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Robbie was a handy-man by trade – a sleazebag by reputation.
No sooner had widowhood been acknowledged,
than Robbie would be there,
offering support with his voice,
and enticement with his handshake
by a well-known caressing of the palm.
All the widows knew it and were wary.

He attended the rural chapel
of the immersion baptism kind -
regularly sang there in the choir.
The chapel was so tiny,
choir and baptistry were cramped
with a narrow aisle between
baptistry and walls.

The choir had sung its anthem, a simple gospel song,
and commenced returning to the pews
when Robbie missed his footing
and overbalanced with a splash.
After chaos and rescue,
church continued to its close
to the lap – lap – lapping of the plunge.

But next day the news spread quickly
and a great guffaw arose
that encompassed the community with mirth.
To most of those who knew him
it seemed obvious of course,
Robbie needed more than “born again”
but “baptized again” as well.
A true story from some years ago, sadly on a night when we were not present.
John Wiley Aug 25
We drive past it often,
just a patch of scrub
by the roadside,
in a plain of open farmland,
reaching to the horizon,
but it has a story.

One Sunday afternoon,
in the early days of our settlement,
Robert and Louisa Fry
went driving in their gig
but never returned home.

Louisa was murdered by Robert
that afternoon,
followed by Robert’s suicide
some months later.

Louisa’s remains were found,
badly decomposed,
and buried on site
without a headstone;
Robert’s nearby
and buried in a local cemetery.

Superstition, respect
and convenience
have kept the clump
over subsequent generations,
a landmark and a point of reference
by the side of the road –
a feature passed by many
but known by few -
“Fry’s Clump”.
John Wiley Jun 9
It faces south,
the little port,
onto the great
Southern Ocean;
nothing but
surging sea
until the ice
of Antarctica.

Inside a breakwater
there is calm
for a few fishing boats,
resting, idle just now,
unaware of former times
when the little port was busy
shipping grain and wool
to the world beyond.

But now it is quiet,
off-season –
a few tourists,
intrepid to the winter storms
raging in from the west,
relishing the change
from their lives
elsewhere.
We have just returned from a week staying at Port Mac Donnell in South Australia. A busy tourist spot in the summer, it is very quiet in mid-winter - which is how we like it.
John Wiley May 25
A narrow track
leaves the main road
and winds back
over the range
skirting steep falls
to the valley below.

It ends by ruins
of the old mine –
a boiler house
and chimney,
a gated adit
and main shaft,
some open cut workings
and other buildings,
all in local stone.

It was never a great mine;
about ten years of production,
a century and a half ago,
then a couple of short revivals
over following years –
but copper,
so basic to industry
in a growing colony.

Now it is quiet,
no sound of human activity,
a gentle breeze along the range,
an occasional bird call
but, by a cottage ruin,
a patch of small red poppies,
planted by someone long forgotten,
memories of a garden.
Spring Creek Mine is in the Southern Flinders Ranges of South Australia. For most people it is just a small sign post on the main road. For others, it is a place rich with history and its own quiet beauty.
John Wiley May 13
We’ve done the tough bush drive before,
to stand on its salt encrusted shoreline
and see nothing but salt,
white salt,
as far as you can see.

But this was different,
to pay someone in a small aeroplane
to fly us over its enormity,
to see it from above,
our last big bush adventure.

First it’s the dunes,
marching parallel, row on row,
into the desert,
seemingly static
but actually moving, with time
over thousands of years.

Then the shoreline,
desert sand giving way to salt,
salt and more salt,
before water
from tropical storms
half a continent away
in another State.

The vastness takes you over.
You feel like an alien.
You watch in awe.
John Wiley Mar 25
We drove through the area of the fire today
almost seven years since it happened
and remembered the day.
A north wind raged in from the desert
laden with red desert dust.
An old automobile battery
left in a paddock,
probably related to a disused
electrified stock fence,
somehow sparked
and the fire started.

Burning in farmland, not scrub,
flames leapt to thirty feet high
and destroyed
more than ninety dwellings,
hundreds of other farm buildings,
miles of fence
and thousands of farm animals,
but fortunately
only two human lives.
It had burnt on a front
of over a hundred miles
but was declared
under control
“watch and act”
within about ten hours.

Today
there are new
and repaired buildings,
signs of a good
harvest completed
and new, green growth
on the fire ravaged
roadside eucalypts.
Not all fences
have been rebuilt,
but perhaps
they are not all needed now
with larger farms
and modern machinery.

We have moved on
but not forgotten.
We know it can
happen again.
On 25th November 2015 a fire started near the small South Australian town of Pinery. Despite the name of the town, it was not a forest or bush fire but one in agricultural land. It was a shockingly hot and windy day and the fire spread with almost unbelievable speed before it was controlled and eventually extinguished.
John Wiley Mar 4
I find myself waiting for it -
the cackle
of a kookaburra
in a nearby
gum tree;
more a visitor
than a resident,
but welcome,
always welcome.
Hearing the "laughter" of a kookaburra is a special Australian pleasure. It mostly occurs around dawn and dusk but not exclusively so and is a declaration of territory, not laughter at all.
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