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IN THE PINES…..HARCOURT circa 1993/5
Living beneath Mount Alexander, on a farm feeding out onto narrow dirt roads leading to Apple Orchards, it was the perfect environment for Gracie Rose to ride her pony, Star. If there were no other riders on any particular day, she would ride ahead, with me and our dogs, Sophie and Winston, following slowly behind in the car.
Safety measures….you don’t ride up the mountain alone….ever.
And so, she would trot off ahead, long hair streaming out behind, arms stretched out either side, like a bird, practising balance, posture and leg work. Such a sight.
Then we would separate, she taking tracks up and into the forest, me, sticking to the road….meeting again at the top…..perhaps exploring the Oak Forest (strangely stunted with overcrowding), but lovely nonetheless.
There was also a practical side to these ventures. Old hessian feed bags packed earlier, would be collected once we reached the pine forest. There, she would dismount, tether Star, while the dogs ran free and we filled the bags with pine cones….fast burning fuel for our fire, beneath the red gum or yellow box we added later.
On this particular day, having loaded the filled bags, Gracie rode off, heading down the mountain towards home…..and I decided to walk, dogs beside me, up to a lookout nearby…..
IN THE PINES….
I’m remembering this was around the time of the Port Arthur Massacre, the horror of it seeped into everyone’s consciousness…..that insane, mindlessly brutal slaughter….just because!!! To make matters worse, I had just finished reading “Red Dragon”, by Thomas Harris (more horror….don’t ask, I have no idea why, but the gruesome story stayed with me).
The dogs and I stayed at the lookout, looking out….all the way beyond the patchwork of orchards below, to tiny Harcourt , outwards to Castlemaine and way beyond to mountains in the distance, the air filled with a lovely blue haze.
As we turned back, towards the car, some 300 feet away, I saw him……a slender, long haired young man in check shirt and jeans, walking uphill through the Pines towards me, carrying a rifle. That, in the circumstances would have been unsettling (I was completely alone, away from any houses, any other people), but what was so chilling was what he did….there was a brief moment of realisation….we saw each other, and then he simply stepped behind a tree, hiding himself.
Adrenaline coursed through me, and so full of fear for myself and the dogs, I called them in an urgent whisper, walking fast (wanting to run, but also not wanting him to know how afraid I was), thankfully with the dogs running at my side, instinctively obedient , we reached the car, climbed /jumped in and drove away…..and thankfully he, the shooter, stayed hidden.
All the way back down the mountain I gave thanks to the god I don’t believe in…..a mantra of gratitude…..for our safety…..our lives.
And back home, immersed in daily practicalities…..rugging horses for the night, herding ducks, chooks and geese into the safety of their pens, feeding them all, I thought about it!!!
WHY DID HE HIDE???
and, if he hadn’t, and continued walking straight up towards me, carrying a rifle….would that have been any better???
All these years later, I think he was possibly a kid out shooting rabbits, without a license….
I will never know……but I’ll be very pleased not to ever go through that experience or anything close, again!!!
IN THE PINES…..ON ANOTHER DAY, and a short, sharp moment of Acute Embarrassment !!!
Way up there, away from everyone, everything, with just the silence of our feet padding across thick layers of pine needles , the soft soothing murmer of wind above whispering through the big dark trees…..the comfort of shelter underneath ….and a sense of privacy.
Fortunately it was a time of loose fitting, layered clothing, long skirts and boots….and having filled our bags with cones for the fire….Grace and the dogs meandering somewhere nearby, I squatted down, lifted my skirts and started to pee….why not, nobody to see.
Caught midstream, while I was scrutinizing the ground at my feet, three cyclists whizzed right past me….literally inches away from my small, squatting vulnerability.
I MEAN…..WHAT ON EARTH DO YOU DO???
Unable to stop, to move, I simply kept my head down, flaming cheeks hidden by my hair, and pretended under the cover of my skirts, that I wasn’t there.
Later, much later, it seemed very funny….
MA© AUTUMN 2018
To be Continued
MA© AUTUMN 2018