Sharing three learned days with Mark Dellar
The V8 Toyota Cruiser backed into my drive way, the sun was shining with the promise of a great day ahead, Mark stepped down with a beaming smile c’mon Daryl get your gear ready, stash in the back but be careful of Chloe she is asleep on the back seat, with gear secured and the good byes and a hug for Lady Florence who had baked us an apple pie, we were on our way, out through Research then Kangaroo Ground, through the farmlands to Christmas Hills descending down into Yarra Glen, which has a horse racing track.This reminded us of the Melbourne cup ran yesterday where Almandin owned by Lloyd Williams and ridden by jockey Kerrin McEvoy, won the coveted Melbourne Cup. Here we turned left onto the Melba Highway through the grape and wine making farmlands heading north towards Yea. We marveled at the high hills that had been cleared mostly by hand and horses to grow pasture for grazing sheep and cattle.
Farmers were starting to cut grass for bailing hay, everything was green, dams and streams were full of clean water. Road works were excavating the embankments and cutting down red gums to straighten the busy northern road. We entered Molesworth, a small town of a dozen homes and one pub. We travelled further north and saw a sign saying where the F**K is Yark and shortly after that we came to the 50 km township sign saying this is F**king Yark, toilets turn left near footy grounds.Well, this location was busier than the main street. Mark explained as we pulled up that I have to give Chloe a chance to have a drink and a pee. Some other travellers stopped and pulled out there picnic basket and a thermos of tea and chattered to us about what they were planning to do, by this stage Chloe has settled herself back on the rear seat and had dozed off again.
Onwards through the rich farming valleys past Merton to Bonnie Doon over the bridge that spans the southern arm of lake Eildon past the empty pub to Lima South. It was getting warmer and it was noted by Mark again time for Chloe to have a drink and another pee so we crossed our legs and raced onwards to Swanpool toilets on arrival we marveled at the picnic shelter with it laser cut design of swans in sheets of rusty steel. It’s obvious that this little town was very proud and was making visitors very welcome and comfortable, sorry we could not stay to investigate more but you guessed it Chloe was anxious to get to the farm.
Onward through Tatong with it classic white pub and well-spaced tree-lined street a quick right hand turn and we were on the red gum lined country road heading for the Dellar Ranch in Upper Lurg.
Chloe sat upright as if to say we are here and I want another pee quick. We stopped at the front cyclone gate and were welcomed by a swarm large black mozzies that filled the car, Mark yelled quick Daryl make a run for it I jumped and we sped up the drive over the angry sugar ants nests to the safety of the long tin weekender making a run inside leaving Chloe behind to bring in her own swag and aeroguard. It was about mid afternoon when we arrived and after scratching and spraying we settled in to unpack and start the job at hand, slash all the long grass before the fire season starts, with the hand slasher brought out of retirement, oil checked belts tightened and blades sharpened, time to start the willing 11 horsepower Honda, Mark hanging on for dear life let out the clutch and away he went grass flying everywhere propelled stones banging against the tin walls Chloe and I hid in the shelter of the shed and peered through the cracks around the door to see if Mark was okay whilst we were under attacks from those persistent B51 mossy bombers. With the front area mowed like the botanical gardens and Mark out of sight over the embankment Chloe and my self-ventured out and found the famous Fire Pit, a large dug out area to contain a big fire, after collecting a stack of dry firewood we lit a big fire and stacked on some freshly cut grass to smoke out those mossies, this worked a treat.
After a couple of hours with the mower at rest we settled down with some beer and stout, dry bikkies and cheese in our deck chairs in the smoke trail watching the sun setting listening to the farmers kids extracting the last out of the day laughing and playing. We even heard the birds saying their prayers and giving thanks as they settled down for the coming cold night.
Mark heated up some stir fry and chicken and we had a couple of bowls full each as the flies went to bed and before the mossies renewed their night attack. We had a few beers and those mossies that bit us were then too pissed to find us or to tell their mates. We even managed a few yarns and rearranged the world as we sat around the open fire and stared at the star covered sky.
That was the end of the first day. Chloe slept with Mark he claimed it was for the warmth.
Mark beat the birds up had the Honda humming away and more grass was being laid level, in and out of the trees, he been for a walk, lit the fire pit and fired up the slow combustion stove and had the kettle singing ready for brekky. Upon seeing me greeting the day he bounced up to make toast, a bowl of weeties, corn and raisins.We sat in the sun sipping tea as Mark told me that Chloe had slipped down the side of the mattress during the night against the iron shed wall and was wedged there. Never a complaint from her. He called, no answer. Panic set in. No torch, no power, no Chloe. He was starting to panic big time. What would Daryl say? Then as day broke and as he was making his bed he discovered her stuck between the mattress and the tin wall. I suggested that from now on maybe I should look after Chloe.
Mark got back into slashing again, the day was heating up. I went around collecting fire wood and tidying up, doing dishes and keeping an eye on Mark to see if he was okay. Come lunch time and we had a reverse lunch. Lady Flo’s apple pie and cream then salad buns and tea after which we had a siesta for an hour or so. Then you guessed it, Mark was back into the mowing, he is a joy to watch like poetry in sweet motion. Poor Chloe after a freezing night she was still curled up in front of the wood stove sound asleep and even missed lunch.
The vivid blue sky allowed the late spring warmth to heat the ground and start drying the mown grass. It also allowed us to see the vapor trails of the big passenger jets high above us as they headed for Sydney and beyond.They were almost noiseless and barely visible except for that white vapor trail.There seemed to be one every 10 minutes, all travelling in the same direction.
At the end of the slashing day with the oven heated up, Mark the Melbourne Che,f put some Lasagna in the oven whilst we sat down by the fire pit in our deck chairs with dry bikkies, cheese and chips. Mark said “beer and stout” – there is still some left I will get it out of the caravan fridge.There was cries of “no, no bloody NO! – it’s all frozen” – so we sat in front of the fire trying to thaw out enough beer and stout to wash down our bikkies. To no avail, beer and stout does not make good tasting ice blocks either.
At least the slightly singed lasagna went down very well followed by Lady Flo’s apple pie and beer flavored ice blocks. Chloe chose not to partake with us but stayed in warmer quarters with a large plate of canned stuff. Chloe refused to sleep with me, indicating she thought she should give Mark a second chance to make up and do the honorable thing?
It was getting late when we decided to go to bed. We were all tired but very happy. No phones, no tele, no traffic. But we had achieved our goal and cleaned up most of the grass to improve the fire safety aspect.
Up at 7 am the sun was already up and shining as we prepared to tidy up ready for the return trip. But first a great breakfast and toast from the wood fire, weeties and corn and coffee. A quick tidy of the kitchen wash the dishes pack up our gear make sure the fires are safe. Wait, we have to empty the doorless dunny, out with the spade and electric drill, down on the hands and knees and unscrew the front panel so we can extract the can, quickly run over to the soft soil dig a hole and bury the Treasure, back to the dunny put the can in again and screw the front panel on ready for the next trip up here.
9am and off we go heading for home, down to the road and shut the cyclone gate. I asked Chloe if she would like the front seat on the way back but she seemed happy to stay stretched out on the back bench seat. A couple of k’s and a right hand turn towards Benalla Township, but before that Mark pointed out the turn to Winton where they have a motor rally car track an event worth seeing so they say. Before long we were heading towards Melbourne on the Hume highway, by-passing Benalla, we were making very good time then Mark suggested we take a scenic detour from Euroa to Merton. As we headed down the Merton road it said ‘road closed’ car rally ahead.Could not be, it was Friday, must have been left there from last week. We travelled on for some more k’s and guess what the road was closed so back we went to Euroa, looped around found the highway again. It was pisso time again but nowhere to stop but, as Mark observed, there are toilet stops for people with weak bladders along the highway. Alright for men, we can cross our legs but we had to give Chloe a plastic bag just in case. We both rang home to tell the ladies of our lives we were safe and should be home around 11-30 am. We passed a couple of highway toilet stops. They come and go quickly at 100km/per hour. Now things were getting serious. Just then we saw a sign one kilometer to toilet stop Mark pulled out to pass the longest semi-trailer ever built. We just passed the truck and realized that we were half way past the pit stop, a quick left turn, no smoke from the tyres but brown skid marks on the our undies! Mark calmly stated it’s okay as we backed up the exit lane from the Hume highway to the toilet. Time for Chloe’s pitt stop. After looking around seeing how noisy and busy a highway is we headed to Wallan. Another scenic detour was decided upon towards Whittlesea but more disaster at the railway line. A hold up as they were erecting two concrete poles. Yes, time is being eroded. Thru Whittlesea and the traffic just got thicker. Another detour to Doreen and YanYen road which was blocked for some unknown reason. Time was ticking away fast and Mark had to be home by 11.30am. A quick look at my watch said we would just make it but as we turned into Dudley St Eltham signs up, road closed all day another detour into various street and into Bible st at 12 bells. Unloaded the swag and gear. I gave Chloe a hug as she and Mark headed off home like frustrated rabbits.
Later, after all that it was revealed, Mark went home, fell asleep on the couch and missed taking his grandchild to his new school orientation day in Doreen. The very reason we had to be home by 11.30am.
Daryl Morrow – November 2016
**Editors note – just to allay any possible confusion, Chloe is a dog.