Coun­try Squire

Rob In­gram takes the small town po­lit­i­cal pulse.

Country Style - - CONTENTS -

I read the other day that, in small towns as well as large, good peo­ple out­num­ber bad peo­ple by 100 to one.

It’s 30 years now since The Cho­sen One and I re­nounced the con­ve­nience and luxury of our city man­sion and ex­iled our­selves to Handy­man Hall, nes­tled in the ru­ral re­ces­sion of NSW’S cen­tral west. We’ve worked tire­lessly for those three decades to as­sim­i­late into the ru­ral life­style, in­stalling spin­ning wheels in ev­ery room and re­plac­ing the elec­tric light­ing with kerosene lamps. We’ve dis­carded our be­spoke tai­lored threads for sack­cloth and felt shear­ers’ moc­casins, and al­lowed wrens to nest in our freestyle hair. So I’m park­ing out­side the black­smith’s forge the other day, and a tooth­less peas­ant calls out, “Still a city slicker, eh?” Thirty years since we took vows of poverty, pu­rity, rec­ti­tude and con­form­ity, and I had com­mit­ted the ul­ti­mate small-town of­fence. I’d locked the door of my car. “Don’t trust us, eh?” he hollered over his shoul­der. His re­buke jolted me into think­ing about the dif­fer­ence in crime and in­se­cu­rity fears in city and coun­try com­mu­ni­ties. In pre-elec­tion public opin­ion sur­veys in city ar­eas (coun­try vot­ers don’t get sur­veyed), con­cerns about crime usu­ally top the list. Okay, law ’n’ or­der is an is­sue out here, too, but, where we live, it’s more about keep­ing your lawn in or­der. Ev­ery Dune­doo young­ster dreams of one day march­ing with the Dune­doo Mulchers, one of the finest pre­ci­sion, self-pro­pelled lawn­mower drill teams in the cen­tral west. Who can for­get the heart-stop­ping chore­og­ra­phy of their Fig­ure Eight rou­tine at the 2013 Men­dooran Sheep Dog and Gar­den Expo? But the elec­tion prom­ise that ral­lied city vot­ers in the re­cent NSW elec­tion was the pre­mier’s prom­ise to em­ploy 310 more po­lice of­fi­cers and in­vest $100 mil­lion in po­lice tech­nol­ogy. The price of the life­style NSW vot­ers dream of is the price of video cam­eras for the use of front­line of­fi­cers, and more mo­bile finger­print scan­ning equip­ment and drug-testing ma­chines. Here in Dune­doo, de­voted read­ers of the lo­cal news­pa­per are hav­ing to get by with­out the popular fea­ture Po­lice Roundup. No, it’s not that our sher­iff is too busy fight­ing ter­ror­ism and public shoot­ings, there’s just a lack of mis­de­meanour to re­port. The last act of ram­pant law­less­ness Po­lice Roundup fea­tured was the over­turn­ing of a rub­bish bin in the O. L. Milling Me­mo­rial Park. And, if you lock your car in the main street, you’re cast­ing as­per­sions on lo­cal hon­esty. I read the other day that, in small towns as well as large, good peo­ple out­num­ber bad peo­ple by 100 to 1. “What do you think about that?” I asked The Cho­sen One. “I think that in big towns the 100 would be ner­vous,” she said. “But in small towns, it would be the one.” She’s right, of course… an oc­cur­rence that is not un­known. So, to im­prove on Tourism Australia’s cam­paign, Where the bloody hell are you, city scaredy-cats? Crime fight­ing is not the only way to im­prove your life­style. Out here on the slopes and plains, qual­ity of life is the is­sue, not law and or­der. Clean air and clear wa­ter. An at­trac­tive, healthy en­vi­ron­ment. Small-town car­ing and shar­ing. A strong sense of com­mu­nity. Pride in friend­li­ness and cour­tesy. A con­fi­dence that you can make a dif­fer­ence. Surely the tree change is worth a try, city nail­biters? Just steel your­self against the ugly mem­ory of an up­turned rub­bish bin in the park, and the need to cope with a high in­ci­dence of driv­ers who’ve had an in­di­ca­tor on since 1997. And, of course, the din of the Dune­doo Mulchers prac­tis­ing their new lawn-or­der for­ma­tion rou­tine.

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