I’m Not Scared

During the week a friend of mine was relating how, while planting 700 trees on a property in the wheatbelt last weekend, the wind came up and their tent virtually collapsed on them. As a result they took shelter in a derelict house, probably full of ghosts, although, according to her, it had been abandoned for so long that even the rats and spiders had deserted it. Her story immediately brought back another wheatbelt memory. As adults we expect children to be scared of the dark. But the time when I was the most scared was in broad daylight. Even now I remember that feeling of panic so clearly.

We lived in a weatherboard house in Mullewa. Dad was off playing cricket, which meant driving 30 or 40 miles to a neighbouring town and being away all day. Mum was at home with the three kids. I was about six years old and my brothers, five and three.

 Suddenly, in the middle of the afternoon, a summer storm came up. First the willy-willy covered everything in red dust. The wind was so strong it blew the bathroom window open and threw shattered glass all over the floor. Then the rain came. Big heavy drops falling fast and loud on the tin roof. Mum herded us into the kitchen and made us get in under the heavy wooden table. 

‘Stay there!’ she said. ‘Don’t move!’ We stared at her, wide-eyed, as she hurried away to shut all the doors and windows which had been wide open, as always, in summer.

The storm got louder. We huddled closer together. But when part of the neighbour’s roof tore off and landed in our yard, the baby of the family started to cry. I tried to comfort him, but I was more terrified than he was and I started calling out, ‘Mum! Mum! Where are you?’ It seemed like she had been gone for hours. Hoarse from shouting and thoroughly terrified I crawled out from under the table. The boys tried to  follow but I told them Mum would only come back if they stayed there. Still shouting her name as loud as I could above the storm, I went into every room in the house. She was not there.

We lived in a weatherboard house in Mullewa. Dad was off playing cricket, which meant driving 30 or 40 miles to a neighbouring town and being away all day. Mum was at home with the three kids. I was about six years old and my brothers, five and three.

Our water tank, and Dad

 Suddenly, in the middle of the afternoon, a summer storm came up. First the willy-willy covered everything in red dust. The wind was so strong it blew the bathroom window open and threw shattered glass all over the floor. Then the rain came. Big heavy drops falling fast and loud on the tin roof. Mum herded us into the kitchen and made us get in under the heavy wooden table. 

‘Stay there!’ she said. ‘Don’t move!’ We stared at her, wide-eyed, as she hurried away to shut all the doors and windows which had been wide open, as always, in summer.

The storm got louder. We huddled closer together. But when part of the neighbour’s roof tore off and landed in our yard, the baby of the family started to cry. I tried to comfort him, but I was more terrified than he was and I started calling out, ‘Mum! Mum! Where are you?’It seemed like she had been gone for hours. Hoarse from shouting and thoroughly terrified I crawled out from under the table. The boys tried to  follow but I told them Mum would only come back if they stayed there. Still shouting her name as loud as I could above the storm, I went into every room in the house. She was not there.

At last the rain stopped. The storm passed. I was hysterical by then and Mum heard me shouting. ‘I’m out here.’ She called back. I went outside and there was Mum, absolutely drenched in her raincoat and hat, standing on the tank-stand with both arms stretched up above her head. She was holding the piece of guttering in place that connected the roof to our rain water tank. It had been torn loose by the wind and when she saw all that precious water being lost on the ground she climbed up on the tank stand and held that piece of guttering in position until the rain stopped. That water tank held our only supply for the whole year and she would not allow a drop of it to be lost.