Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Archie and Tana

Archie and Tana

It is a family tradition now

And it’s been this way for years

After school Archie and Montana, take a walk

Archie, he just listens, Tana, she just talks

She tells him ‘bout her troubles

And says what makes her laugh

A lead hangs loosely from his neck

And loops back around her arm

He paces close beside her

He’s keeping her from harm

Walkers stop to greet them,

And Archie loves a pat

They talk about each other’s day,

Well, you know our Tana loves a chat

And while they are out walking,

In her head she sings a song

Around the corner and up the street,

Her troubles, quickly gone

Archie stops to sniff another dog,

He lifts his leg and smiles

Tana tugs his lead and walks

And Archie moves along.

He hears about her friends at school

What they like to say, and do

He hears about her teachers

And about the bullies too,

How their words and actions cruel

Her feelings are quite often hurt

And sometimes there’s bruise

Archie seems to understand her plight

His brown eyes stare up at her

And seem to question why


She sees her own reflection

Deep in his soft brown eyes

Our Tana’s getting smarter

Every day, she grows more wise

A growing girl with pretty looks

She is nobody’s fool

Archie, he just looks at her

As his lips, they fill with drool


She stops to buy an icecream

From a hot pink vending van

She buys one too, for Archie,

On the insistence of the man

Tana’s sitting on a park bench

An icecream in each hand

Both looking at the sunset

Clouds of red and crimson

Reflected in their view

An image of the houses

Floating on the lake

She nods to people walking by

And wonders about them too


This girl her dog and evening

Eating icecream by the lake

Across the water wafts

The smell of barbeque

Of chops, and sausages

Of onions mixed with mushroom

There’s bacon in there too


Tana’s thoughts are miles away

Archie lifts his paw to touch her arm

She lets him lick her icecream

And then she drops the cone

She gave it to him willingly

Two gulps, and it was gone


She hears someone singing

To the strains of their guitar

And in the corner of the park

She sees him strumming

He leans back against his car.

His song is one of love and loss

And aching of the heart

She smiles, and cuddles Archie

Back home, they have to start.


She drops a coin into his upturned hat

The music man, he nods and smiles

Never losing his rhythm or his beat

And there in that fleeting moment

Tana imagines dancing to his tune

Playing tambourine and singing

Or banging on a drum

A magpie warbles overhead

Drowning out the city’s hum


All the bullies in the world

Are now so far from her mind

All she wants to do is sing

To be with people who are kind.

Archie’s picking up the pace now

And he’s straining at his lead

Leading her down the street

To the butcher and a bone

This is a daily ritual

As Archie makes for home

Tom the butcher likes them both

And with Tana likes to chat

Archie doesn’t care about the talk

He is all about the bone


Soon back at home and

Archie’s lead is dropped

Mum growls about muddy prints

On a floor she’s freshly mopped

‘How was you walk?’ she asks

‘Yeah it was good, just tops.’

‘Better hit the homework then

before tea’ Mum says

‘You know, how your time flies’


Mum gives Archie’s back a rub,

And a scratch behind his ears

She lets her mind wander

To days of schoolyard bullies

And she hears their pain filled taunts

Feels the constant push and punch

She remembers lost and lonely thoughts

She remembers fending off the tease

But knew her vitality was shrinking

Under the bully’s constant jibes


Andy knows how much you need a friend

In a daughter’s ever changing world

And how close a friend this dog can be,

To her loving, growing girl

Again her mind drifts back

To those testing days of growing up,

Her old dog sat there by her side

His ears, all pricked and keen

For hours she told him all about

Her hopes, her fears. and all of her dreams

The memory lives within her still

It makes her strong and warm

As it has done for years.

Saturday, 19 July 2014

Looking for Les Gillespie's Gold

Spent today in the Orroroo area seeking the location of Les Gillespie's lost gold reef, I thought it may have been somewhere in the ranges of hills between Hammond and Carrieton. A further drive through the Oladdie Gorge and I am no closer to finding it. More work required. I did take some photos to help me with time and place. Take a look at Joe Gillespie's country in winter.

Hereford Cow took an interest in us as I tried to get her picture. House in the background was abandoned in the sixties

Oladdie staging house between Johnburgh and Carrierton.

The small outbuilding in the is built on the same line as the main building, this would have functioned as a hotel, ticket office and homestead in the early days.

Coal gas exploration threatens Joe and Laura's way of life, these are test holes similar to those drilled by RAYDOR Exploration on the properties of Joe's  neighbours.

With plenty of good information tucked into notebooks and the computer I need to get down to writing and help Joe find this reef before Charles Winkler does.

Saturday, 12 July 2014

A Fisherman's Bay Memory

I went to her again this morning. What should I do I asked? Her back was to me, and she neither saw, nor heard. Even if she had, she would remain quiet; it has always been this way. Dew seeped through what remained of the yellow dress that covered her. Rainbow drops glistened on her exposed ribs, and she rested silent among the leaf litter. As always, she waited and I let my mind wander.
I close my eyes and conjure the same feelings that I experienced the first time I saw her. Palpitations only an adolescent boy could know, my mouth was dry, and blood pumped through me like I’d never felt before. She teased me, exposing a little nakedness as she appeared before our art class. We sat there holding our breath, tantalised by her form. Even the new chalk sounded delighted, and it squeaked under Mr Howland’s right hand. He took his time, and this lesson we savoured. First he traced her outline, and almost to a boy we were agog as he drew the detail.
This has never left me. We were drafting a kayak/canoe.
Over a few days, sketches morphed from patterns on the blackboard to bulkhead outlines on marine ply. My father and I would build her at home. He hoped the canoe would strengthen a bond between brothers competing for parental attention. A canoe, that has watched without complaint as I have gone brotherless, from boy to grandfather. Would it be easier for me now if we had given her a name? We didn’t, she always was, the canoe.

A few months before, our small yacht had capsized. My young brother, trapped beneath the sail, panicked and struggled for air. He was unwilling to sail again. I told my craft teacher of Dad’s plan to build a canoe for Christmas. Swept along by my enthusiasm, he agreed to make it a design project for our class.
‘You will help me build it.’ Dad said. ‘Not a word to your brother now. We’ll make it a surprise.’ Forty two years on, I still feel the pride those words gave me, yet they conjure sadness too. David never did work with Dad like this.
The kitchen of our old home became a boathouse.Bulkheads lay beside maple spars on the work bench. The scent of wood shavings filled the room. Sharpened chisels, planes and spoke-shaves rested on a shelf above the bench. Wrapped in yesterday’s news, copper tacks, marine nails and screws waited for their place in the frame. Clamps held the keel to sawhorses we made from old packing crates.
Our only power tool was a drill Dad bought after the war, and now he let me use it. I’d earned his trust. Over the next two weeks we shaped, nailed, screwed and tacked everything into place.
Two coats of blue marine undercoat picked out the frame. She glistened, the colour matched Dad’s eyes and the shape of her spars followed the crease of his smile. I can still hear him now, telling me to work with the grain. I see wood shavings curl, break, and drift to the floor. I smell the perfume of maple again, and it takes me back to a simpler time.
I stood at the stern, and with Dad at the bow we draped canvas over the keel. Together we tacked it into place, working from the centre, taking care to eliminate creases. Folding and stretching it, smooth canvas cloaked her. Battalions of copper tacks shone against the green of the fabric. The canvas gave her form, and she giggled as her timbers tensioned as the first coat of yellow paint dried.
Dad flicked it with his finger. ‘A-flat’ he said. ‘Better try it again after another coat.’ A couple of coats, and the dry paint had tensioned everything. Her frame no longer twisted and we achieved Dad’s A-sharp.
‘You did well son’ he said and I felt his arm close on my shoulders. ‘Now, David will have something to keep him out of your hair these holidays.’
‘Ta’ I said. ‘But, I didn’t do it for David, I did it for me.’ Sure, the canoe was his and I could use it too, but I’d had three great weeks working with my father. I learnt from his experience, I discovered new methods, and I had spent time doing something for my kid brother. I felt good.
Today I feel different emotions tearing at me. After a few years we began to get along, gone was the jealousy we had of each other. Unfortunately we lost David in a car accident before we could exorcise all of our demons. A heart attack snatched Dad ten years later.
I flick at a piece of curling paint from a spar, and run my hand along her gunnels. I gaze at the curve of her bow, and my mind is back to that first year, and a soft January evening. I feel salt water drying on my face and lick my lips to taste it. My mate, Trevor sits in front of me and his paddle dips with mine. A put-put fishing boat motors ahead of us, her white hull mixes with reflections of sunset. We are heading east. A cormorant wheels inches above the water between us. White water churns and boils behind the fishing boat. We make a race of it now. If we stay to the starboard side, and get onto the boat’s bow wave, we can surf in to shore. The fishermen urge us on, even though they are unwilling to slow. Three kilometres from shore now and the tide ebbs, eddies swirl around each dip of our paddles.
Seagulls dive for fish scraps in front of us as the fishermen clean their catch. They laugh, bombarding us with fish guts, we laugh too, but maintain our beat, and we are gaining on them. Their boat follows the channel; our shallow draft lets us cut across cockle flats. A blue swimmer crab rears at our shadow. Drenched from paddling, we level with them now. More cormorants streak from the other side of the bay, across our bow and to their nests on Shag Island. I am squinting and imagine their reflections, saltwater burns my eyes, but their calls tell me they’re there. Trevor is singing a shanty now, it helps keep our rhythm. I start singing faster, I see his back bend, and his paddle digs deeper.
‘We are on top of the wave now.’ Trevor yells. ‘Let’s surf it for a while.’
We slow our paddling and glide along, allowing gravity to hold our speed. I drag my blade and steer the canoe up on the stern wave’s curl. Closer to the boat now, the wave is higher and the canoe surges.
‘Get away out of it, you, crazy buggers’ One of the fishermen yells and a fish head bounces off our bow. A gull dives and clips Trevor, he grabs at his glasses sliding off his nose. We wobble and lose momentum.
‘Snooze, you lose.’ The fisherman calls. ‘Race you to shore.’
Trevor starts the shanty again, and they join in too. Our paddles slash faster now and we draw ahead, we set our sights on another boat one hundred metres ahead.
‘This one too?’ I pant between the bars of: Drunken Sailor.
Trevor nods, ramps up the rhythm, and we devour the glassy surface. Dodging between moored boats we power toward shore, the canoe bumps on the sand as waves from the ski-boats carry us through the shallows.
We slump on our paddles, not moving, waiting to get our breath back. We had raced several fishing boats home that night, and our legs wobbled as we carried our craft up the beach. We collapsed on a bank of seaweed and laughed. Friends joined us, and ribbed our singing.
Tonight I touch her again and flinch. The prick of a splinter stings my finger. Is it her way of telling me she needs care? Should I be angry? No, how can I be angry with this piece of my past. She holds many fond memories.
The canoe always brought people to David, Dad and me. She introduced us to people from all over the state. Many paddled her, but no one mastered her like David or me, her round bottomed hull made sure of that.
Stay a little longer old girl. I’ll spruce you up nice, and one day you will play with our grandchildren too.