12 Jul 2006, Comments Off on Guess who’s coming to Dinner Plain

Guess who’s coming to Dinner Plain

Author: Helen

So, we drove up and up the Hume Highway, no longer deadly,now just broad and bland as Eddie McGuire’s smile, bypassing all the towns which used to give it character, until we reached Wangaratta and turned east along the Ovens Highway.

It was going to be the twelve-hour round trip from hell, but our brother-in-law’s mum’s boyfriend kindly lent us his farm hut near Kancoona. To get there, you drive through an impossibly beautiful and picture-perfect mountain valley, called, naturally, Happy Valley. The occasional hay shed or silo sitting on a roadside hilltop only makes the perfection bearable, like those tiny flaws intentionally sewn into Amish quilts.

On the way to the farm we stopped on the road for a herd of cattle (black Angus) which were energetically rounded up and herded onto the road by a cattleman on a chestnut horse, flying back and forth, assisted by a long-haired red kelpie and a cattle dog. You might think this is inconsistent of me if you’ve seen some of last years posts, but I like to see them doing their thing… just not on the high plains. The grazier whose hut we stayed in doesn’t need to graze his cattle there, either.

The cattle had to go back the opposite way to where we were going, so they had to pass the car. As the mob started to move, I was reminded that GirlChild hadn’t had much cow exposure in her life. She thought we were in mortal danger. “It’s like Hitchcock’s The Birds. Only with cows!”

The farm hut is weatherboard, blue, listing to one side, with interior walls of grey ironbark and corrugated iron. Surrounded by ancient pines, the view from the verandah is sweeping pasture greener than most of us are used to, with blue mountains obligingly providing a stunning backdrop. It’s furnished completely with 1960s stuff, from op shops, or rescued from other family houses. Stockwhips and branding irons hang on the walls. There is is a pile of catalogues from bull sales and Angus cattle shows in the 60s cocktail cabinet . There’s an assortment of odds and ends, an ancient and twisted tennis racket (no tennis court for miles around), family photos from the early 1900s, a print- again 60s, that Readers Digest style, of an impossibly glamorous woman weaving baskets. A tin of rubber bands for castrating calves. A lovingly rendered child’s drawing of her horse, framed- the kind where the kid is getting some idea of perspective, shading, volume. The ears in particular lovingly rendered.

There was a conventional bathroom with a toilet, not your outdoor thunderbox, to girlchild’s great joy. Also a 60s time capsule.

We sat around the iron wood-burning heater in the light of one globe, burned some redgum and had some local wine and cheeses and smoked trout. Oh, we were so roughing it.

Next day, we started climbing towards Dinner Plain. It was a while before we saw any snow, but then we were in a blizzard. A whiteout. I alternated between “It’s so beautiful!” and “We’re all going to die!” The former when looking out of the side window at roadside vegetation filigreed in icing-sugar perfection. The latter when taking the outside bends with a sheer drop into the void and a road full of slush. Past Hotham… Brrr! People pay to hang out in this weather?!…and chains– they’re freaky. I should have expected them to go CHUNKA-CHUNKA-CHUNKA so that you fear your car will fall apart. Finally, Dinner Plain.

A big common/dining room with seventy fourteen year olds, plus parents, teachers and administrators. Milling. Hugs, kisses, no one cries – it’s only nine weeks after all. A quick look round. There’s a beginner ski slope out the back, lots of gum trees, pure air. Kisses, hugs, that’s enough Mum the other mums didn’t kiss that much. Seeya!!

Then back down the mountain. She’s been gone three days; the house is weirdly quiet. I miss her already.

Here’s a snow cam.

Comments (0)

  • Zoe says:

    That was lovely, Helen. You enjoy the quiet while it’s there.

  • david tiley says:

    Awww.. that’s really sweet.

  • ThirdCat says:

    How is it going?

  • Helen says:

    She’s busy and happy, but wants more snow. Snow dances everyone. The skiing is not happening, and I fear what would happen with so many 14 year olds all getting cabin fever at once. (Her worst nightmare will probably come true: they will get them to BUSHWALK instead. Her definition of a naff oldies’ pastime.) But her emails home are chirpy.

    They have all done CPR certificates and (for some reason) food handling certificates, and an exercise where they all had to go out somewhere and build a bridge with very limited materials and teamwork. A bit like those corporate exercises you are forced to do at work these days, but they enjoyed it. They do the ordinary schoolwork too.

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