Coun­try Squire


Country Style - - CONTENTS - OC­TO­BER 2018

I READ A WHILE AGO about a bloke whose fa­ther used to tell his kids, “If you hear a kook­aburra in the morn­ing, you know it’s go­ing to rain.” “He was al­ways right, too,” said the now-grown-up kid. “The long­est we had to wait was eight months.” I haven’t re­counted that story for a while for fear of mak­ing light of the tragic drought out here. Drought has that ef­fect on coun­try peo­ple. When half the ru­ral com­mu­nity is fac­ing im­pos­si­ble hard­ship, the other half wears a re­spect­ful man­tle of sym­pa­thy… al­most a guilt for not shar­ing the bag­gage. For many fam­i­lies out here, the wait for rains needed to main­tain healthy stock and crops has been twice as long as that for the kook­aburra call­ers. And they used to say that you could judge the health of the econ­omy by the num­ber of trucks on the road. Well, let me snuff out that old be­lief. Our high­way is an un­bro­ken convoy of trucks. Trucks tak­ing stock to the abat­toirs for those fast go­ing broke. Trucks de­liv­er­ing feed to New South Wales from as far­away as South Aus­tralia for those go­ing broke more slowly. Billy the Bull got to ride on a truck the other day. As fine a young Santa Gertrudis as you’d hope to see. An ex­cel­lent spec­i­men of the de­sir­able mus­cle and fat char­ac­ter­is­tics. And when you lose your breed­ing stock, you’re bug­gered. We’d been foster par­ents to Billy for a few months — when his home paddock be­came a dust bowl, he found a mod­est diet of na­tive grasses and a failed crop of bar­ley over lucerne at our place. Billy was the sort of beastie the district could be proud of. Off to be­come a ham­burger. You want fries with that? “How to do you han­dle his loss?,” I asked the neigh­bour who raised Billy. “I asked an­other neigh­bour that,” he said. “I asked him how I was go­ing to feel when the truck left. He told me, ‘Put him on the truck and walk away. Don’t look back’.” This is the heart­break and hor­ror rip­ping the heart and soul out of drought-stricken farm­ers to­day, to­mor­row, and the next day… And don’t think that you don’t know any of them. They’re the folk who work around the clock seven days a week to put food in your pantries and freez­ers. They’re the folk who re­ally give us our daily bread each day. So, now’s the time to re­mem­ber them in your prayers, too. It’s Cen­tral NSW that’s the hard­est hit this year, but other ar­eas know the heart­break. We’re des­ic­cated by the low­est rain­fall in a year since the early 1900s. Since West­ern Aus­tralia’s vote made Fed­er­a­tion a done deal. Since the Fed­eral La­bor Party was formed. Since Jimmy Gover­nor (Black­smith) was caught. And since around the same time our first army sailed off to the Boer War. The Aussie ethos of look­ing af­ter your mates, which also goes back that far, re­mains alive in the form of char­i­ties and cam­paigns like Ru­ral Aid, Drought An­gels, Need For Feed, Aussie Helpers Buy-a-bale and One Bucket. The re­sponse is great, but the need is greater. A bag of milk re­place­ment for­mula might save a lamb. A bale of hay might save a calf. But, don’t for­get the emo­tional wounds, the psy­cho­log­i­cal sup­port that drought also de­mands. Let’s all pray for rain, but pray too for the de­spair­ing coun­try woman who hides her hus­band’s gun for fear that his life will end be­fore the drought does.


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