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Butchers Parade

Butchers Parade

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Butchers Parade

189 página
3 horas
Dec 23, 2012


'Butchers Parade' adopts a perspective sometimes described as nostalgic realism. It unfolds like a series of black and white photographs depicting a patchwork past. The reader enters a world long gone and encounters a time of simple pleasures marred by a disastrous military conflict.
Set in the third quarter of the twentieth century, the stories of 'Butchers Parade' feature the quintessentially Australian location of Redgate - a meatworks town on the western fringe of Sydney - as well as the blighted circumstances of wartime Indo-China. The narratives are united by the presence of the hulking figure of Horrie, a young meatworker who spends his spare time playing rugby league and drinking at the Railway Hotel. Horrie loves his home town and its people but he is conscripted and sent to fight in Vietnam. On his return to Redgate, Horrie is a troubled man, haunted by distorted recollections of brutal battles and caught up in a romance that seems hopeless.
David Morisset is an Australian writer, who has published novels, poetry and short stories. His poem 'Persian Princess' was commended in the John Shaw Neilson Poetry Award (Fellowship of Australian Writers National Literary Awards 2009). He is a former diplomat and economist.

Dec 23, 2012

Sobre el autor

David Morisset is an Australian author who grew up in Riverstone, which was then a meatworks town in Sydney's semi-rural western districts. He moved to Canberra to study at the Australian National University and chose to roam the world, first as a diplomat and later as an economist. Although he has spent most of his life in Australia, he has also lived in Iran and Tanzania. His work as an economist involved extensive travel throughout Asia, North America, Western Europe and Oceania. Over recent years he has published several novels as well as collections of short stories and poems.

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Butchers Parade - David Morisset


revised edition

David Morisset

© David Morisset 2014

All rights reserved

This book is a work of fiction.

All names and characters are the products of the author’s imagination.

Please see author’s notes and acknowledgements at the end of this book.

Smashwords Edition

This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. It may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this ebook with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please visit Smashwords.com and purchase your own copy.

Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.

Again, for the alumni of Rivo High,

and for the people of Riverstone


"Wake up Bigpig! One hour before we go out to meet new people and kill them!" Callan was a detestable pest. It was an Australian army rule. Every patrol had to have one.

Horrie responded with a lazy wave of his right hand and let his eyes close again.

Dreamin’ ‘bout Reddo meatworks is ya? Youse butchers must really love meat to work in a bloodhouse like that! What about the girlfriend? Does she love meat too? Callan was moving on to annoy someone else by the time his crass words registered with Horrie.

Sharlene. ‘Er name’s Sharlene, Horrie muttered to himself and sighed the sigh of the downhearted.

In Vietnam in 1971 it seemed there was no present tense. There was no time for simply being. It was as if every moment had to be devoted to whatever tasks must be tackled in the forlorn future that kept rolling out in front of you. The surrounding collective past was evident but it was so brutal and, mercifully, murky, that it was best forgotten.

Of course everyone’s remote private past was different. It was elevated to the status of a staple form of sustenance absolutely vital for survival. No matter how undistinguished, memories of home and reminders of loved ones kept men alive while death screeched invitations all around.

So it was that Horrie Sherwood sat under the flaccid awning of a canvas tent on the khaki perimeter of the base at Nui Dat and refreshed himself by remembering Redgate and his young life in Butchers Parade.

Almost three years back, when the last exams of high school were sent for marking, most of Horrie’s friends could not wait to get out of Redgate. Once the Higher School Certificate examination results were out, they were headed elsewhere.

He was different – although that was not obvious from his appearance, his language nor his pastimes. For his fellow students, the small meatworks town was simply too far away from the action. They wanted cities and their advantages – bigger stages and bigger rewards, substantial places that were not dominated by rural throwbacks, places that did not smell of blood and bone.

Horrie, on the other hand, was happy to build on the foundation of his young life on the northwestern outskirts of Sydney. It was not that the harbour city and the rest of world were insignificant in his mind but he believed that, above all, he needed to belong. And – although Horrie might not have posed the question in precisely this way - who could feel part of any city’s massive mesh of anonymous faces and still see themselves as unique or, at least, distinct?

At the end of school, his classmates planned to plot paths to various far-flung fortunes. When, in occasional moments of condescension, their thoughts turned to Horrie, it seemed to them that he was most likely to give up any hopes of worldly advancement and stay at home, marry a local girl, find a local job, and settle down to a local routine.

Today, beneath that mildewed canvas flap on the edge of Asia’s cruellest battlefield, Horrie's memories were so stark he could almost smell the offensive stench of a dry west wind as it blew out of the meatworks’ killing yard.

He thought of the final days of school. How good was it to walk out of the last exam alive? Then, perhaps for the first time, Horrie had been so tired to the point of exhaustion after the exacting exertions of the HSC. The last frantic few months of his formal education had taken a toll. In the wet heat of Vietnam, Horrie could still feel the fatigue.

He pictured the afternoon of the day he had completed the very last exam paper – a day that had begun when he had risen early to be at school by 7:30 am to do some last minute cramming with Sharlene. When the long day was almost spent, Horrie had slouched in an old wooden chair on the slightly elevated rear verandah of his childhood home.

From there, he had had a view of the back yard – a well-grassed stretch that did not quite go on forever. His eyes had been drawn to the mass of pale purple pigface flowers that clumped beside the fibro outside toilet.

Dull dashes of perfume had risen from the row of dwarf oleanders that divided the yard into two unequal portions. That slightly acrid smell from the drooping branches’ olive green leaves had camouflaged the occasional unpleasant odours from the adjacent septic tank. The backdrop tang of the eucalyptus stands beyond the back fence almost failed to register simply because it was so familiar.

At times the yard would be full of the noise of birds – black and white magpies, colourful in their own way as they rehearsed their subtle symphonies, dirty brown sparrows with their cheerful chirps, and, spasmodically, kingly kookaburras looking for something to laugh about, while the turquoise tips of their tucked-in wings flashed in the brilliant light typical of eastern Australia.

That afternoon had been quiet - so peaceful that Horrie’s usually energetic fox terrier had settled down for nap, his front legs with their pure white feet cradling his satisfied face.

In the last light hours of that afternoon of welcome rest, Horrie’s eyes had lifted to the horizon without taking in the velvety green paddocks studded with motley groups of blameless brown cattle awaiting the pleasure of the slaughtermen in the nearby meatworks’ killing yard. Above the azure blurs of the Blue Mountains, the sun had strobed listlessly as it slipped lower in the western sky and reddened the mean remnants of scattered cumulus clouds.

Now, from the vantage point of a docile Nui Dat morning, Horrie saw that sweet afternoon in Redgate as a good time to daydream for people that were so inclined. However, his mind had been empty of anything approaching the stature of a dream as he scanned the dusky vista lazily, amused enough by the convoy of colours to be unambiguously content. He had watched the fiery performance in the sky until the powder blue canopy turned indigo and the evening star pricked its way into the purple gloom.

Only minutes away from the exertions of his next patrol, and feeling unsettled under a sizzling southeast Asian sun, Horrie was tired again, this time to the point of intolerable weariness. He was not only exhausted by war but he was also drained by the aches and pains of missing Redgate and its meatworks.

It was almost time to get ready for the next expedition into another kind of killing yard.


Redgate’s grandly named Barrington Avenue was suggestive of a long tree-lined thoroughfare flanked by impressive dwellings overlooking white picket fences and flowering rose bushes. The expectation was that fallen petals would be the only evidence of any forms of untidiness born of either economic constraints or incidental dereliction of domestic duties by the street’s occupants. The reality was something else again.

In 1950 when Horace Reginald Sherwood joined its residents, Barrington Avenue was slightly wider than one car lane and perfectly suited to the perambulations of a horse and sulky. The driving surface consisted of beige dust in the dry and brown mud in the wet. There was no suggestion of the kerbing and guttering that was being introduced to some of the more important roads that criss-crossed Redgate in a rectangular but not quite regular pattern. The meatworks management would periodically allocate a new topping of blue metal to the Avenue but the smoothing effect of the gravel would be lost well before the next time the shabby trucks appeared to apply another thin layer.

On one side a well-trodden but resolutely grassy footpath was uneven enough to present a rude hazard for anyone returning a bit tipsy from a session at the Railway Hotel. There were times when the savage heat of summer burnt the grass brown and caused it to retreat, leaving numerous bare patches of parched hard ground. In these circumstances determining where the Avenue’s roadway ended and the footpath began was a fruitless exercise. Fortunately, the vehicular traffic was light to the point of virtual non-existence. Pedestrians were more inclined to be on the look out for wayward bicycles than for speeding cars dodging potholes and correcting for corrugations.

The people of Redgate never used the official name for Barrington Avenue. For them it was always Butchers Parade - a designation much more consistent with its slapdash configuration and its distinct history. The cottages on Butchers Parade were built to house meatworkers by an early manager of the establishment – a certain Mr Edmund Barrington.

Most the bungalows that adorned the flat ground on the southern side of Redgate’s railway station were assembled in the early years of the twentieth century as the meatworks prospered and expanded. With one obvious exception the floor plans were frugal and unassuming, well hidden behind exteriors of weatherboard and fibro, beneath pitched iron roofs, and oblivious of flourishes of dull red bricks defining tiny front verandahs.

The exception was a full brick and terra cotta tiled federation style mansion of its time built for the general manager of the meatworks. This imposing property was tucked beside an abrupt curve in Butchers Parade that took the roadway to very edge of a rough barbed wire fence bordering feathery but sticky stalks of paspalum that swayed beside the smooth lines of the railway siding that fed the killing yards.

Only eight more modest homes stood between the manager’s mansion and the main office of the sprawling meatworks. So the general manager was only a few minutes’ walk – or a barely noticeable pushbike ride - away from his desk and his duties.

On his daily journey the general manager would pass by the place where Horrie’s family lived - a weatherboard structure perched right at the very point where the Avenue straightened. A variety of noises and multiple smutty airborne pollutants emanated from the filthy steam trains of the era. They dominated the space beyond the peeling paint of the white wooden planked front fence of the Sherwood residence.

But behind the paling fence at the back there were flat green paddocks of a wide flood plain populated by docile doomed cattle. In the distance, there was a view of the restrained rise of the Blue Mountains. The vista was interrupted only by isolated groups of gum trees. Thus, many of the rituals of Sherwood family life were conducted in the rooms to the rear of the house or on the spongy buffalo grass lawn of the back yard.

Like the rest of Butchers Parade’s lesser homes, the Sherwood residence appeared to be always in need of a new coat of paint, the guttering was speckled with areas of rust, and the windows seemed so smudgy that they were apparently incapable of admitting sunlight. The front garden was untidy for the most part. It contained two stunted bottlebrush trees were destined to be forever spindly through failures to administer systematic pruning.

However, the grass was mowed at least once a fortnight in spring and summer and Elsie, Horrie’s mother, enjoyed spraying water over the yard from a permanently tangled black rubber hose. It was a relaxing way for her to end most days as she waited for Clarrie, her husband, to return from the meatworks. Her presence by the front fence also gave her a fighting chance of intercepting him before he could reach the main bar at the Railway Hotel.

Clarrie, therefore, usually chose to walk to the pub via the road on the other side of the tracks knowing Elsie would never call out to him in open protest.


Kookaburra Creek curled its way through the flat green pastures of the meatworks paddocks like a brown snake in efficient retreat. The beige waters flowed steadily at most times but heavy rain could turn them into a rushing, gurgling surge that carried with it discarded branches and other leafy droppings from the stands of gum trees that defined its slippery clay banks.

Horrie and his best friend Alan rode their bicycles west from Butchers Parade along Albert Road until they came to the newly built tarmac bridge over the creek. A black and white flood depth indicator marked the beginning of a narrow track that ran down to the edge of the creek and a flat grassy area that was perfect for catching some sun. A little further along the grass gave way to a treacherous clay wall that led up to a sandstone outcrop, which provided the boys with a makeshift diving platform.

At twelve years old Horrie never thought about the potential dangers of plunging head first into a creek full of snags. He believed there were no submerged rocks in the area because generations of Redgate boys – even his own father – had dived from the same podium. His older brother, Cliff, had first brought Horrie to the creek when he was seven and his early efforts at diving into the murky water were lamentable. Five years or so later Horrie was highly skilled with a repertoire that included a graceful swan dive and a brutal bomb that splashed water on to the clay approaches to the rocky dais.

It was a typically hot January afternoon. It took only a few minutes of sun baking to inspire a few jumps into the creek and the boys hurriedly stripped down to the nylon Speedos they wore under their cotton drill shorts. There had been several recent late afternoon thunderstorms so the stream was healthy and coloured caramel by churned up mud.

Alan’s first jump sent waves of muddy water across the opposite bank with a series of slaps on shale. Horrie replied with an expertly executed bomb, holding his legs tucked against his upper body and generating a shimmering splash that engulfed Alan as he began another ascent of the clay-stepped slope.

After some more spirited antics, Alan and Horrie sat on the grassy flat area to dry off. They opened a large glass bottle of Coke to share.

The boys had barely consumed a mouthful each when they heard voices. It was two louts they knew as Bazza and Pottsy. Both were seventeen years old and about to swap their tired old bicycles for cars as soon as they could raise the cash.

Pottsy was a foul-mouthed overweight adolescent with a reputation as a bully and a liar. There were rumours that he had raped a girl on her sixteenth birthday in a field between the creek and the nearby cemetery, finishing off the act with the narrow end of a long necked beer bottle to compensate for his lack of staying power. Some said the girl had been too ashamed and frightened to report the incident. Others said that she had already had sex several times with two brothers from an Aboriginal family that lived on the fringes of Redgate and that her sluttish

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