It’s hard to believe that just over a week ago I was telling you all about my enrollment in the Matador U’s Travel Writing course. Now a couple of weeks in, I have submitted my first assignment – writing about my home town. There have been a couple of revisions to the initial draft, but I hope that you all feel like you are with me as I returned ‘Home’ to this place I love so much.
Travel writing evolution Assignment – Returning home
Across the farming land I see them. The high-rises of my home town. Two concrete wheat silos standing tall above the mallee scrub. Their corrugated tin roofs reflecting the hot summer sun’s rays back up into the brilliant blue, cloudless sky, and I know I’m almost home.
Past the ‘Welcome to Patchewollock’ sign the deserted main street is a familiarity. The football oval a silvery grey, with bands of brown. The grass long dead after years of drought and the weeds now crusty from the early summer heat. The old general store, though closed now for years, stands beyond black and yellow striped tape, a caution by the council of danger. The local hotel, the hub of our community, freshly painted but desolate. The farmers too busy with harvest to call in for a cold beer or a quite yarn.
Across the road, two giant mallee fowls. Their 10 meter tall structures built to honor this native flightless bird that was once thought to be close to extinction, but now which frequently roams across our remote desert landscape. They seem strange; foreign, yet their sculptured bodies and finely detailed painted feathers provide our small town with a glimmer of tourist hope.
Nothing has really changed, but it all seems slightly different. Perhaps I am seeing it through new eyes. Once a town at the ‘end of the line’, many may see it as a lost cause. A town without life, without heart, without hope, but I know its secret.
Before I know it we are out of town. Where I’d previously thought a puddle of water lay on the road, now only dry bitumen remains. The watery mirage from the 40 degree heat now dancing on the road 50 meter’s ahead.
As far as the eye can see, paddocks after paddock of golden wheat line the road, their full heads of grain swaying in the light summer breeze, a living tribute to the settlers that selected and cleared this land in the early 1900′s. Land that their grandchildren and great grandchildren continue to work and graze in this harsh but un-spoilt corner of Victoria’s northwest.
The blue bitumen turns to white gypsum and the white gypsum to red dirt. The type of dirt that burns your feet on a hot summer’s day, that’s fine enough to stick to your skin after a hard day’s work and the type of dirt that creates a layer of dust on EVERYTHING inside the house after a mid-season dust storm. I know I am home.
The shearing shed, the grain shed. The tractors and the trucks, all reminders of my childhood. Memories engrained in the sand, the sheds and the land these machines have worked.
Memories of racing through the pouring rain on pushbikes. Of sitting on Dad’s knee and steering the huge tractor and of resting in its wheel hub while sharing cheese and jam sandwiches under a shady tree in the middle of the vast open paddocks.
The smell of freshly turned soil after a rain and the sound of large rain drops falling on the tin roof as I fell to sleep on stormy summer nights. Of waking up to the stillness and calmness of the farm. The only noise that of birds chirping in the cool of the morning and of the dogs barking, marking the new day.
Getting out of the car, the still dry heat hits me. It has been 20 months since I was last home and only 30 hours since I left a snow dusted Calgary. It feels a long way from where I have come, but everything about this place remains alive within me and I know in my heart that this will always be my home.