I first saw him yesterday afternoon at the Luxor cafe in West Wyalong. A short ,stocky ,pugnacious man with an over sized backpack and a deeply sad face. You knew he had a story but it wasn’t going to be nice, so I avoided any opportunity for small talk .
Here he was again, like an apparition! Alone in the rain, on the edge of town at the truck stop. Hoping to hitch a lift, sadder than ever. I slowed as I came along side him and said “Brother wherever your headed your going to get there quicker and dryer than me”. “You got that right” he called after me. Even managing an attempt at a smile and so it was.
It had rained a tidy sky full last night, which had me packing up this morning in the half light between showers. I wore a base layer and reflective vest in the expectation that the weather would improve, which it did. By mid morning I was humming along and almost dry. It’s Sunday so the traffic was lighter and less trucks as well. I just enjoyed the meditative aspects of the ride. Its hard to quieten the mind though.
Thoughts of my recently deceased brother presented themselves, then work, I should have rung that client before I left, finally the house, hadn’t I said I was going to fix those palings behind the shed before I left? Pretty soon though my mind was as empty. I began to listen the the whir of my wheels. The spinning hub along with the creaks and moans of Mr Surly and Bob going through their paces.
As the day progressed the riding conditions improved, except for one five kilometer stretch where the road was being duplicated. As if one road wasn’t enough, the sign said “no shoulder for the next 5kms“... they should have said “mud for the next 5kms” because I waded through it and ended up cover in Mother Earth!
Rolling into Forbes ,I took a few photos of prominent buildings that speak of prosperity. While the older volunteer ladies at the information center whisper to me that I’m unable to free camp in the designated free camp area because they don’t have toilets. I didn’t wish to offend their sensibilities or mine so didn’t pursue the discussion. Instead I took the recommendation of The Country Club Caravan Park just around the corner.
As is common when I’m booking into such places, they ask “where are you from?” and after I told the proprietor Merle I am from Footscray she said “Why I’m from Footscray myself originally, but we have moved about a bit since then.”
Merle told me the story of her grandfather Jack who lived in Footscray and worked rabbit skinning in a factory. ” He would skin 2000 a day, he was buried at the Footscray cemetery, which is now full apparently. “…Then years after Dad passed away, they buried Uncle Bert on top of him in the plot and when Mum died a few years ago in Rochester and we had her body sent down so she could be buried on top. It was a tight squeeze: Grandad, Uncle Bert and Mum on top. Come the day of Mum’s graveside service, it teemed down! Well it was so muddy and with so little room, we had to slide her in head first as the coffin could hardly fit!”
“Just like Valhalla” I said, “Where they bury them standing up” and we laughed.