Discovering a New World
Trevor looked at the creased letter in his hand. It was printed on typical government department paper of the time, a kind of off brown, the contents were just as dismal as the colour.
He was a city boy born and raised in comfort and privilege. His father had been an educationalist before him and Trevor felt it right to follow in his father’s footsteps. He’d been raised in the parallel universe of secular and religious academia as was common in educational circles in that era. The constant drift toward secularism was a thing of the future which he could not even begin to imagine. To indicate which side of the divide he and his family belonged he carried his Bible with him wherever he went. That was a part of his family identity.
Growing up years had been enjoyed between city and the fledging development of a coastal metropolis about one hour’s journey south where they had a vacation home. In Trevor’s later years after the passing of his parents that property within sight of the sea would be worth millions, but for the moment it was a modest retreat set high on a rise barely visible above tall grass that accumulated between each vacation.
Trevor had been diligent in his studies and eventually graduated as a teacher with high honours. Naturally this was noted by those at the top of the education bureaucracy in government circles. However, the city was not to be his lot yet, this was a time when the gifted and the mediocre were expected to rise to the top simultaneously. It was all about seniority, not talent in those days and those who were ambitious for the perks of being at the top would examine each published advancement as people retired or transferred to private education, and could challenge that appointment not based on merit but seniority.
So, the letter in Trevor’s hand offered him the opportunity of a job but he’d have to start at the bottom regardless of academic achievement. The appointment was to Jebourie, a place so remote that, despite studies in the geography of his nation Trevor had no idea where it was. In usual style, he headed for a library where more detailed maps of the state could be found. Jebourie was one of those places in his state unfamiliar to most clustered around population areas on the eastern seaboard. The name Jebourie in local tribal language was not reassuring, not a particularly encouraging omen for this new appointee. He continued searching for information about his first appointment location.
In the 1880’s it was a major watering and rest stop, an oasis in the outback desert. Cobb and Co coaches would have serviced this outpost used by drovers to water their cattle on their drive to markets. But despite the discouraging allusion in the name he noted the presence of an artesian bore which locals had developed into a therapeutic spa with warm, fresh, cystal-clear water. At least that sounded civilized! It was the administrative centre of an area twice the size of Denmark, part of an inland river system that lies dormant and dry for years until a stray cyclone from the north would activate inland river dry beds heading floods north, and many of those seasonally dry rivers when flooded fed saltpans of Lake Eyre to the south too.
Trevor opened the envelope and looked at the appointment again. He’s write his acceptance and prepare for an adventure in the fabled lands of outback Australia. He’d be sole in-charge teacher in that area and with the planning help of his father prepared in advance for his new responsibility. Little did he understand what lay ahead!
Trevor made his way slowly overland on dusty roads to take up his appointment 1,000 miles from home. It’s a journey that would take nineteen hours today, but back in the 1950’s it was a slow and painful journey of days across ill kept mostly dirt roads with the prospect of mechanical breakdown and at least two damaged tyres on the way.
But it was in those experiences he developed a respect for the kindness of people who live in those remote outback areas. Truck drivers seemed to have tools and supplies needed as each breakdown occurred, and if they didn’t they’d improvise to get him to the next cattle station where more substantial equipment was always available. The hospitality of station owners was proverbial. There was always a welcome, a bed and a good meal with supplies for the journey ahead urged on him.
The vastness of the sun burnt interior with its flat red dust plains seemed to remind him of eternity, perhaps a different eternity to his religious upbringing thinking but the never-ending horizon sometimes visible but most times hidden by a hanging cloud of red dust from a cattle drive or vehicle far ahead which had left its calling card made the journey seem timeless by its sameness.
But eventually Trevor found himself limping toward a narrow circle of lights in the distance which he knew from his mileage indicator and the word of occasional passing strangers was his destination. He’d learned toward the end of his journey it was customary in the outback to stop and chat with a passing vehicle. It was considered in the outback to be a breach of good manners not to do so. Travellers on the road were infrequent because of harsh road conditions so the solitude of a journey was made more tolerable by these conversations when another traveller came within sight. Trevor reflected on the many times he’d passed a parked car to leave disappointed faces behind him with a twinge of regret.
Soon he was within the circle of those low powered lights and trying to make out where his accommodation might be. Perhaps the Police Station could assist him? But after circling the few streets of the town he decided the next best course of action would be to ask at the gathering place of any outback town. That was the local hotel, and despite the size of the town with its limited supply of homes there was an impressive array of assorted vehicles gathered around the entrance.
He alighted from the car, stretched and slapped the dust out of his hair and clothes. Hopefully he’d be able to unpack, have a good bath and sleep after several days on the road. He headed for the swinging doors, the loud music and shouting.
To be continued.
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