Country Blokes Don’t Say Much

Country Blokes Don’t Say Much

 

I first saw her a few weeks ago. She was young, maybe about twelve, darker than most and wearing a teal coloured smock in the usual fashion of maybe five sizes too big. She gave me a big smile and a young girl’s wave and ran off.

In 1849 an expedition was sent by the new claimants to sovereignty over the land and all contained within it. Their agenda was to map out suitable large areas of land that could be allotted to the new arrivals for agricultural purposes. Up by Table Hill, as it is now known, the party, fully armed, came across a small family clustered around an open fire. They were members of the Nada tribe. Curious, they just sat there looking at the trespassers. The red-coated leader and two of his man walked up to the fire. They wore the heavy military boots of the era and began to kick the fire out. The young girl flew into a rage screaming and shouting as she attacked the shear arrogance with her bare hands. He promptly grabbed her and started to pull her towards their horses whilst the others tried to vamoose the rest of the family.

With flaring, smoke bellowing nostrils Kartu picked up his hunting spear and ran it through the lieutenants’ leg.

‘They have neither right of passage nor possession of his land without the Nada’.

He tried desperately to free his daughter. Then the order was given. Fire at will. And they did. They killed in cold blood, Kartu, his brother, their wives and two of the children. During the turmoil the young girl broke away and ran; never to be seen again.

It’s an old place set on land on the western side of the Chapman Valley, a charming little farming community. But this land is tired and yearns to tell its stories of days gone by so that its spirit can be released from bondage and unlock the chains of falsehood that will let this land continue its story of life.

Monka came to this place some 18 years ago. She had just met Allan Mitchell whose family owned property in the district. Since she had been a young girl she had dreamt of a delightful dirt road that meambled between fenced open country that eventually came across a gorgeous old cottage. In fact these were her thoughts every night before she fell asleep.

Allan invited Monka up to his property for the week-end. Coming down those country roads for the first time it was like returning to her dream. She had never felt so happy or content to be anywhere. Needless to say as the relationship grew and Allan asked her to move into the homestead she didn’t hesitate for a faction of a second to say yes. But it was not the rambling old homestead with all its history of white settlement of the district or the collection, over the last millennium and a half of important memorabilia, that Monka’s dreams had been all about. No, they were about but the run-down, dilapidated, share-croppers cottage. In the early years she would quite often wander down there with her binoculars and the excuse of bird watching and let her imaginings take her to the past that was to become her future. What she would do with this room and that where what furniture should go where and guess how much it would cost to put new roofing iron, water tanks and cement and so forth. She was making it happen in her head.

Monka eventually told Allan about her childhood dream and the cottage and after much emotional debate Allan promised her the ownership of the run-down cottage and the 5 acres that surround it. But they were to go under separate title because the farm was jointly owned by Allan and his brother. The way Allan saw things all legal matters take time but there was nothing to stop Monka from commencing the restoration now. After all she would be using her own money to do it. So the excitement grew; water tanks $22,000, roofing iron $11,000. Monka became very excited and poured all her spare time and money into the project. The constant stream of visitors to tour the homestead was getting very taxing. Stories of strange occurrences had begun to circulate and the unusual deaths of white children who had lived in the homestead that now haunted the house. What with ghosts, doors opening and closing at will and visitors getting that eerie feeling and sometimes refusing to go inside the homestead, even though they had paid their $10.00 entrance fee, the renovation and not knowing where she stood long term with Allan; it had all got a bit much. She asked Allan what his intentions were after 12 years of living together and received a flat no! “Why should things change now?”

 So Monka moved into the partially renovated cottage, after all, Allan had promised it to her.

Mr Jones was a kindly old gentleman who had been coming to the Victoria district for his annual holiday for years. But this winter he did not come. Monka had always been kind and pleasant and cooked his meals just the way he liked them at no extra charge. She was very surprised when a letter arrived from a firm of solicitors in Melbourne stating that Mr Jones had passed away and he had left his assets, which included a Jaguar car, to her. On hearing what should have been good news Allan reacted badly and felt that he had no obligation to honour his promise to give Monka the 5 acres with the cottage on it. So he reneged on his word. Monka was now a woman of means and they were no longer together.

 Allan stood his ground.

But his nights grew restless and he began to host nightmares and wake up with anxiety attacks, not that he would ever say anything, country blokes are like that.  A young aboriginal lass started hanging around the property. She was maybe early teens always dressed in a greenie-teal smock which is not unusual as few bush natives have more than a single dress to their name. He called out to her in a not so unfriendly manner, like most of the better-off he had little time for the indigenous population that is the few that were left and she was a bit darker than most. She always ran away. He once saw her playing with two young boys who looked to him like their wore some sort of animal skin but as he approached they all ran off.

He was hardly sleeping at all now and having more and more anxiety attacks even during the day. October is a very windy month and the nights are cold. The kind of evening you go to bed early and make sure you have a good warm doona on. But this night he could not spend another minute in bed. He pounced on the Ute like a feral cat on a rabbit and drove not knowing exactly where he was going. He pulled up hard when he saw the group sitting around the campfire. 2 men 2 women and 3 children.

“You’z have no right to camp on our land unless we is ‘ere too”

It was the older man who spoke.

“You is ‘ere ‘cause you got numbers and you got weapons. We got no written words but when we say’z somefin’ is right it could be carved in stone for the whole world knows we will honour it.”

With this he thrust his spear penetrating Allan’s right thigh.

He woke up in Geraldton hospital.

“I came looking for you when you didn’t come in for your morning coffee and found you unconscious on Table Hill”

It was Monka.

“They think you have had a mild heart attack but you seem to be ok. How do you feel?”

Country blokes don’t say much.

“My leg?”

“Your legs fine. It was probably all those sleepless nights.”

It is hard to put anything past Monka.

Allan looked at his leg it was perfectly fine not a scratch on it.

Allan was being sedated at the hospital so it gave him some time to think and rest. He returned home after a few days.

He gave Monka the cottage and the 5 acres that it rested on and so let her continue with her dream. Which of-course everyone in the district knew he would. And so the legacy of the Nada people remains to protect the spirit of the land and the respect that it is owed in its people.

So it is that the deaths of 6 Nada people in 1849 at the hands of the notorious Lt Wells was not in vain for they continue their guardianship of the land that was entrusted to them.

And Allan?

Whenever he sees a campfire or catches a glimpse of the children playing he knows that the spirit that is his land to share and love is being taken care off.

The ghost hunters tell there fanciful stories of dead white children of doors opening and closing by themselves and strange noises and phenomena through the night and Allan smiles inwardly to himself.

Country blokes don’t say much.

John Audet

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