Dad would have loved a son but his tomboy Ella was ‘perfect’ he said, like a best daughter and a best son all rolled into one. He liked to hike when off duty. Mum was not the hiking type and Sally was too young. So we had often been on hiking expeditions for a day or two.
What mum didn’t know is they were also hunting trips. Dad would bring his small-bore rifle and when I was 10 he persuaded mum that bows and arrows were not dangerous at all and just perfect to help Ella appreciate bushcraft.
‘Hiking and observing is fun, but she’s a kid. She needs to do something too,’ he’d said. ‘She can climb, she can run, and now she’s ready to learn focus. And learning to stand, aim and fire is a perfect discipline, especially in the bush on uneven ground with mossies buzzing in your eyes!’
Mum couldn’t really object. Dad had proven to be a great father – a bit rough and ready and still ‘one of the boys’ – and mum also knew the substitute role I was playing in dad’s affection for ‘his’ children. Each year I’d been upgraded with a slightly bigger bow to suit my growth.
An excerpt from Brian’s Red Diamond, part of the Women out of Time trilogy.