Tuesday, November 10, 2009

I was hit with a deep, almost melancholic feeling of sadness the other evening - the memory of brother Bob...

I was hit with a deep, almost melancholic sadness half an hour ago - the memory of brother Bob...

I was hit with a deep almost melancholic sense of sadness half an hour ago. My second from eldest brother died of an illness in Bangkok late last year. He married a Thai woman many years ago and was still with her when he finally succumbed to his illness, most likely pneumonia. He had been busy out in the tropical heat and went to sleep in his hotel room, cooled down and caught a chill.

He had been out of work for some time, a former oil-rig driller and sixty eight years old. No social welfare in Thailand or any asian country; you rely on your family when times get tough. He had worked as a supervisor building roads in the Bangkok area for some time, but lost his job. Even Europeans come to the end of their working life some time, even a popular Kiwi. He had then had to rely on help and assistance from his brother-in-law. Pride sent him looking for work again, but when they realised he was actually ill, he wasn't wanted.

Doctors are so expensive in Thailand, and locals resort to getting pharmaceutical help - cheaper to buy some medicine or drugs. But with so many imitation drugs and medicine out there from China, it is hard to know if you actually have the real McCoy. Maybe my brother didn't?

So late in 2008 my brother Bob, Robert Lindsay Petterson, succumbed to his illness and died in his sleep.

Back in Christchurch, New Zealand, my younger brother Richard received a garbled message from our aging Aunt Mary. Our older brother, Dave, a former oil rig service vessel skipper for many years in the Southeast Asia area, and somewhat of a recluse since he returned from Thailand a widower, had received a message from Bob's wife in Bangkok to say Bob had died. It was a massive shock to all of us here in New Zealand.

Just who was this character, Robert Lindsay Petterson, one of my big brothers? He left school at fifteen years, neither an academic or sportsman, but had a love of animals. He started working for the owner of a large sheep station in north Canterbury in the South Island. He stayed there for anumber of years learning his trade as a shepherd and musterer, learned how to train and use sheepdogs, and eventually bought his own. He later moved on to the high country and worked for the largest government owned sheep and cattle station in NZ, for a number of years.

Like many a young Kiwi lad before and after him, the lure of Australia proved too much. He ended up working for a Texan owned sheep and cattle ranch in New South Wales, as a boundary rider. Bob had become a more than capable horseman during his years as a musterer in New Zealand. His new job as a boundary rider for the King Ranch, took a fornight at a time to circumvent this huge property in NSW.

He moved on and changed jobs in a variety of places over a number of years, but ended up in Broken Hill as a supervisor in an open cast mine there.

Somewhere or other he became involved in drilling, firstly for water and then for oil. He obviously became expert as an oil driller on land, and then on an oil-rig off Indonesia somewhere. On one trip he ran into the skipper of a small service vessel which serviced his rig - our eldest brother, Dave.

Bob began a life as a driller and like Dave, married a Thai woman and bought a home in Bangkok, which became his base for whereever he worked in Southeast Asia over many years.

During the 1970's Bob returned to New Zealand regularly, and invested in small farm outside of Christchurch, which our younger brother Richard lived in and developed to Bob's instructions. But they were not good partners and became alienated after a few years; Bob maintained that the farm wasn't being run to his satisfaction. In the end he had to sell it for what he could get for it.

During Bob's visits home to NZ, he always called in to see us in Lower Hutt, ten miles outside of New Zealand's capital city of Wellington. My wife would cook him a great meal and we would indulge in a few browns and natter (and sometimes argue) to the wee small hours.

I last saw my brother in 1978, and I miss him greatly. He always had great ideas that he wanted to explore, but unfortunately others always picked his brains and used his ideas as their own. Bob was actually the first person to come up with the idea to freeze bull semen for artificial insemination. He went to one of the big companies in NZ looking for sponsorship to start his enterprise off. They declined, but picked his brains and ended up doing it themselves.

That was one of my big brothers, a generous and kind person who ended up alienated by distance and circumstances thousands of miles from his extended family. We all miss and remember you Bob Petterson.

Horse riders

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