When my family came to the river country there were almost no whites, and damned few Abbos. First it was the smallpox, killing eight out of ten, then the long dry which turned the Murray into a road of of puddles with grain skiffs sunk to the scuppers in the deep red mud.

My great-granddad come up from Victoria during the Boer War, when most of the young men had gone serve the Empire. He’d been a mate on a goldfield ship and knew his way around a river.

We consider the Murray the most valuable waterway in Australia. It irrigates all the fields in the valley so you could grow almost anything and also provides a way for the farmers to get their crops from the field to a rail spur using nothing more than a flatboat and a mule.

But now there’s another dry on, longest yet.

And she’s salting up bad enough to kill grass.

What Pegman Saw: Loxton, Australia


Add Yours
  1. Joy Pixley

    Subtle dialect but it really works here. I like the term “dry” as a noun. Or in the words of my story, that the river withheld its support for even longer this time. Such a dysfunctional relationship.

  2. Prior...

    Enjoyed learning about the valuable Murray waterway.
    And — Like the culture terms like “dry on” and “salting up”
    Also – the drought ending is timely because we had some dry days and our grass was crunching Beneath our feet –

  3. k rawson

    The language and voice are superb. Loved the subtle way so much is revealed. Are “dry on” and “salting up” from the local dialect? Riverman terms? Lucky guesses? They seem just perfect.

  4. Lynn Love

    Agree with all of the above! You manage to capture that solid, tough voice so well, the kind of man that all such environments are built on from Australia to the American West to Siberia. Tough, unsentimental, indomitable. The kind of man you want around when the river runs dry but not the kind for diplomacy. The everyday use of ‘Abbos’ is telling of period too

Don't just stand there.