I drive south along the New England Highway to Tenterfield, a town of about 4000 people just over the border between Queensland and NSW. My intention is to devote more time to a country town than my journey north allowed.
Peopling Tenterfield’s past.
If you find yourself around the Tenterfield area in the 1860s, be careful. There’s a bushranger at large. He’s known as Captain Thunderbolt and he makes use of boulders and caves as lookouts and hiding places. The locals don’t mind him too much because he doesn’t shoot people, but eventually the police catch up with him and they aren’t at all reluctant to shoot. His wife, an Aboriginal woman, bushranged with him, in between bearing children. One of my daughter’s friends wrote her thesis about her.
Time’s moved on. It’s October 24th 1889. The people of Tenterfield are gathering in the Tenterfield School of Arts to hear a speech by Sir Henry Parkes, premier of NSW. He argues that the six states need to federate. His reasons? An army and a uniform railway gauge. He uses the union of the states in America as his example – even then we were trotting along behind. The speech is credited with beginning the process that finally led to Federation in 1901.
Move on to January 1890. There’s a new arrival in town: James Francis Thomas. He’s here to set up a legal practice and later buys the Tenterfield Star. Soon he’s off to the Boer War as captain of the Bushman’s Contingent of the light horse and then finds himself defending Breaker Morant and Peter Handcock in a notorious court-martial for their role in the execution of twelve Boer prisoners and a German missionary. The two men died by firing squad, after an able defence by Thomas who argued the Boer War was characterised by atrocities and that other auxiliary units, acting under orders, followed a deliberate policy of shooting prisoners. British authorities were startled: they expected no argument.
If you turn up at Tenterfield Presbyterian Church on Wednesday, 8th April 1903, suitably dressed for a wedding, you may be able to slip in to watch the nuptials of Mr A.B. Paterson of Sydney and Miss Alice Walker of Tenterfield. You may ask why this particular wedding is worth attending. The bridegroom is Banjo Paterson, Boer War war correspondent and bush poet: his poems include “Waltzing Matilda”, “The man from Snowy River” and “Clancy of the Overflow”.
In the 1960s, Tenterfield steps onto the world stage in the person of singer and composer Peter Allen. born in Tenterfield as Peter Woolnough. He began his singing career in the 1960s, performing in Hong Kong, where he was discovered by Judy Garland’s husband. He was married briefly to Liza Minnelli, came out as gay and died of AIDS. He won an academy award as co-writer of “Arthur’s song” in 1981, and had a cameo role in “Sergeant Pepper”, amongst many other show business achievements. One of his songs is “The Tenterfield saddler”, a tribute to his grandfather, whose saddlery now serves as a museum.
Tenterfield now: a gallery
Having met these locals, I prowl around to get a feel for the town as it is now.
St Mary’s Catholic Church
The Post Office
The elk horns are the ones with strappy leaves: the staghorns with the rounded leaves. The spectacle of them combined demanded to be photographed – not once, but three times, with three different cameras, 5 minutes each. Each photo shoot yielded something different, the best being from my old camera, partly because it’s a miracle worker with close ups, and partly I suspect because the other sessions had trained my eye to notice more and more details, confirming my conviction that you photograph best what is most familiar. I’m a bit disappointed with the quality of the photos, but not with what they show.
My Sony cyber shot cult camera
My iPhone 4
My old 3 megapixel Konica Minolta
perfection of flowers. I needed her skill to pay homage to my subject.This post is inspired by DesleyJane’s irresistible RegularRandom challenge. This week she lavishes her 5 minutes on the
NAIDOC Week celebrations are held across Australia each July to acknowledge the history, culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. This year the theme is Our languages matter. In the late 18th century, when the British invaded, there were 250 distinct Indigenous language groups, most with several dialects. Today only about 120 of those languages are still spoken: there are many attempts to reclaim languages that are almost lost, often word by meagre word. Many members of the Stolen Generation remember being beaten for speaking language, as a frontline attempt at brutal assimilation.
Stanthorpe Regional Art Gallery in partnership with the Granite Belt Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Corporation marks the week with an exhibition of Aboriginal art by local and visiting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists. It “connects past and present, people and land, spirituality and reality,” representing one of the oldest ongoing traditions of art in the world. It offers me many pleasures: design, colour and familiarities.
The first collage is a mix of items behind glass: Aboriginal designs on wood, cap, ceramics, shells, and baby jumpsuits. The two brown and black wooden bowls are by Timeika Reena Slockee; the shells by Aurora De Vries; and to my shame I didn’t record Jumpsuit details.
A few artists are so distinctive that I recognise them instantly: Krishna Heffernan’s “Gum flowers”, “Campfire”, “Creek bubbles” and “Brisbane River”, all bright with acrylic, paper and thread on canvas …
… Corina Graham’s mixed media with gold leaf …
… Rod McIntosh’s elegant stylised animals …
… and Timeika Rena Slockee’s “Sandhills”, “Wild flowers at the waterhole”, “Mothers of nature” and the painting that expresses the theme of NAIDOC week, “Reconnecting language.”
There are too many painting that please me to feature each one separately, so here’s a collage with attributions clockwise from the top left: Chenaya Bancroft-Davis’ linoprint “Sacred site”: Maris de Vries’ “Mudfish” (acrylic on canvas): Bronwyn Smith’s “Fish trap” (acrylic on canvas): Chenaya Bancroft-Davis’ “Jacaranda season” (acrylic on canvas): another Bronwyn Smith “Fish trap” (acrylic on canvas): Marica Staples’ “Emus” (acrylic on canvas): Tully de Vries’ “Gali lady” (acrylic on canvas): Amanda Watts-Nyoor’s “Kungarakan mum” (acrylic on canvas): and in the centre Amarina Nhaynes’ “Moorgumpin Nguru Wandehn – Moreton Bay spirits” (acrylic on canvas).
I can’t resist a few closeups: Charmaine Davis’ “The rocks” (acrylic on canvas) because of its connection with boulder country …
… and River Brando Binge’s “Miri Mari – star people” because of its drama and the way it mixes traditional Aboriginal dots, handprints and figure with modern owl and starbursts in a circle.
I end my personalised exhibition with the unexpectedness of a shower curtain, Melanie Forbes’ black and white “Tree of life” (digital print on PEVA) …
… and, for my daughter whose avatar is the quoll, Kim Charles’ “Spotted quoll” (acrylic on canvas).
One of my daughter’s friends takes care of wallabies and kangaroos who have been orphaned, usually because their mother was hit by a car. Kylie lives in boulder country, along a dirt track, and shares her house with a number of macropods, mainly grey kangaroos, but also swamp wallabies and red neck wallabies. Two tiny ones live in cloth pouches in clothes baskets under doonahs. Five live in a play pen in the corner of the living room. Two peep out of cloth pouches hanging from a frame. Two more are in the yard outside until evening chills the air, when Kylie picks them up and transfers them inside. A mother with a joey in her pouch hovers round kangaroo pellets and eyeballs a willy wagtail. There are more granite hopping below the house. She shows us the body of a really tiny hairless wallaby, ears still close to the head, rescued from a pouch and still attached to its mother’s teat, too small to survive.
Kylie’s knowledge is encyclopaedic and she’s always adding to it as new problems arise. When the animals in her care are ready to be released into the wild, she puts them in the outside pen, leaving the door open so they can test the outside world and return if they need to. Gradually they stay away permanently.
At the moment Kylie is at maximum capacity. The night-time feeding regimes means she is getting very little sleep, and her charges cost a heap to look after – special macropod pellets and medicine when they are sick don’t come cheap. But she is passionate about her role and such passion somehow breeds energy.
Girraween National Park is not far from my daughter’s place near Stanthorpe. It’s in the Granite Belt which stretches for 250 kilometres from Warwick in Queensland to Armidale in NSW.
For its creation story, take yourself back 240 million years. Two tectonic plates approach each other and compress the crust of the eastern side of whatever was sort-of Australia then. The heat is intense, and a molten mass of magma invades older rocks. Two kilometres below the earth’s surface, it cools very slowly, creating coarse-textured granite. It’s under an immense weight of older rock which is gradually eroded away. The upper face of the granite expands upwards and cracks and large slabs, sometimes metres thick, break away from the mother rock. Gradually, where there are a lot of fractures, sheets break into blocks and the roughly rectangular blocks become weathered into rounded boulders, like the ones I’m walking through now. But there are less-fractured places in Girraween, now beyond my aging reach: broad slabs, steep domes and pinnacles of bare granite with names like The Pyramid and Castle Rock. The creation story continues today: chemical reactions dissolve the boulders into a mixture of kaolinite clay and quartz sand; each episode of freeze and thaw enlarges cracks; wind, water, animals, algae, bacteria, lichens and mosses also play a part in weakening and shaping the stone.
My Girraween walk this visit isn’t a long one (less than 2km): it meanders between boulders, the legacy of the processes of long time, as it makes its way to today’s goal, the Granite Arch. I have two cameras slung around my neck and my sturdy walking stick, just in case I want to venture beyond the well-made track.
The trail begins with a creek crossing, concrete bridges joining granite slabs. But the main beauty is the rockscape, everywhere rounded boulders, leaning over and resting on each other amongst the scrub, sometimes paddling in bright wattle, sharp leaved bell shaped heath flowers, a couple of white correas. Where the rocks are sparser there is plenty of moss and sundews.
I round a corner, and there’s the Granite Arch: a huge rounded lintel-rock, supported by two doorposts.
For once geological information is easy to come by, easily understood and accompanied by explanatory photos. I am grateful! For a photo gallery covering more of the park than my legs can manage, see here.
The panel near the Granite Arch was also informative, although geological processes satisfy me: I don’t need the handiwork of giants. It’s a pity too that the Thoreau quote is so apposite: David Henry is not my favourite person!
Back to Gulgong again, a mid-19th century gold mining town with a meandery main street, this time to focus on an old building, once a general store. It offers everything an old building ought to offer: rust, a somewhat foxed announcement in the window, peeling paint, mottling, ratty screens, split timber, worn corrugated iron, a bull-nose verandah and a glimpse of a mish-mash of old stuff through a door.
For a taste of the life of a country town mid 20th century, read Kenneth Slessor’s poem.
This is my contribution to DesleyJane’s RegularRandom challenge, a contrast to her 5 minutes with a city street, in beautiful sharp black and white.
My son’s backyard is a a mini rainforest, a treasury of leaves, It’s part of an ecological corridor stretching from the top of Mt Tamborine to the coastal plains now edged by the obscene towers of the Gold Coast. Brush turkeys emerge from the corridor to maraud the garden, and once a dingo pup lurked there until he was coaxed out by K, who is a dog-whisperer. At the base of the garden is a creek bed, dry now but becoming a torrent when it rains hard. One magical night my son took my hand and led me out into darkness, suddenly illuminated by the dance of fireflies. This morning’s illumination is the dappling of sunshine.
Two years ago my son and his partner were agonising over the purchase of a big acreage including a bluff, a long stretch of river frontage, a bouldery creek, and difficult access. They finally decided to buy, and the refrain of my two days with them on the block was “absolutely no regrets.” They feel the peace descend as soon as they reach the gate. I spend two days there, days without internet, without reading (except a few words at night before I tumble into sleep), without bathing, without driving. We talk a lot; recline in the sun; and gather around spectacular campfires as the days cool.
My beloved daughter-in-law drags two kayaks upstream in freezing water against the current so I can kayak further in still water to one boundary. My relationship with kayaks hasn’t always been a happy one, but this time I paddle confidently albeit incompetently: the splashy silence should not be broken by the banging of paddle on edge. On either side there is bush; boulders extend underwater and require vigilance; the sky is blue and cloudless.
The journey downstream riding the current is another story. Boulders reach out to grab me and swirl me backwards: I forget all the instructions; I bottom out on gravel. But after multiple extrications by K, I get back to the launching point, and out of the kayak, something I barely managed at Grójec Wielki. No photos of this excursion: with my history of tipping out I didn’t dare risk the camera.
In the afternoon we walk to the other river boundary, a place of sand, boulders and reflections.
In the morning I ramble around, capturing the valley mist; tall trees; old posts; the irremoveable cats’ claw creeper, which I admire till I learn of its murderous capacities; a variety of flora and fungi.
On the second day we walk down to the creek and follow its rocky bed to a junction with another creek, as yet unnamed. I need my sturdy walking stick, my hiking boots and slow pace. The boulders are green with moss and ferns; evil-looking black roots twist among the stones, and the water’s clear. I’m rewarded with a colony of greenhood orchids, and later K spots slightly chewed caladenias.
At night the fire rages , cooking up a stew of elemental richness.
Let Jenga encapsulate!