An Arvo with Amz: Desiree Crawford

February 23, 2017 1 Comment

An Arvo with Amz: Desiree Crawford

Hesitantly is how Desiree Crawford approached being interviewed. When asked, she quickly responded,

“I’m more of a backstreet girl.”

Now, this is not a reference to the diehard followers of the iconic 90s boy band (I mean, who wasn’t Team Nick?) but rather her penchant for working tirelessly behind the scenes for the good of others. Thankfully, her daughter, Chantelle was present and together we were able to twist her arm and have her agree to share her story. However, there was one condition; I couldn’t make a big fuss. So, I’ll get straight to it and stick to the facts. I’m confident though that it won’t take you long to realise Desiree, affectionately known as Grammy, is one of those salt of the Earth people who make rural communities special. (Ooops, I probably wasn’t meant to say that. This is going to be harder than I first thought!) Here goes…

Desiree relocated to the Kumbia District from the small Victorian town of Timboon when she was nine years old. She attended Mannuem Creek State School, adjacent to her parent’s dairy farm, before heading to The Glennie School in Toowoomba and later onto Melbourne to complete hairdressing. Upon her return, Desiree’s brother declared that she would marry local dairy farmer, David Crawford whom had also attended Mannuem Creek SS. But Desiree wasn’t about to marry a dairy farmer. She hated that as a kid the dairy lifestyle had meant there were no family holidays or she couldn’t stay late at school events because her parents were rushing home to milk.

Fast forward to 2017, and Desiree and David (the local dairy farmer she was never going to marry) have been married for forty-six years and are loving parents to Mitchell, Trent, Clayton and Chantelle, and grandparents to soon-to-be eleven grandchildren. For this family-orientated woman, Desiree has more than ensured that her children and grandchildren alike have felt her involvement, volunteering her time at every opportunity.

Desiree and David

I am under no illusion that I will never be able to accurately record all that Desiree has been involved with. That is definitely, in part, because of her humble nature and unwillingness to divulge her full contributions. Instead consider this a snapshot. Forging the way for future women, Desiree, alongside her good friend Gayle Carroll, were the first women to join the Kumbia Hall Committee. Over many years, this committee has organized and executed community events from assisting with trail bike rides, campdrafts, catering, the Kumbia ANZAC Day Service and the annual Kumbia Christmas Carnival. However, her defining feat was

“definitely changing the macho attitudes and bringing a woman’s point of view to the community.”

Something we can all be grateful for.

The gratitude does not stop there. Undoubtedly Desiree’s most influential accomplishment has been her long serving involvement with Kumbia State School. President, secretary and treasurer are all titles that Desiree has worn for the local P&C along with, my personal favourite, school bus driver for thirty-five years. Never has there been a warmer smile to greet you in the morning. Now, as her kids graduated Kumbia in 1993 you would be safe to assume that her legacy stopped there. Wrong! Since her grandchildren walked through the gates of Kumbia in 2011, Desiree has been seen working behind the counter at the tuckshop, in classrooms reading and extraordinarily rejoined the P&C executive as secretary in 2015 when no one else would put up their hand. My obvious question: What motivates you to do all these things after you’ve done more than your fair share?

“I love Kumbia. I am a very proud Kumbia person. I love the kids. I love the school. I just enjoy doing it and I love helping {in the background}.”

In short, she is selfless to the core. (Let’s count that as another breach of the interview conditions).

While I am on a roll, I might as well let you know she is tenacious to boot. Obviously, dairy farming is extremely hard work and, in her usual tongue and cheek way, “only silly people do it.” Nevertheless, “David is committed to his four legged wives” and immensely proud of the Jersey cow stud – Glenvillan – that his father started in 1945. Desiree has been integral in keeping the dairy operational in order for David and son Clayton to be able to show their prized cows. Having exhibited at the Royal Brisbane Show for an impressive fifty years (1947-2007), and at local and feature shows, Desiree stays home to do the milking morning and night. Last year though, her tenacity was put to the test, when David had a farming accident, leaving him bed ridden for four and a half months. Left with no choice, she sold half their herd, reducing to seventy milking cows.

“It was extremely hard for me because I was nursing him, running into town every day to have his dressings changed and trying to watch the farm. I had a certain spot in the backyard where I’d go to have a little cry before I’d pull myself together again and get back into it.”

This unwavering commitment is what sees her and David still milking in spite of the well-documented media coverage of the downturn in dairy prices.

“Put it this way – we sent our kids away to boarding school, three went to uni and one went to college and if we had to do it now on what we make we wouldn’t be able to do it. It’s been a pretty big reality check.”

This dynamic duo “do it for the love of it.”

dynamic duo

Clearly, Desiree would be more than entitled to pop her feet up and enjoy some thoroughly deserved rest and relaxation. This comes in the form of her garden. Lovingly built from scratch, and complete with a fairy garden for the grandkids, Desiree can be found spending her spare moments toiling away.

relaxation

spare moments

“Whenever I need a sane moment I go out. The garden keeps my sanity.”

David’s passing remarks, “that’s why she spends so much time in the garden,” reveal the light-hearted and fun relationship these two share. Not bad for a dairy farmer she was never going to marry.

You can catch more of Desiree’s cheeky sense of humour in our interview below. Thank you for making me laugh!

Wattle & Twine x

Postscript: Desiree was nominated for the 2017 Kumbia Local Achiever award at the South Burnett Regional Council Australia Day celebrations. I asked her how she felt knowing that others thought she was worthy of the accolade.

“Embarrassed. I don’t do it to be thought of in any way. I just do it because it’s me. I just enjoy it.”

In spite of all that embarrassment, she won. But it is safe to say that Desiree has had more than enough of the limelight for now and will continue doing what she does best – serving her beloved Kumbia in the background.

Would you rather…

Sunrise or sunset? Sunrise

Summer or Winter? Summer

Cat or dog? Dog

Watch TV or read a book? Read a book

Have a night out or an evening in? A night out; it never happens!

What are you reading? Two by Two by Nicholas Sparks

What do you miss most about being a kid? Being carefree.

What would you say to your 21-year-old self? Be happy and do what you want to do in life and don’t worry about anyone else.

How would your best friends describe you? An idiot. You should ask my best friends that.

Thankfully, Chantelle was on hand to paint a picture of this incredibly humble woman – “community minded, committed and fun loving.”

What is your most hated chore? Housework! No, probably ironing. David used to say that I would hide the ironing from myself.

What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done? You’re going to need to turn that off.

To say I was shocked when I was instructed to stop recording would be an understatement. Desiree’s response had any number of crazy, crazy ideas racing through my mind. Lot of giggling ensued.

Until, Desiree responded with, “marrying David because as a kid I was never going to marry a dairy farmer and I did."

ITLLDOUS

What does a perfect day look like to you? Get up out of bed and see my kids and grandkids or talk to them. 

Name three inspirational women you admire. Poss (Chantelle) because of her attitude towards life and she is just everything I could want her to be. Pat Hobdell and Josie McConville because of how they worked for the community, they were surrogate mums to me, being my mum’s best friends, and I thoroughly enjoyed being able to work alongside them, in my later years, for the Kumbia community. 

What’s on your bucket list? To see some of Australia with my husband (not going to happen) and live long enough to see my grandkids get married and be happy. That’s probably it. I’m very boring.

If you could witness any event, past, present or future, what would it be? An Elvis concert.

If you won the lottery what would you do? Pay off my kid’s debts and buy them farms.

What would you do if you were the Prime Minister of your own country? I would insist that the politicians came and lived with farmers to find out what it is all about so that they know and could better support us.

What has been your most embarrassing moment? This! You’re up there, Amy. (I’ll take that as a compliment.)

The P&C had a catering business at one point in time and I was serving soup at a wedding. I was the only one with rubber-soled shoes on but I was also the only one who slipped over. The soup went all over one man who swore at me, my leg went one way and my foot the other. I had a compound fracture. Laying there in front of all those people unable to move waiting for the ambulance was mortifying.

It didn’t get any less embarrassing when Desiree arrived at hospital. Chantelle had been given the all important job of packing her mum a bag. What she didn’t realise was that her mum had done the washing that day. All the nighties and undies she was reaching for in the back of the drawer were the threadbare, holey and far from “decent” variety that Desiree had been meaning to throw out. Thankfully, a friend lived close by and was able to make an emergency dash to the shops.

Unfortunately, the six month recovery wasn’t any less embarrassing. "The kids had taken me shopping in my wheelchair. Trent, as the only child who would, floored the wheelchair over the gutter, complete with motorbike sounds, in front of the old post office in the main street of town and tipped me straight out.” Not really a discreet way to travel, but entertaining for her children nonetheless.

Sometimes the people around you can remember embarrassing moments more easily because they were there when you rushed home to retell of your mortification. David contributed this story. “When Mitch was a little boy he got cut short in town and pulled down his pants to wee in the gutter. In a state of shock, Desiree walked away and left him. But he caused more of a scene by running after her with his pants down around his ankles yelling, “mummy, mummy wait for me.”

If you could only keep five possessions, what would they be? Photos of the kids and grandies, items that I was given from my grandparents, my watch that David and the kids gave me, the necklace I never take off that has the names of my kids and grandkids engraved and my Elvis memorabilia. (Her granddaughter Katie calls Elvis “Grammy’s boyfriend” owing to the large portrait that hangs in the dining room of their home. Gifted to Desiree as a joke from her son, she sure showed him by actually hanging it and giving it pride of place.)

Is there anything you wished would come back into fashion? "Hot pants. Do you know what hot pants are?"

"I know what I think they are." <Insert image of Kylie Minogue spinning around in those famous gold hot pants.>

"No. They were a really short one piece. It was David’s favourite item that I wore.”

“I bet it was.”

“And they were really in during the early 70s.” 

Kylie Minogue And David

What’s been your biggest lesson and what has it taught you? I’m still trying to do it. I need to stop taking things that people say to heart. I’d like to be able to let things people say wash over me a bit more. I still haven’t achieved that.

What’s your greatest achievement and how did it shape you? Having my children changed my life and I honestly think they made me a better person.

better person




1 Response

Pam Pullos
Pam Pullos

February 25, 2017

An amazing humble lady

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