Hot sweltering heat
Outback dry and barren land
The following morning, Maisie couldn’t wait to see if Marjorie was still there. Sure enough, the two were back in the kitchen drinking coffee. This time they were laughing.
‘Well, it looks like I need to get my own breakfast this morning.’
‘No, it’s almost ready. We can eat together.’
Maisie was itching to ask what had happen to Marjorie for all those years but for now, she just enjoyed the friendly chit-chat around the breakfast table.
Later, when the breakfast dishes had been washed and put away, Marjory went upstairs for a long hot bath and dressed in very outdated but clean clothes Katie found in the attic that had belong to one of the older sisters. Then, they all sat in front of a blazing fire in the sitting room. It was clear that Marjorie had explained some things to Katie but after a deep breath she began her story.
‘It was the summer that Meryl came to stay for the duration of her pregnancy. I was barely fourteen and Meryl a couple of years older. Meryl made my life a misery and bullied me whenever no one was nearby to witness her behaviour. About three months later’, Marjorie paused momentarily. ‘Meryl must have been in her sixth month of her pregnancy and I had gone into town alone to purchase a few sewing items for my grandmother and some ribbon for Christine. While visiting Suzie, I met a seven-year-old boy. Peter was a scruffy little fellow but a hard worker. He did odd jobs for Suzie, like bringing the wood in for the fire. Tom had never met him because he was in his shop most of the day.’
‘Why hadn’t Suzie mentioned this?’ Maisie looked from Katie to Marjorie.
Marjorie shrugged. ‘Anyway, I discovered he lived with his father in a small abandon cottage in the bush not far from town.’
‘You mean, that was him I saw, or rather heard yesterday?’
‘Peter? Yes sorry. He was just looking out for me.’
Maisie signaled her to continue.
‘I would sneak out at night with blankets and bandages. Little things at first. His father had been kicked in his chest by a horse he had bought so they could head south again before the winter hit. I had to do something. One night, Meryl followed me as far as the wood pile that Peter and his father had built away from the cottage. She told me she had waited there for a few hours for me to emerge. On my way home, I found her on the ground crying at the edge of the cemetery. She had tripped and fell belly down on a headstone that had fallen some time ago. I helped her back to the house and upstairs to her bed. I offered to summoned the doctor or at least Mother but she wouldn’t hear of it. A few days later she threatened to tell my father that she saw me with a boy and I was sharing a bed with him. I convinced her that he would want to know how she knew, which would get her into trouble too. After she got back on her feet, she bullied me even more. One night when I arrived at the cottage Peter was crying. His father had died earlier that evening. I couldn’t leave him alone with his dead father in the one-room house.’
‘Oh, that poor child,’ Katie gasped. ‘And you. Only a child yourself.’
‘It took all night to dig the grave on the far side of the cemetery close to the bush. We didn’t dare drag the body during daylight so I stayed all the next day and into the night. We used the thin mattress his father was on and rigged it up like a stretcher and used rope to tie it to the horse’s saddle. It was a slow process but we finally made it to the grave. It was a nightmare and it was after sun-up by the time we returned to the cottage and guess who was waiting for us?’
‘Meryl?’ Katie answered.
‘You guessed it. I had some explaining to do but it wasn’t going to be to her. She yelled at me and called me names I won’t repeat. Peter began to cry, so I sent her away telling her to tell whoever she wanted whatever she wanted. I never saw her again, not even when I returned to steal food.’ She looked over at Katie. ‘I only took enough for the boy and a little more for myself. He only earned a few coins for the odd jobs he did for Suzie. We had to let the horse go. We just couldn’t afford to feed it and I couldn’t let Peter try and sell it on his own. I’ve seen it a few times since. It’s a bit wild I suppose but it looks healthier. There’s plenty of dams and grassland closer to town.’
‘Why didn’t you trust any of us?’
‘I guess I thought I knew what Meryl had been saying and I just couldn’t leave the boy.’
‘Where is he now?’ Maisie asked.
‘He found full-time work at a farm just before his fifteenth birthday. It’s the old Thompson’s farm on the other side of town. I’m not sure who owns it now. I had taught Peter to read and write, gave him little history lessons about the country, where he lived and where the capital cities are. He was quite bright and always asked questions. When he moved into accommodation at the farm, he visited every few days and brought me food and purchased little things in town. He found the hooded cloak in a shed on the farm. It helped in the cold months and recently when I began to sneak into the house again. About a month back, Peter told me he was going on a trip with his boss to buy farm machinery. He said it would only be a couple of weeks at the most but he didn’t return until yesterday. When I ran out of supplies, I decided to return to the house. I had only seen the one car which was still a surprise because it’s off season.’
Katie paused Marjorie’s account to properly introduce Maisie. After the introduction, Marjorie continued.
‘The day before Peter left for the trip, I told him it was time I needed to work things out. He had new responsibilities and I had to find some way to support myself, but he made me promise not to go too far until he returned. I was contemplating heading to Melbourne or Sydney but most of my own personal items were still in my room. Hence my sneaking about upstairs. I also wonder why Maisie would be here on her own.’ She paused. ‘I’m sorry I went into your room. It was inappropriate.’
Maisie leaned forward in her chair. ‘Forgiven. We’re just glad you are here now. Did Peter know much about himself? His birth date? Full name? What happened to his mother?’ She stopped. ‘There I go again. Even as a small child, I was known as the interrogator. Dad said I should be a detective.’
Marjorie smiled. ‘That’s fine. His father Ruben kept his papers and his family records in order. His mother’s name was Susan. She was killed by a stampede of horses on a property up north at Lightning Ridge where his father worked as a property manager. Peter doesn’t remember the incident and his father only told me little bits before he died. Susan had taken their only child Peter to the river for a paddle. Peter says they went many times and remembers things like paddling barefoot and chasing butterflies but that’s about it. After she died Ruben couldn’t bear to stay there so he packed a few things on to his horse and hiked south. He hadn’t intended to stay here but his horse became lame.’
Here she frowned and spoke directly to Katie. ‘Sorry about the roast. It was his birthday and I wanted to give him something special. There wasn’t much already prepared in the refrigerator so I took the chance of anyone seeing the smoke from the wood stove.’
‘Why didn’t you come home? The family searched for you and when the last of your family were buried the solicitors tried to find you—as far away as Ireland.’
This appeared all too much for Marjorie. Her voice lowered. ‘I watched the burial of my grandparents, Father and Mother from the bushes. After they died, I couldn’t bear to return.’
Katie held Marjorie’s hands between her own. ‘Your sisters moved away. They have passed on too. You knew of Stan’s death?’
‘Yes, I was here when you first came to live with us, but I was so afraid of what everyone thought they knew.’ She sat for a moment in silence. ‘I think Father knew I was here sometimes. He may have even known a little of where I was. I would sneak into my room and sleep for hours. One night I thought he was sitting in the chair near my bed. It felt so real, but times I was so tired. I don’t sleep well in the cottage.’
Maisie shook her head. ‘I’m still amazed that no one saw you. How could you be there for all those years and not be found? Not even by a bush-walker…’
‘Or the police,’ interrupted Katie. ‘They were here for a week looking for you. I think they were actually homicide detectives from Sydney or Melbourne; because of the blood.’
‘The blood? Oh yes, I remember. I lost my scarf. I cut my finger cutting a piece of leftover meat in the kitchen here. I had wrapped the scarf around the finger to help stop the bleeding. We hid most of the time if we heard anyone but we saw no police.’Maisie leaned back and looked up at the ceiling while the other two chatted away. Finally, she spoke but more to the ceiling then the women: ‘The cottage is concealed from the road and it is about ten miles from here…and the cemetery is only 100 yards from the gate. Perhaps the police didn’t search that far.’
Katie broke into her thoughts. ‘You could be right. There’s a lot of bush between the cemetery and town and the police seemed to concentrate much of their time interviewing the family, our guests and people in town, especially Tom.’
‘Tom!’ the two younger women spoke in unison.
‘Why Tom?’ asked Maisie.
‘Tom had always been bad-mannered and can be quite unpleasant when he wants to be. He’s mellowed over the years but I was always thankful I didn’t marry him.’
‘Are you saying the police thought he had done away with me?’
‘Tom was the main suspect. He was in custody for almost three weeks before they released him. The police never returned and listed you as a missing person. Your parents were beside themselves with worry. There were rumours about a hitchhiker serial killer at the time but your parents finally decided that wherever you were, you were alive. It was the only way they could move on with their lives but they were never the same. It was your father who demanded we left your room as you left it.’
‘So, it’s possible your father knew more than he was letting on?’ Maisie waited for her reply.
‘Perhaps. I never stopped to think about how they felt. Not until years later. Peter became like a son to me. Other times he was just my little brother.’
Maisie stood to stretch her legs. ‘I hate to finish on a low but the authorities will need to be informed that you’re not a missing person anymore.’
‘She’s right,’ Katie said. ‘I still have the contact details of the family solicitor. I’ll call him today and ask his advice. He could take us to the police and explain things to them.’
Marjorie looked like a scared kid.
‘I don’t think you will get into too much trouble but you and Peter will have to show them where you buried his father, and the cabin. For now,’ Maisie said. While Katie goes into town to use the phone, why don’t you try on some of my clothes. We’re about the same size.’
This brought a small smile to Marjorie. ‘I guess I do look a sight’.
Maisie stayed on for a month focusing on her new mystery novel. Marjorie and Katie spent a few days in Melbourne to clear things up with the police and shopped till they dropped. The solicitor wanted to make Marjorie the official owner of Kelly’s Inn but Marjorie insisted he left things as they were until Katie retired or passed on. They planned to share the management of Kelly’s Inn and insisted on Maisie making an annual booking—off season of course.
Peter came to visit twice while Maisie was there that winter. Her suspicions were correct. He was the young man she had met at Suzie’s and the one who had spooked her that same day. After the police closed their investigation, Peter and Marjorie invited Maisie to return with them to the cabin one last time. Katie had also been invited but declined because she needed to “right” upstairs as she always did in the afternoon. They marked Ruben’s grave with a memorial plaque that also acknowledged Susan.
© Chrissy Siggee
Back at the inn Maisie turned the engine off and took a few slow deep breaths. She stared at her image in the rear-view mirror where blood had congealed along small scratches on her forehead. Brushing her long fringe over the wounds, she opened the door and headed inside and upstairs to the bathroom to clean up before tea.
‘I thought I heard you come in’, Katie said before lifting the lid of the pot of stew.
‘Yes, I’m back. Can I make myself a cup of coffee?’
‘Sure, help yourself. How was your trip to town?’
With Katie busy at the stove, Maisie was relieved that they couldn’t see each other. They chatted with small talk until the coffee was ready. Reluctantly, Maisie returned to the larger kitchen and sat on a stool.
‘What happened to you?’ Katie was panicked.
Maisie touched her face where fresh blood had dribbled onto the bridge of her nose and down her cheek. ‘It’s just a scratch. I stupidly went bush-walking without planning it.’
Katie fussed over Maisie and her scratches before insisting that she didn’t go off on her own again. ‘What were you thinking? You could have been mugged or murdered.’
‘Now Katie, don’t try scaring me.’ She sighed. ‘Actually, there was someone out there. I think he just yelled at me when he caught me watching his cabin.’
Katie pulled a kitchen stool closer and sat looking at Maisie. ‘What are you saying Lass?’
Maisie told her all she did that afternoon, including the unplanned bush-walk. ‘Does someone live there?’
Katie sat in thought. ‘You have been a nosy one since you’ve arrived.’
‘I should mind my own business. Right?’
‘Well since you’re a writer, I shouldn’t be surprised.’ Katie stood and switched off the hot plate. ‘Let’s talk.’
‘There is a mystery about Kelly’s Inn. I honestly don’t know the full story but I do believe it has something to do with Stan’s youngest sister, Marjorie. I was told in no uncertain terms that I was never allowed to clean nor enter her room. I’ve been tempted believe me, especially when odd things happen around here this past week; upstairs, downstairs, in the garden, even in here.’ She looked around the room and waved her hand. ‘Things go missing. Food is taken from the refrigerator.’ She sighed again. ‘That’s why I had to return to town yesterday. My roast disappeared.’
‘Why don’t you tell the police? Or ask Tom to look around.’
‘Because I don’t want trouble. Because I want to believe it’s just a frighten homeless child or a lonely person that doesn’t know they shouldn’t steal. Whoever it is, I come to believe he or she is not dangerous.’
‘Katie, whoever comes into your home has been in my room.’
With this newest bit of information, Katie looked frightened. ‘When?’
The past few days had been quite eventful and Maisie realised that something more serious may have or may happen if Katie stays on her own in the house.
‘I think we need to find out what’s going on. First, we need to open the door to Marjorie’s room.’
Katie looked shocked but then nodded. ‘You’re right. Let me get the key.’ She stepped into the small kitchen and opened a drawer. ‘Let’s go.’ She took hold of Maisie’s hand and marched off.
Maisie grinned and marched with Katie down the hall and up the stairs before Katie defiantly put the key in the lock and flung the door open. In that instance, the curtains shifted in the gusty breeze that had begun earlier.
‘Why is the window open, Katie?’
‘I don’t know. Everything could have been ruined. We get nasty storms and heavy rains at times.’ She rushed over and closed the window.
Maisie joined her. ‘Surely it hasn’t been open for all these years.’
‘I wouldn’t think so.’ After closing the window securely, Katie check the room closely. ‘There’s nothing missing that I can see but it’s obvious that someone has slept on this bed recently and with muddy clothes.’
The two examine the bedding before locking the door again on the way out.
‘How do you suppose they got into my room?’, Maisie asked.
Well there’s more than one key. She held up the small bunch in her hand. ‘These are the spare keys for guests if they lock them self out of their room. They have always been in the drawer.’
‘Where do you keep the main keys?’
‘In my room.’
‘Okay. Let’s think. Tell me about the garden gate?’
‘It used to squeak terribly and it woke anyone who slept on that side of the house. We thought it was the wind but it was checked before bedtime. Every night until Marjorie vanish, it squeaked.’
‘It stopped…until recently.’ Katie’s eyes widened. ‘What do you think it means?’
‘I’m not sure,’ Maisie pondered. ‘But it means something.’
‘It’s getting late, Maisie. Let’s go eat some of that stew.’
While eating, both women were quiet for most of the meal.
‘What kind of food goes missing?’ Maisie finally asked.
‘Well, besides the roast, which was the biggest haul, it’s usually only leftovers really or the odd cake or loaf of bread.’
‘Katie, are you up to a bit of staking out?’
‘Steak?’ Then reality hit. ‘Oh, you mean catch them in the act?’ She shook her head slowly. ‘I don’t want anyone to get hurt.’
‘It’ll be fine.’
Later that evening, the house was locked as usual for the night; the kitchen cleaned up and the leftovers put in the usual place. The two sat in the dimness of the small kitchen, like shadows they sat still as they could; talking only in hush tones.
Katie stifled a yawn. ‘Maybe we scared them off.’
Maisie was about to answer when they both heard the distinct squeak of the gate. A few minutes later the back door opened with a creak.
Katie held her hand to her mouth and Maisie tipped-toed across the floor to see better. The refrigerator door opened, spilling light across a thin face of a woman.
‘Hello Marjorie.’ Maisie spoke clearly but not too loudly.
The woman rushed to the back door leaving the refrigerator open but Maisie and Katie stood between her and the door. Her long monk-like robe dragged along the floor; the hood on her shoulders.
‘Marjorie!’ A sob caught in Katie’s throat. ‘It is you.’
Marjorie stood staring at Maisie for a long time and then at Katie. ‘How did you know it was me?’
‘We didn’t know for sure but it was a reasonable assumption.’ Maisie had answered knowing she really didn’t know until now.
The young woman dropped to the floor and sat weeping.
Katie squatted uncomfortably beside her long-lost sister-in-law and held her while she sobbed.
Maisie switched on lights and closed the refrigerator door. Not knowing what to say next, she put the kettle on.
It was a long way past midnight and after the two Kelly’s caught up on a smidgen of their lost years, Maisie said: ‘Even this nocturnal writer needs to get some sleep.’
They looked up at her as if in a dream.
‘Will you two be OK if I go to bed?’
They both nodded.
© Chrissy Siggee – 2019
While waiting for Katie to call her down stairs for what promised to be a wonderful old fashion roast, she sorted her notes into themes.
The upstairs rooms were fascinating; one in particular since Katie brushed her passed its locked door. Because Katie had chatted the whole time throughout the tour, she managed to ignore some of Maisie’s questions. ‘Perhaps they remind her of some painful memories,’ she whispered. She couldn’t wait to start typing a mystery that had collided with her jumbled thoughts.
The roast dinner was superb and Maisie had to finally insist she couldn’t eat another bite, but then Katie brought out the apple pie and cream. She sat now rubbing her rather full belly wishing she didn’t eat so much. ‘I hope Katie doesn’t expect me to eat like that every night.’ She smiled despite the ache.
With notes spread around the room, Maisie sat crossed legged on the bed and typed madly away on her laptop. She laughed to herself as memories from the day of exploring interrupted her thoughts.
It was almost midnight. She stretched her legs to regain movement to now stiffened joints. The enticement to step out onto the balcony was more than she could bare as a gentle breeze kicked up the hem of the curtains that hung from the glass doors. Outside the chill of the night stung her face. She rubbed her warm hands over her cheeks and allowed the peace of the night hug her.
The crash startled Maisie and she held the railing tightly with her hands that somehow found themselves outstretched. She instinctively bent her knees so she could see past a branch that protruded across one corner of the balcony. There, just like the night before was that same hooded figure but this time it seemed to be picking itself up off the ground. She was tempted to call out but fear seemed to mute her. The figure stood and brushed itself off. The sound of glass tinkled in the still night air. Focusing on the location she tried to memorise the distance from the gate to the bush where the figure had fallen before it disappeared into the darkness.
Maisie retreated to the warmth of her room and stood momentarily with her back to the double doors she had closed behind her. She quickly drew the curtains and climbed onto the bed. Who is it? It couldn’t be Katie. This person is thinner and appeared more agile. Do I ask Katie, again? She didn’t want to upset the friendship they had formed. What’s going on around here? She paced the room anxiously then silently open the bedroom door that opened into a dimly lit hallway. She listened in the silence but there was no sound. She had learned during the tour that Katie’s room was at the other end of the long hallway but there didn’t seem to be any light showing between the floor and the bottom of the door.
It felt like hours before she closed the door again but the clock confirmed it was only a few minutes. The adrenaline she felt on the balcony began to slip away and tiredness began to overwhelm. She laid on her bed fully dressed and dozed off.
There was no knocking on her door the following morning; just the sun shining on her face. She opened her eyes then let them close. With a jolt she sat up. Hadn’t she closed the curtains the night before? She shuddered and attentively peered out. Perhaps she didn’t. Or, maybe I’m spooked by the history of this place. Closing the curtains, she gathered her toiletries and headed to the bathroom.
‘Good morning,’ young Maisie’, Katie sing-songed when her only guest entered the kitchen.
‘Good morning, Katie. I wouldn’t have thought it but I’m starving this morning.’
‘Ah, the country air is working it’s magic.’
Katie was obviously in a very good mood this morning. She glanced at her watch. ‘So, shall we call this brunch?’
Katie looked up. ‘How about scrambled eggs and hash browns?’
‘Is that what I could smell coming up the hall?’
‘Probably but I’m also cooking up a stew for this evening—unless you will need lunch too.’
‘No thanks.’ She laughed. ‘Katie, did you hear a crash last night? Around midnight?’
Katie hummed while she cooked. ‘No. unless my snoring rattled some china.’ She snorted then continued stirring the eggs. ‘So, are you hungry or not?’
Maisie left any further questions about the incident alone and ate her hearty brunch. Swallowing her last mouthful down with the rest of her coffee she stood. ‘I’m going into town. Do you need anything while I’m there?’
‘No thanks. Don’t forget to call in to see Tom.’
‘I won’t.’ Maisie rushed upstairs to clean her teeth and grab her laptop. ‘That’s strange.’ She knelt down to pick up her notes that were now scattered on the floor. The door to the balcony was still closed and the only window in the room was too small for any breeze to disturb the pile of notes. She shrugged it off, grabbed her keys and headed for the car. She slowed her steps and looked toward the side gate. Something glittered in the sunlight. ‘Glass! So, I didn’t imagine it.’
‘MAISIE!’ Katie called from the front door. ‘You left your phone on the kitchen table.’
She jogged towards the waiting Katie with an outstretched hand. ‘Thanks. I’ll be back by the time your stew is ready to serve.’ She waved and hurried to the car.
With a quick glance in the rear-view mirror she released the brake but not before noticing Katie heading toward the gate with a brush and pan. ‘So, she did hear it. My instincts tell me there is something mysterious going on—but do I want to know?’
Tom was a rough but nice enough old guy. His stories were hilarious and a little scary. His belly would bounce up and down with his enthusiastic laugh. Maisie ask question after question and probably got more answers than she needed. She also doubted if any of it was true. After she read her emails and sent the necessary replies, her mind wandered back to the past two nightly events.
Maisie chose her words carefully. ‘So, is there any ghosts still around at Kelly’s Inn?’
‘Well now, that young couple that died in the fire could be still haunting the old place.’
‘Besides the fire, what about the family that we’re there prior to you knowing Katie and Stan? Maybe even later. Has anything else occurred there?’
Tom eyed her for a moment. He stepped around the counter and returned to his chopping block and smashed a meat axe through the carcass that he had placed there as she was entering the shop earlier.
The sound of the axe slicing the bone and the silence that settled afterward startled her. She was about to speak when Tom roared laughing.
Maisie smiled gingerly not knowing what else to do or say.
‘There was the incident with Stan’s little sister. Just fourteen she was.’ He rubbed his bristled chin. ‘Now what was her name?’ He slammed the blade down hard into flesh spurting a few droplets of blood onto his butcher apron. ‘Ah, yes Marjorie. She had a feisty spirit that one. Sneaky too. She would sneak out of the house at night to meet up with some boyfriend. Rumour has it that one night she just ran off with him, or so they say.’
Interest soared and Maisie dared further questions. ‘Do you think she still alive?
‘Could be alive. Could be dead. No one recalls if any young fella disappeared at the same time. There was nothing taken from her room.’ He pointed the meat axe at Maisie. ‘Did you know her room has never been touched since that night?’
Maisie sat still—thinking. ‘Why would that be?’ she finally asked.
‘I don’t rightly know and Katie is tight lipped about it.’ He paused; meat clever in mid strike. ‘I just thought of something. I do remember something about a blood-stained scarf had been found caught on that old garden gate out beside the Inn. Police were all over the place for weeks but nothing else was found. Marjorie simply vanished.’
To change the morbid subject, Maisie asked about Suzie, Tom’s wife.
‘She’s out the back in the kitchen.’ His smile was crooked. ‘Why don’t you go and say hello. She doesn’t get much company these days. Katie stops by when she’s in town. That’s about it.’
‘Thanks Tom, I will. Can I charge my phone out there?’
‘Sure. There’s reception if you stand on the step ladder near the pantry.’ He winked and returned to his work.
This was turning out to be an interesting afternoon. Suzie was a shy woman but it was obvious to Maisie that she enjoyed her visit. They talked about Kelly’s Inn, Katie and their years of friendship and about life in a little country town.
A handsome young man stopped by to visit with Suzie but didn’t stay long. She never did get to ask his name. There was no further conversation about Marjorie even when Tom closed up the shop for the day and joined them for a cup of tea.
Before returning to Kelly’s Inn, Maisie walked round the small town and explored lanes and the very few shops in the main street then got back into her car. At the fork in the road that would take her left back to the inn or right to the main highway, she stopped to talk to a man who appeared to be a farmer. He was a cheery bloke and gave Maisie some information on local places she might like to visit. She had thanked him and made the turn back to her accommodation.
From the inn to town was about twelve miles. It was only a few miles from town when she decided to take a walk down a narrow bush-track she had seen on her way to see Tom earlier that afternoon. She had left her camera back in her room but she could use her phone for a few shots if she needed too.
Maisie picked up a small broken branch and plucked off the leaves and smaller twigs and held it out in front of her. She giggled and began to use it like a sword. ‘I have you now!’ She spoke to the dense shrub and stepped onto the narrowing path swinging the crooked branch back and forth.
A bird squawked. It rustled the bushes and flew off to avoid the approaching stranger. Maisie looked up. ‘I won’t hurt you.’
After walking about ten minutes, she decided it was getting too late to be traipsing around unknown bushland, but as she turned to go something caught her attention a little off to the right. Using the sword, she carefully pushed back prickly branches of a huge shrub and crouched low. There in a small clearing was an old run-down cabin.
‘What are you looking at!’ a voice barked from behind.
Maisie cried out when the branches smashed back into her face. By the time she recovered from the fright the bushes around her were empty. There was no one there. The cottage door slammed shut. Maisie tossed her sword into the bushes and ran back to the car. She drove off without looking back.
© Chrissy Siggee – 2019
The fresh smell of damp earth is no longer
Air thick with red dust sweeps across the plains
Creek beds and dams completely dried up
Deep crevices formed like lightning bolts in the earth
Sheep and cattle wander – struggling for survival
Farmers open gates to their withered crops
while we city-dwellers have our fill.
Children play in the shade of Coolabah trees
where temperatures are of little difference –
Families battle against all odds to save their land
Determination and courage reveal their Aussie spirit
Household over-draughts rise beyond all revenue
Farmers are fraught by the burden of debt
Requests for assistance, shatters their humble pride.
An unrestrained sun blazes mercilessly
Occasional clouds overhead constrain their moisture –
Flies stick and infest the cut-price sale yards
Stock owners livelihoods plundered and rorted
Gone are the days of cattlemen and their droving
Greener pastures no longer exist in this dry barren land
Australia, why do we ignore their anxious plight?
Suicides are frequent in this desperate land
Every four days a man takes his life
Outback families weep – completely torn by grief
Livelihoods shattered by troubled times
Land owned for generations – now in ruins
How dire must the life of the Aussie battler be?
A nightmare has replaced their great Aussie dream.
Open the heavens and send down the rain
Fill our dams and drench our dry thirsty land
Refresh our rural regions with life-filled rains
Bring hope and life to struggling families
Restore to this nation a sense of mate-ship
For God, if this drought continues into another day,
the true-blue Aussie will be lost forever.
© Chrissy Siggee 24thOctober 2006
Although written in 2006, I feel that this is relevant today.
On 12 Apr 2018 at 2:40pm this statement was released on the ABC: Seasonal conditions are worsening across 90 per cent of New South Wales, and some farmers are forking out up to $10,000 a week to maintain livestock.