell and sound.  Farmers patiently explained the workings of tractors and machinery, allowing the children to climb over and even to start the tractors.  The owner of the farm nearest the school took several children at a time for rides on a trailer loaded with hay and pulled by the tractor up to his cowshed. Here the children could explore the milking machines, cow yards, and even try milking a cow by hand.

All too soon is was mid-afternoon and time for the farmers to start up their tractors and head for home and their waiting cows, while we at school bade farewell to our new friends.  Our visitors may have learned a lot about country life that day, but I think we learned even more about the courage and resilience of children living and enjoying life despite having what we would consider a major handicap, the loss of sight.  It was a day that was talked about for many weeks by all who had been fortunate enough to share in Gordon’s wonderful vision.

Blind Visit By Alice @ A Growing Delight.

If you have a farming story that you would like to share then please send me your story and I will happily include it on a guest appearance post