ROB INGRAM SAYS WE NEED TO SUPPORT THOSE WHO PUT FOOD ON OUR TABLES.
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.
WE’RE DESICCATED BY THE LOWEST RAINFALL IN A YEAR SINCE THE EARLY 1900S.