Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Rising Fast

Rain up the creek

Because my family lived in the city when we were children, our only experience of floods was when we went to Grandma and Grandad’s on holidays. One holidays the creek was flooding when we arrived, and the flooding had got worse while Grandad was in town collecting us from the railway station. There were just the 5 oldest of us. We must have had a few stops in Laidley for Grandad to pick up supplies, have a yarn with other farmers who were in town that day, and no doubt there was another stop at the Mulgowie Pub (that stop was almost compulsory).

It was dark by the time we got to the usual creek crossing. There was no way Grandad could drive across, so we headed further up the road and Grandad rang Gran from my great-grandmother’s house. We then ploughed our way along the creek bank to what was considered the best place to get us all across the creek. That was a mission in itself - darkness, blinding rain, slippery muddy ground, difficult to see our way through the trees and scrub that flourished along the bank of the creek. But I doubt any of us complained, it would have taken more than that to diminish the joy of our arrival at the farm, at being with Grandad, doing something a bit different. And Grandad could always keep our spirits up, he was such a happy man. I remember him joking about finding out how well we could swim but knowing there was no way he could expect Tricia, the youngest present, to swim across the creek, we didn’t take him seriously.

When we got to the chosen spot we were already soaked, and Grandma and my two uncles were already there, having waded across to our side. We formed a chain with Grandma in the lead, holding Esme’s hand with one hand and a hurricane lamp in the other, Uncle George, Peter, and Grandad in the middle directing operations, then Tricia, Uncle Reg, Dennis, and me. I badly wanted an adult’s hand to hold on to rather than dreamy Dennis’ but always knew how to put on a brave front. It seemed a long, long way across that creek, I can tell you. I was so scared Dennis would let go of my hand as I was the last in the line. But the worst bit was hearing Grandad yelling “Hold on to her, Reg! Hold on to her!” And being able to see, in the light from Gran’s lamp, Tricia floating, her feet unable to touch the bottom and the force of the water taking her legs away.

When we got to the other side, Gran lit the other lamp she had left there and we made our way along the creek bank, everyone cold and wet but poor little Tricia looked more like a drowned rat. But she wasn’t crying. She may have wanted to but would have been shivering too hard to manage it. She was a tough little kid, two older brothers and two older sisters probably made her that way.

Gran’s place had never seemed more welcome to us. All of us were stripped off while Gran carried kettles of hot water to the bathroom and we all jumped in together. Grandma, Grandad and the uncles rubbed us dry before taking it in turns to share the bath water. There was no electricity (no hot water on tap) at the farm in those days and I guess most of the hot water on the stove had been used already.

Then there was hot food and hot drinks and much talking and laughter about our ‘adventure’, with Grandad making it sound even more adventurous than it already had been, by adding bits about the snakes he had seen, and how his hand had been slipping and he’d nearly let go of Trish. Little Tricia was made much of, and deserved every bit of the attention I thought.

Years and years later, around 1973 Bryon (my ex husband) and I and our children were visiting my grandparents in early November. We decided to take Grandma into town (Laidley) to watch the Melbourne Cup at their favourite pub. (She liked to have a little ‘flutter’ on the Cup every year and would pick out a horse based on something that had happened in the district recently. She made a killing in 1954 on Rising Fast, based on the creek coming up fast. That may have been the year I have just been talking about.)

Uncle George came in while we were there with Brian Osborne, a cousin of Mum’s. Because we had the three kids with us I said I would sit outside while everyone else watched in the public bar where the TV was but the publican would have none of that and invited us all upstairs to his private quarters, and we all spread out on his bed. One of my uncles on Dad’s side of the family was already comfortable there waiting for the race.

While the race was on there was a phone call from Grandad saying there had been a lot of rain at the top of the creek and the creek was coming down and that we had better head for home quick.

So we all set out, in 3 vehicles – ours, Uncle George’s and Brian Osborne’s (who had decided to come with us to visit Grandad). As we went along there was more and more water across the road and water was lapping the underside of the last bridge, but Grandma was in with us and gave Bryon advise about which side of the road to drive on through the flood water, etc. Gran, as usual, was totally unfazed and treating it all as "a bit of a lark".

When we got to the creek the rain was steady and we all got out to have a look at the crossing and the men decided we could get across. There was no way was I letting my babies go across in our car until I was convinced it was OK, so George went first and took the right hand fork in the road on the other side. That one went up to Gran’s; the one straight ahead went up a little hill then turned left to Uncle George’s house. Brian Osborne went next and parked behind him. They were waving at us to come across and for Bryon to go straight ahead. So away we went, made the crossing quite uneventfully but instead of stopping as soon as we got to the other side, for some unknown reason, Bryon went up the little hill. I was shouting, “Slow down! Stop!” and Gran was shouting, “Left! Turn left!” but he went straight ahead – into the pumpkin patch!

Laugh! There was no way we could get that car out of that mud. Gran and the kids and I were taken up to the house to get dry and clean (we got quite muddy getting out of the car and out of the pumpkin patch) while the men went for a tractor but the car was stuck. It was days before they could get it out. But no-one ever complained about extended visits “up the creek”.

Rain clearing from the mountains

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