The passing of two primary producers from the Lower Macleay has left a combined legacy spanning each of their 98 years, more than half of them as neighbours and best friends.
Charlie Killmore was a grazier from Smokey on the Kinchela flats, with his homestead perched on a sand hill by the sea, overlooking lower Macleay.
Noel Everson ran dairy cows next door and represented three generations living on the same flood-free mound.
The hill was a great social scene, with Charlie's wife Nellie and Noel's wife Elsie welcoming the growing friendship, that resulted in sing-song nights with an accordion accompanying their voices, warbling on the night air down along those Kikuyu flats.
They farmed as neighbours and fished as friends, with the inviting ocean just over the front of the hill - a sand dune in fact - where boats lay on the beach, hauled above high tide.
Born only a few weeks apart they died 98 years later separated by the same slim margin of time. Both wives, having passed before them, also exited this realm within weeks of each other.
Both men left school at age 12 - longer than either of them wanted - Charlie to work for his father and Noel for the family after his father became unwell.
Those were days when the best teachers were curiosity and common sense. These boys, soon to be men, were left to their own devices. They knew what to do while respecting their parents' trust. Remarkable deeds ensued.
Charlie instinctively understood bullocks, having lived with them all his long life - not always at Smokey.
His first job after leaving school was very much intended for a self starter, with his father saying "Go to town and renovate the paddock" and so he walked a team of bullocks from Burrapine above Taylors Arm to Macksville.
Here his father owned some land - a paddock for a rest and recuperation only a short walk to the train yards and from there straight to the old Homebush selling centre.
When Charlie got there he camped for the night and next day began the real work of preparing and re-sowing that paddock, pulling the renovator behind his team of bullocks.
Of course there were a wide range of jobs to do. The family's enterprise was what they call today vertically integrated, and diversified, with money earned from timber, through their own bush mill. They hand-cleared 30 acres of steep country with axe and saw, and planted bananas, working the plantation with a three-pronged hoe.
Noel Everson was born the third son of Jack, a champion rower who competed in the slender craft over one mile and was hard to beat on the Macleay - a river known for its world champion scullers.
His family arrived on the Sandhills after a run of floods from 1890 culminating in the extreme event of 1893. The family in Noel's time farmed 59 acres and milked 30 cows by hand, turning their cream separator with the same propulsion. It was a seven hour job all day everyday.
After the death of his father the responsibilities fell to Noel, along with his mother and siblings but decades later the lights continue to burn in the family dairy today, with a bit more land and up to 150 cows
Before flood mitigation the wet seasons killed paddocks all through the lower districts and when the water receded the stink was evident.
Noel worked a sturdy draught horse named Prince and many many hours were spent ploughing drained country and turning it into fertile land for fodder production including corn for the dairy.
When the seasons dried out the extremes could be savage, with dust so thick in the air it was hard to breathe. Noel as a boy experienced one tempest with his father forcing the pair to seek shelter in the drain they had just dug - first protecting the eyes of their draught horses with calico lunch bags.
Collecting grass seed was an enterprise that added value to the bottom line. In 1963 the first pick yielded nine tonnes of mainly paspalum seed off the flats just before a big flood. The harvester was an old Land Rover with a set of "fingers" bolted to the front bumper and a bin immediately behind called a "seed boat" that collected the lot - spiders, ticks and snakes included!
Being close to the water as a dairy farmer on flood-prone flats was just part of life - as were their excursions into oyster farming.
However it was the art of fishing that captivated Noel and Charlie and one hope this joy persists.
One late afternoon after milking Noel began to get worried that Charlie hadn't returned from a jaunt out to sea. The boat would have been sturdy enough - wide-beamed and stable clinker constructed out of a good Antarctic Beech tree, felled and milled on the Killmore's old farm. But that motor?
In fact Charlie at that time was struggling with a rusted shifting spanner to remove the tight head bolts on that single-cylinder engine, to fix what he suspected was a fleck of carbon caught between valve and seat, leading to a total loss of compression.
After a time he removed the bolts and rectified the problem. Fixing machinery came easy to Charlie, who once hoped to become a mechanic before his father lured him into farming. With the head back on he fired up the old Lister but the bolts weren't tight enough. The power leaked out and the boat wouldn't go very fast.
Charlie worked at it again in the failing light, twisting the damn spanner and trying not to bark his knuckles. The trip home was a slow one.
Much worried now as dusk loomed Noel launched his own runabout and headed out to sea just as Charlie put-putted around the headland.
In the end of that remarkable friendship Charlie wasn't able to go to Noel's funeral, as he wasn't feeling well at the time. When asked if he had any words to pass on to his dearly departed he replied: "Tell him to get the bait ready mate, I won't be far behind."
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