This is one such story from Western Australia in the days of steam there were many strange and wonderful things that happened in the back blocks. In the Footplate Padre's book titled 'Steam Stories' there is such story, and article was titled "Pet Pig" and set out on page 47.
Lake Grace was a major railway centre in the days of steam. There were many jobs associated with a locomotive depot and one of these was titled "Cleaner". The cleaner was not someone who swept floors, washed down buildings or washed the District Locomotive Engineer's bright shiny motor car.
A cleaner was an important position in the running of a locomotive depot and Lake Grace was no different. The cleaner has responsibilities associated with the steam engines to ensure that the bedded waste in the fire box was emptied ready for a start up for that locomotive's next train job. Nothing works properly or as it should, smoothly, unless the cleaner does a good job.
This particular cleaner in the early 50s at Lake Grace had a wonderful gift with animals – some claimed he could talk to them in their own way and he could understand them too. This was common knowledge and those who had been guests to his small property marvelled.
As an aside, my later father talked to horses. The on-line diaries of his father Walter Tronson and his diary (Seymour Tronson) recorded many situations with horses on their farms in Queensland. Seymour could speak to a horse in his soothing manner and the horse without bit and bridle would do as requested. Astonishing. And so too this cleaner.
He had a pet pig and pet swans. The information gleaned from the Internet is divided as to what one might call a multiple of swans – when flying they may be referred to as a wedge but on the ground or in the lake, a 'lamentation of swans' – whatever, they were quite noisy as this story will illustrate.
Zoo on wheels
Whenever this cleaner went anywhere in his ute, no one, pig or swans, wanted to be left out of the ride, They would all go. It was the Zoo on wheels. No one was left behind. Inevitably there would be a commotion everywhere he went with this entourage.
The cleaner would head for the driver's seat of the ute, and it was on young and old. The pig would go straight to the ute and pig his way to the door and be sure he was not left behind and would sit on the passenger side seat.
The Swans would all ride in the back. Feathers would be all over the place as this bundle of energy made for the limited space in the back of the ute. There were a lot of swans and a ute's tray is not all that large, But somehow they managed it and they would settle together and let it be known they were all there enjoying the ride.
Coming to down was quite an affair, as it was for stopping for petrol, hardware or the pub. None would move. There they stayed. Passers by soon got used to the site. Pig in the cabin. Swans in the tray of the ute. Anyone who had a chat to them would get a response.
The only exception to this was when he took 'this crowd' for a run along the shores of Lake Grace. The pig would run around like a pet dog while the Swans would enjoy a swim on the lake. It was a weekly jaunt for all to enjoy.
On their return, the Swans would fly home. The pig would still rode in the front of the car. They would all get back at the same time – and all greet each other with much enthusiasm. Such was the Old McDonald type existence this cleaner lived – he was known far and wide for such antics.
Children ask their parents whether their pet will be with them in heaven. St Francis and John Wesley said they would. The scriptures are replete with the value of animals. When we lived in Moruya on the NSW south coast, I served as Master of Basil Sellers House the respite facility for the Australian Institute of Sport's elite athletes. My dog Oscar and I would discuss theology and the young athletes reckoned Oscar understood every word they said.
Dr Mark Tronson is a Baptist minister (retired) who served as the Australian cricket team chaplain for 17 years (2000 ret) and established Life After Cricket in 2001. He was recognised by the Olympic Ministry Medal in 2009 presented by Carl Lewis Olympian of the Century. He has written 24 books, and enjoys writing. He is married to Delma, with four adult children and grand-children.
Mark Tronson's archive of articles can be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/mark-tronson.html