Friday, August 3, 2007
The bed is dry, untidy, knee-deep in weeds. There is a rattling in the dead bushes to the left and a crow's mournful caw comes from a far distance. Next to this barren bed are leaves, dull olive, struggling to remember greener, less thirsty times. The stones and pebbles are hot and dusty.
Many decades have passed since Clem and I would cross the creek here going to school. We had different ways of going to the school which was about eight kilometres up the creek from where we lived. We could choose between horse, push-bike or foot. And we could go up the right hand road, the left hand road or through the paddocks in the middle. We usually chose to ride our bikes up the left hand road. We would leave our bikes at Uncle Frank's place and walk the last few hundred metres across the creek to the school.
But not always directly. Each morning would bring new water to the crossing and new adventures. We could paddle through the knee-deep water of the crossing, throwing stones, making ripples, getting wet. We could walk across the log Frank's boys had put across the creek just down from the crossing, adzed slightly level, but slippery on frosty mornings. Or explore. The creek bank varied; each section different, but with the same attraction. Johnny had his set-lines in that gloomy hole with the turtles,platypus and water goannas. He wanted to catch the big eels – and he often did. Albert pumped out of the big hole a few hundred metres down but you couldn't walk along the bank to get there. The lushness with its birds and insect life hung far out over the water. Even the accessible parts involved stinging nettles, tall sticky paspalum, burrs and thistles (because lazy old ........ up the creek further didn't keep his paddocks chipped clean and the seeds would wash down) castor-oil bushes, bottle brushes, willow trees and numerous other species which will probably never be classified by botanists.
There was a period (short) when we would go fishing before school. Until Old Jack (our teacher) nabbed us. The hole just above the crossing, probably two metres deep, had a convenient willow overhanging the deep spot. From its branches, which attracted small boys, one could see the catfish idly swimming about in the crystal-clear water below. A short length of line, (cut off father's) a bated hook (no lack of worms in the creek bank) and we could position the fishes' breakfast right in front of their fins. Tempting one would think but mostly we saw how our juicy, hook-shaped offerings were ignored. But occasionally not, and this would mean a quick run back to have Aunty Annie put our fish in her fridge till afternoon. But Old Jack wondered why we were barely making it to school on time after having seen us riding on the left hand road an hour and a half previously. And we didn't catch many fish!
I am standing where those fish were swimming those decades ago. Yes, two roads led up the valley – one on each side of the creek. The school road joined these two. Past Uncle Frank's place, down the hill to the creek, across the creek and then up the other side to Old Jack's house and the school, then further along the road to the T-junction in front of Uncle Harry's gate.
The roads are still there!