At times like this the local vocabulary turns to words like community, resilience, pride, enduring, cooperative, supportive, tough and traumatic.

Late on Sunday afternoon, one of the best-known local elders of the industry was on his old International tractor with great big forks on the front, shifting the last of a massive old gum tree that has stood as a familiar landmark for more than 70 years on the edge of the Old Sturt Highway, adjacent to his lacerated vines, not far from Barmera. The tree had been ripped from the ground and dumped beside the road. He’d been at it all day.

The wind was still howling. His face was smeared, as with mud; a combination of tears and red dust. He stared off into the distance while he gathered himself, then he turned and said. ‘That’s it. I’ve had it’. Curiously, as we talked, it became evident; he wasn’t dark on the weather or the hail. His bitterness was about the way he’s been picked up and put down, time and again over the decades by the ‘visitors from the cities who don’t actually care a jot’. ‘The wife’s had it as well’, he said. ‘She just can’t take any more’.

Don’t just drive by, or look the other way. Stop and ask… RUOK… and listen.


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