At Deniliquin, the Edward River is in flood! Breaking its banks the swirling flood water fills the gullies and billabongs that surround the river. The water swirls madly around the large river red gums that grow in its path. Seemingly in a delight at its escape from the river, it eddies and swirls. This creates frothy bubbles that fascinate a toddler who has also escaped with her older sister to observe the flood. It’s my first sweet taste of adventure.
There are lots of boys swimming in the flood water having a wonderful time. We stand on a bridge surrounded by flood water to watch them and peering down through the steel slats I can see the flood water flowing swiftly past. Half an upright egg shell floats by, fancy that, an egg shell boat! My reverie is disturbed by a shout,
“The police are coming, run!”
There’s a mad scramble out of the water as a police car approaches very slowly down the track. My sister Maureen shouts “Run” and is dragging me off the bridge. We dash through water and up the path. She yells at me, “You’re a nuisance; you don’t run fast enough, you nearly got us caught!”
My parents came to Australia in the spirit of adventure to make their fortune. Instead of a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow they found the dust and drought of the Riverina.
We live in the town, in Harfleur St in a house known as the old golf house. When it’s hot Mother is homesick for England and it always seems to be hot. Heat waves seem to be the ‘norm.’ The only relief we have from the heat is to spend the day at the park under the shade of the trees. We straggle tiredly home in the evenings.
Banks of dust laden cloud roll in on the horizon and the sky is dark red. The smell of red dust alerts us and we run to the house. Mother calls “Come in children, there’s going to be a dust storm!” We race inside and help her place towels against the cracks of doors and windows, but the atmosphere is still choking with the dust that filters through. It’s dark inside; you can see and hear nothing except red dust pounding against the window panes. When it’s all over the dust must be swept from the house.
Dad has been approached by Stock and Station agent Harry Tuck who is owed money by some of the local squatocracy. His proposal is for Dad to grow crops on their land on a share farmer basis, so they can pay their bills. Always a super optimist Dad works hard anticipating success but is thwarted by drought time and time again.
When there are spare parts being flown in for the tractors we go out to the aerodrome to wait for “the Wingull” the sweetest tiny blue plane. It’s exciting when it lands and taxies down the runway and we go out to meet it. Sometimes I’m allowed to stand on the wing!
We left Deniliquin at the beginning of World War 2 when my father joined the Army. I was three years old.
It was over sixty years before I returned. I stepped out of the car in the Main St and
instantly there was the smell of Deniliquin, and the quality of the sunshine and the
dryness of the atmosphere that I remembered so well. I felt that I was home again!