Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Drought Victoria Australia

The bush

This is Johns Story.

Victoria Australia.
In some countries of the world they call it a drought, if it hasn't rained for 15 days!

As I stand here on my stoop watching for the sunrise,
it's been two years since any meaning-full rain has fallen, two years since we have been awakened by the soothing patter of rain on our roof,
now we just have the unfriendly cracking noises from the roof shrinking after a day of merciless sun, taking the temperature over 120 degrees F.

This will be my last morning on the stoop for a while.
My wife and I are leaving the property and heading down to Melbourne, where I have a job as a labourer.
The drought has finally beaten me, it has destroyed every living thing green on our land.

It has been months since I've heard any birds or seen  any bush wildlife coming out from the bush, at the top of our property.
Normally dawn was heralded with a chorus of birds,
we would see wombats and Kangaroos and rabbits crossing our homestead, but no more, the sun has scorched every living thing and like me they are all leaving or have already left, to return hopefully when the drought breaks?

This a real big event in our lives, I have never been away from the place, since I was borne here and I love it, so does my wife Bless her!
We never considered leaving before.
We have raised our family and they have all moved on with their lives in the city, the land has been good to us.
Also we have our parents buried under the blue gum trees at the top of the hill.

We even buried a Swag man alongside them! we found him dead one summer at the entrance to our property,
we didn't know his name, so we just marked him Swag man and he became part of the family plot,
when we visit the site with flowers and a chat, we always remembered him,
The Local police never found out who he was? so now he stays with us.

Now I  stand on my stoop " with a beaten stance" awaiting sunrise in the hope that it would not be so merciless as it has been,
for so many years and months now.
Watching as the sun slowly destroyed my life.
I used to look directly at the sunrise and challenge the sun! saying in my mind "you will not drive me away" but as time went by,
I had to conceded defeat.

So here I stand waiting for the sun to peek over the horizon and defy it, one more time!
even thought my gesture of defiance is half hearted,
as the light speeds across the land directly towards me,
like a violent slap it strikes my face, like a hot towel out of the barbers shop, I stagger with its ferocity, but I keep my balance.
Next I feel a hand take mine, she says" come we must go now"
we made one last visit to our  family burial plot and we drove away down to our new lives in Melbourne.

It wasn't so bad really, we got to see our children and witness the arrival of our first grand child, and the job was okay.
So we just got along with what we had, ever couple of weeks we would return to our land and I would walk around looking for signs of new life, but there was none, my wife always insisted on cleaning the windows when we were there?
We were growing into a strange old couple.

After about two years of serious drought, the city was imposing water restrictions as well.
But Melbourne was lucky really, it was south of the mountain ranges, facing the sea and it always rained, maybe! not enough, but it did rain.

On one of our home visit I heard the call of a kookaburra in the tree in the bush, I raced back to the house to tell my wife, she said "she heard it, don't raise your hopes to much! but I agree it's a good sign".

On the way back to Melbourne I was in good spirits and when we got home I checked out the long range weather forecast, every couple of hours, in the hope of a sign! the drought was easing or even ending.
The forecast changed and the weather men were saying "that they were expecting rain, which will break the drought.

Friday night it rained continuously all night and all day the following day, I climbed out of bed and went out and stood in the rain, allowing it to wash away my tears and the years of pain the drought had caused me.

We left Melbourne to go and check if the rain had crossed the mountains into the wheat country,
as we crossed the hills the rain slowed it was still very hot,
my wife cleaned the windows in silence,
I went walkabout but there was no new life. No rain!

I wanted to swear and shout abuse at someone.
But there is nobody to blame, this is just life.
I find it difficult to let go!

I phoned my son to tell him" no rain got this far North" he said "it was still raining there and the forecast was for it to continue,
so don't give up hope yet".
That evening after sundown, we went up to the graves to put the water on the site, which we had bought up with us, our idea being, that when the rains does come, first new life will be here.
My wife poured a bottle of beer on the swag man grave, saying  "a swag man always likes a beer and today is his 20th anniversary with us, so happy anniversary Mr swag man, who-ever you are? you are welcome here"

We decide to stay a couple of days to do some general cleaning up around the place, before returning to Melbourne,
Sunday evening we sat out on the stoop drinking tea,
I felt the wind change direction, it was starting to blow!
I stood up I could feel, the breeze cooling,
Rain was coming I could smell that sweetness in the air.
It reminded of the emotion I felt when my wife to be! said to me "she would like to spend the rest of her life with me". Me!

My heart was pounding and my emotions were welling up inside me choking all speech from me,
I was so happy, what a great feeling that is.
Do you remember it?

My wife came and joined me and we stood and watched the first flashes of lightening, then the rain and wind came, gently at first then heavy, the noise on the roof was deafening, it got quite cool so we went inside, my wife said to me "well are you happy now"
I said "yes with a big grin".
I cuddled her close and looking into her weathered face, I said "with-out you! none of this, has any true meaning,
thank you for sticking with me through the years, I have always loved you and still do." she said "come lets go to bed and listen to the rain you big softy."

Well that was the end of the drought and of course John and his lady returned to the property to continue their lives together,
the rain was not as reliable as in old days, but they made do and were happy.
At dawn the birds called to them and life was good.

They are now both buried beside each other with their parents.  and of course the old Swag man.

Their family keep the property and their memories going.

John  and Bev  your memory is not forgotten.

Go Well.


A Swag man: is a fellow who walks around the bush roads looking for part time work or a meal, some may call him a tramp, he carries his whole world in a bundle on his back.



  1. What an amazing story - and told so beautifully - it is wonderful of you to remember them both and keep their memory alive in this way. I lived through a very bad drought in Africa once - I know just what its like to look at that blindingly relentless sky and pray the rain will come. Now I live in Ireland and I think if we went 2 days without rain we'd consider it a drought!

  2. Thank you for your kind words Sharon, I visited your site today and would recommend it to everybody with a free mind, exploring your drawings will prove to be a wee adventure for me.

  3. Beautiful story. I loved it. Very sentimental.

  4. What a great story. I can't imagine a drought like that! Here it hasn't rained for two weeks and they are saying we are in a drought and there are fire warnings. Wow!

  5. During the last world war Australia was threatened with invasion by a much stronger Japanese force from the north and the policy decided upon, was to destroy any thing the Japanese could use to sustain their army, mainly water and food, it was called the scorched earth policy (retreat and leave nothing living behind), it was never used because of the H Bomb,I have often wondered if the basic idea came from an Aussie who had lived through a drought, sorry about that I do go on at times, thank you for your visit. Agman

  6. Dear Agman, I so enjoyed reading about Bev and John and the swag man but (as often happens) when I read your posts, I shed a tear or two. Having spent a little time in Australia with our family, I can really appreciate how it must have felt. We were there last December during the awful fires. The heat was intolerable, and we were only there for a month!

  7. Fear! could be used equally as the word fire!
    For when the wind goes around and the sky turns red,and the temperature climbs to unthinkable degrees, the fire has the country on it's knees, for the time has come run away and hope and pray you get away, so you can remember your fear on this day, for it will never ever go away. Agman


Don't be shy Please leave a comment. Thank you.