Pride of Pin­na­roo

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - NEWS - JANE SANDI­LANDS

Some towns im­me­di­ately give the trav­eller an in­sight into their rai­son d’etre. One such place is Pin­na­roo, in the South­ern Mallee, 6km from the border be­tween South Aus­tralia and Vic­to­ria. Stay­ing just one day and one night, we felt like lo­cals. Long be­fore you drive into the town, the loaded trucks rum­bling to­wards Ade­laide sig­nal this is a grain-grow­ing district. If you hap­pen to miss the grain trucks, you are sure to see the si­los — dra­matic white col­umns set against the sky­line.

Pin­na­roo started to be set­tled in the early 1900s and the rail­way line, opened in 1906, en­abled fam­i­lies and goods to move in. Its cli­mate and soil dic­tated the crop, but it also fos­tered farm­ers who ac­quired the lat­est farm­ing in­ven­tions and, in par­tic­u­lar, one fam­ily who saw the value in pre­serv­ing these gi­ants of the in­dus­trial age.

The re­sult is the Gum Fam­ily Col­lec­tion, the pride of Pin­na­roo and an agri­cul­tural his­tory of the district told through en­gines, trac­tors and other ma­chines. These are the treasures — the best in Aus­tralia, it is said — col­lected by Don­ald McKen­zie Gum, who reg­u­larly pro­claimed, “I’m a Pin­na­roo man.” He left his col­lec­tion to the town, and it is housed in a huge pur­pose-built shed ad­join­ing the in­for­ma­tion cen­tre in the main street and fi­nanced by the then Pin­na­roo District Coun­cil and var­i­ous grants and dona­tions.

Here, in row after gleam­ing row, are se­ri­ously mus­cled ma­chines. Each morn­ing, knowl­edge­able guides are happy to talk to vis­i­tors. If the cen­tre hap­pens to be closed when you visit, just ring the num­ber on the door and it’s likely some­one will drop what they’re do­ing and come to let you in. Farm­ers Max Wur­fel and Tom Quince are reg­u­lars here, along with other vol­un­teers. Tom walks with us down the rows of ma­chines as we mar­vel at the strength and beauty of the Lanz Bull­dog trac­tor, Bishop’s Dry Pick­ling and Dust­ing Ma­chine and the Min­neapo­lis Mo­line, among scores of others. An ex­ten­sive Let­ter­press Print­ing Col­lec­tion and a unique col­lec­tion of grain are housed in the same build­ing.

Items that recre­ate the life of Mallee women in­clude cro­cheted doilies hung with beads, pat­terned fine china cups and saucers, a ta­ble set for din­ner, all adding ele­gance in a hard land­scape. Half a dozen Cool­gar­die meat safes, some beau­ti­ful enough to make an an­tiques dealer weep with envy, are lined up, each with its own way of keep­ing pro­duce cool and there is a but­ter churn too, later con­verted to a flour sifter. In­ge­nu­ity is ev­ery­where, in­clud­ing the fore­run­ner of to­day’s com­plex food mixer, the el­e­gant Hy­dro, fin­ished in pale green enamel.

In the mid 1960s, tap­ping into a nat­u­ral un­der­ground water sup­ply meant the district could branch out into farm­ing pota­toes and onions. In 1981, the Pin­na­roo Border Times led with the head­line: Mallee Pota­toes Rais­ing Eye­brows. With its neigh­bours, Lameroo and Par­illa, Pin­na­roo is now one of the ma­jor potato-grow­ing ar­eas in South Aus­tralia.

For din­ner we head for one of the two lo­cal pubs. The Golden Grain started life as Land of Prom­ise in 1906, the same year the rail­way came to Pin­na­roo. Lo­cal his­tory records that trad­ing be­gan even be­fore the roof was com­pleted. When sold in 1912, it was re­named The Com­mer­cial, the new owner feel­ing it had ful­filled its early prom­ise.

We have ab­sorbed some his­tory, seen mag­nif­i­cent ma­chines, eaten well and heard great sto­ries from ded­i­cated lo­cals. Have we been here for only 24 hours? It doesn’t seem so. • mur­

Tom Quince at the Gum Fam­ily Col­lec­tion, Pin­na­roo, above; his­toric farm ex­hibits, above right

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