WWII News Clippings 07
CLIFFSIDE BOY WRITES LETTER FROM AUSTRALIA
Lieut. David Colvin, Jr., Tells of Exciting Kangaroo Hunt.
Forest City Courier, July 23, 1942
(Editor’s Note: The letter printed below was written by Lieut. David C. Colvin, Jr., Davidson college graduate, and son of Mr. and Mrs. D. C. Colvin of Cliffside, NC. Lieutenant Colvin, who was graduated from Davidson in 1940, later entered the air corps. He is now stationed in Australia, adjutant on the staff, procurement division.)
Dear Mother and Daddy:
Just received a letter from each of you and one from Sara, ranging in date from January on. They must pile up in ‘Frisco waiting for a boat. I was glad to hear you received my cable. I can’t understand why they censored out the word Australia. We were told we could reveal our general location. You must know by now that I’m in Australia.
Because of strict censorship regulations it’s going to be hard to make an interesting letter out of this. I suppose I’ll just have to save it all up until I come home – which I don’t believe will be too long, now.
Mother, you seem to be anxious about my living conditions. Well, put your mind at rest, for they are good. Our mess, of course doesn’t compare with your home cooking, but it isn’t bad. One complaint we have is so much mutton. They eat mutton here in Australia like they eat cornbread in South Carolina – three times a day. I get plenty of milk, and Australian milk is very good. Our barracks are comfortable, and I get plenty of sleep. So you see you haven’t a thing to worry about.
I was surprised to hear you had so much snow. Wish I could have been there to enjoy it. They never have it here except in certain parts of the eastern mountains. It’s hard to get used to having the seasons reversed. We left the States in the dead of winter and got here in the middle of summer, and now you’re just beginning spring and we’re having fall and winter. Have you figured up the time difference? By a quick calculation I think we’re 13 hours ahead of your time.
Daddy, I ran into a bit of luck the other week. An Australian pilot officer invited two other officers and myself on a kangaroo hunt. It was an experience of a lifetime. We managed a day off – I think we deserved it. We got away by three in the morning and arrived at our destination in the “bush” by sun up. We set up headquarters in one of several little huts used for the cutters that come to shear the sheep during that season. They seem to migrate about the country like the fruit pickers in the States. The cutting sheds were very interesting, a maze of stalls and chutes to control the sheep that are being sheared. After a grilled steak and a cup of tea along with a bit of fig jam on toast we were more than ready for the hunt ahead. There were eight in the party, five Australians. One of the Aussies was a true sportsman. He seems to have hunted every type of game that inhabits Australia, and he really loves it. Incidentally, we get tea every time we turn around. The Aussies do everything but breathe it. The barracks orderly wakes each officer up in the morning with a cup – I’m still trying to down it at that hour, but I think I’ll have to give it up as a bad job.
We hunted the kangaroos from two cars we took with us. The roo is very fast and it would be hard to hunt him any other way. We removed the front windshield on the cars to give the front gunners a better field of fire. We rode with three to the car. Two shot out the back windows and one out of the front. They insisted that I sit up front in one car, and I had the hunter I mentioned as my driver. What a ride he gave me. It takes years of practice to be able to drive after kangaroos, for once you get up a “mob” you have to be able to maneuver through underbrush at 40 or 50 m.p.h.
I was using my 12-gauge automatic I got before leaving the States with No. 1 or 2 shot. We had been cruising for not more than 10 minutes when we got an eagle out of the brush. I got some feathers, but didn’t knock him down. They want them shot, for they prey on lambs. By the way, it was the lambing season, and there were lambs everywhere.
Next we came across an emu, pronounced e-mew. The emu can run at a terrific speed, at least 35 miles an hour. They are generally protected as is the kangaroo unless they over-run a sheep station and eat up all the food, which was the case here. Ernest soon had me in position to take a shot. I was a little too excited on the first barrel, but sent him rolling on the second shot! It’s hard to realize that a bird could get that big. Standing with head at normal height, it was at least seven feet tall – not inches, feet. Ernie said an emu egg equaled eight to a dozen hen eggs. Daddy, how does that compare with the turkey Grandaddy shot when he was a boy? I believe I have it on him a little now. They aren’t eatable, so after pulling out a few feathers to save we left it for the foxes and were off in search of old man roo.
Ernie has eyes like a hawk and soon spotted a “mob” running through the “brush” at about a mile’s distance. We were after them in a cloud of dust. He didn’t slow up a bit when we came to any underbrush. He would maneuver around trees, under limbs and several times I doubted our making it. But he seemed to have complete confidence in his driving and by the end of the day so did I. He did do a splendid piece of driving. He soon had us maneuvered into position. There they were, about 15 big “grays” with tails stuck back and ears laid down and splitting the wind. Ernie went for the biggest, and I got him on the second shot. I was ready to stop and take a good look at him, but Ernie didn’t even slow up.
The kangaroos were now scattering in every direction, but with Ernie’s good driving I soon was lining my sights up again. This one wasn’t as big as the first, but he certainly gave us a run for our money. I gave him all five shots, and the Aussies in the back seat gave him two shots each with their double barrels, which slowed up his running quite a bit. Then we got up closer and finished him off with a .45 pistol.
Then the real work began, the skinning. It wasn’t hard if you had the knack. Ernie had it, and proceeded to do most of the work with the help of the other Aussies until we caught on. The skins and tail are all you save. The skins make wonderful leather and furs, and the tails make delicious soup, something similar to ox tail soup. I ate at Ernie’s two days later and had some.
I’m afraid I’m dragging out this hunting story too much so I’ll cut it short. I think I can truthfully say it was the greatest hunt on which I’ve ever been. Our score at the end of the day was 21 kangaroos (“blues”, “grays” and “reds”), several dozen emus, one red fox that I shot while we were after some roos, and two ducks. We had roast duck for dinner that night. It was an experience I’ll never forget.
Mother, I’ve been worrying about you lately. I do hope you’ll be feeling better soon. And take enough rest. I know you can get absorbed in your work; why not just let things go for a while and relax?
It’s hard to realize all the changes that are taking place back there in the States. Have they begun to ration gasoline yet? We probably get a little different slant on the news over here. Would it be too much trouble to send me the Charlotte Observer? I know it would be a month or so old, but that wouldn’t matter. It would still be interesting.
Through different channels I’m sending you some pictures I’ve taken. I hope they get through to you. Certainly would like to have some snaps of the home town activity. Do you think you could send some of all of you?
I believe in your letter you mentioned that you would send me a box of home style eating if you thought it would come through. Several of the fellows have been receiving boxes from home in very good condition. I certainly would be happy to receive one.
I’m glad to hear that Grandaddy has regained his health. When you go down again wish him the best of luck for me.
I bought a red Irish setter for the squadron mascot. He’s four and a half months old and a little beauty. We’ve named him Anzac. If he doesn’t get too frisky and jump into an airplane propeller, I’m planning to take him back with me.
Schools probably will be almost out when you receive this. I know you’re looking forward to having Sara home with you again. She said she was knitting a sweater. I’m trying to persuade her to knit a pair of heavy wool olive drab socks for me.
Daddy, please observe my new APO address. I think my mail will reach me quicker if you send it to this new address. You were anxious about my insurance. While I was at Macon on maneuvers I took out $5,000, which is taken care of through a monthly deduction. I declared you and mother as beneficiaries. I considered that enough along with my civilian policy. If you will tell me the annual expense on the policy you hold for me I’ll send you a check to take care of it.
I have some work that I must get onto, so I’ll have to say goodbye for now. Give my regards to the kinfolk when you see them. I noticed in one of the papers that came over that Congress voted a Woman’s Army corps. Tell Virginia that she’ll have to join up; then perhaps she’ll be able to go with Gerard.
I must close. All my love,
Researched and prepared by Don Bailey