Stock and Station:

Below is the first excerpt of a novel that is currently being edited. Each week I’m going to post another entry of the unedited book. It will be a very slow drip feed, however I’m hoping it will keep you interested and wanting more.
Juniper NSW Australia – April 1937

A mail box sits by the side of a well-worn track in the heart of nowhere, pointing purposefully out into a vast empty paddock. Scrawled on both sides of a recycled milk churn in black tar are the words “MAIL PLEASE”, a polite yet pleading tone for correspondence. A ramshackle bus shelter stands alongside; its corrugated iron roof riddled with rust worn holes balanced precariously upon a bent strut and two forty gallon drums. Rain flows freely through the holes gathering in pools on the muddy floor. Swirling rain merges with bull dust creating a paste which grips at the soles of his shoes. Chance breathed into his cupped hands hoping to thaw icy fingers. White plumes escaped between them rising before his eyes. It was so cold spider webs had become visible. Fence posts and barbed wire embellished with a spider’s lacework.

Rain was a welcome relief after many years of drought. The countryside had swollen with moisture. Insect song and birds from far north had already started arriving. Come spring wild flowers would carpet the normally barren earth transforming it into a delicious mix of vibrant colours.

The land surrounding Ironwood Station was all owned by farmers, but they did very little with it. Red sandy dirt scattered with salt bush for much of the year wasn’t fertile farm land. Ironwood itself was a huge property, every direction that Chance looked was owned by Betty and Jim Huskins, his guardians and family. From the flat lands of the farm to rugged mountain ranges that rise into the clouds. He hoped to explore it fully in coming years. Any other way of life seemed completely foreign to him, the guests that visited brought with them news of the world. He would hang on their words trying to decipher meanings of terms and phrases. Sitting still and silent, he would absorb the conversations like a sponge, then head to the library and trawl the encyclopedias for answers.

Lifting the small door at the back of the milk churn he removed the mail. It was only a little damp, quickly wrapping it in a well-oiled canvas sack it would be kept dry for the trip back to the main house. There was quite a bit this time and Chance wondered whether any of it would be for him. Perhaps a letter from Uncle Len telling of his travels abroad. There would be letters for Betty and Jim, no doubt about finances or some such thing. Postcards’ from recent guests was always a possibility, passing on their best wishes after a relaxing break, showing off their latest adventures. Don Roberts had promised to send some seasoned cheese from Melbourne next time he was there but nothing felt that substantial. Chef would be displeased. With only one mail drop a month it was going to be a long wait.

Tying the top on the sack he placed it into the basket at the front of his bike and began the long journey back. His stomach rumbled with each step wheeling his bike through the mud. Breakfast would hopefully be ready on his return; black tea with a hunk of damper would go down a treat. If he was lucky Betty would let him have some blackberry jam which was reserved for guests only. Licking his lips he could taste a mixture of dust and rain which matched the moist earthy smell that pervaded everything. It hadn’t been raining when he rode down the long winding path in the pre-dawn light. It had set in now, full dark clouds obscuring a languid sun. Chance didn’t mind the ride ahead of him it would only take an hour. The time alone was a rare jewel and one that he cherished. It was a glimpse if only a small one that things were going on outside of Ironwood. The only world he had ever known. He could feel the muddy water seeping into his shoes. Weight added to each footstep.

The road was raised above the surrounding scrubland by about a foot or so. You could see why as water gathered on either side of the track. The rain paused for a moment with just a trickle falling from the sky. Steam rose from the earth as a momentary burst of sunshine played upon it. A mob of kangaroos stood stock still as the wheels of the bike could be heard creaking through the mud. Water glistened on their fur as they chewed grass, ears flicking every so often. A few rabbits played about their feet looking like boisterous children.