Roots

Betty Hocking

In the dry mid-north, where the wheat grows tall
And the rocky river winds
Like serpent around a small bush town,
I was born – the youngest of nine.

The summers were fiercely hot, and the sand
Where the desert windstorms raged
In clouds of red blew for hundreds of miles.
We ate it and swept it for days.

When the fireball sun beat down on tin roofs
We cooled off under beds on bare floors,
But at night the wonders of winking stars
Were ours as we slept out of doors.

We dawdled to school down long, dusty roads,
There was no time really to play,
But we could pick brown carobs, run a stick
On ribbed iron fences that way.

If we failed in our tests, we spent morning break
Standing facing the schoolyard wall
Reciting our tables and spelling mistakes,
While our friends played marbles or ball.

The greatest excitement was once a year
When the travelling circus came,
We were freed from classes to watch the elephants
Pushing lions and bears from the train.

We climbed on the wheat in the railway sheds,
Stacked in bags to be trained away,
Except for the year of the mouse plague, when
The wheat disappeared in a day.

A treat was a ride on the baker’s cart,
Or a picnic – be careful of snakes!
No-one had invented computers, TV,
We played board games with matches for stakes.

We milked cows by hand, in the pungent slush,
Carted hay on a wagon, horse-drawn,
Picked olives for oil, ate bread-scones for tea
And swam in the home-paddock dam.

Life was simple and pleasures were small,
We were safe and could freely roam,
No-one had heard of designer-drugs
And nobody locked up their home.

Were times better than? I really don’t know,
But this without doubt I can say;
What pulled us through then, in city or bush
Were the same things that do so today.

Hanging in there when the going is tough,
For the person in need, a kind hand;
Trusting in God, putting honesty first,
With our love for this wonderful land.

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