I am a country girl.
Being from the country has always been a source of equal parts pride and frustration on my part. I wouldn’t have traded my childhood years in old mining boom towns like Burra for anything. I was able to play in creeks, dug outs, a 19th century gaol and amongst the salt bush. Holidays weren’t in the city, they were skiing on Lake Bonnie (Barmera), fishing for carp (a useless but productive enterprise) and sitting on extremely hard but familiar white painted, cast iron garden chairs.
I spent the majority of my formative years in Burra. A small town of 3000 (less now) it was broken into halves, Burra and Burra North by the large smelts paddock (copper mine) that was placed smack bang in the centre of the town. A creek ran through from end to end, its clay banks were laced with peppercorn trees. I will never forget that smell. It was heaven for a kid.
I spent a large portion of my teaching career living and working in small regional schools in both SA and Victoria. I love country kids, after all I was one. They have a completely different (no better, no worse) energy that kids raised in metro areas. They have had that extra room to breathe, to run, to be.
When most people say they were raised in the country you can almost hear the banjos in the atmosphere and mental images of overalls and hay firmly fixed between one’s teeth. I grew up in the country and never saw this image. I have yet to hear banjos live…though I would enjoy it. I was a country townie. I grew up not on a farm or station but in the town that serve as a meeting place. No matter how small, most towns have;
- A general store
- A post office (sometimes within the general store)
- A pub
My dad worked for local government so we always lived in the town. So we were country kids, just not completely country. I didn’t learn to drive before I legally was allowed to. (In fact, the night before my first lesson my father had to identify the pedals for me.) I have never ridden a horse, or chewed hay or fetched fresh eggs. I have been involved in tagging and removing lamb’s tails only once – a fun weekend away with a fellow border at the age of 17. I looked like an extra from a horror movie by the end, streaks of blood covered me from head to foot.
Why am I writing all this?
On Monday I am hitting the road. Over six days I am driving across Victoria with authors Melina Marchetta and Elizabeth Honey to visit schools in regional areas. And when I say regional, I don’t mean Geelong. We’re heading to places where my phone won’t work…I’ve been warned.
I am excited to spend time with these lovely ladies but I am terribly excited to bring them to country kids. Can you imagine attending a tiny school in the country and having these ladies swing by to run a writing/art workshop?
One of the greatest things I remember from my school years was a day where our teachers took us to a nearby town. In the centre of their town’s football oval was Colin Thiele and he spoke to kids from a smattering of schools from the area. There was no stage, no pomp and ceremony. Just an amazing author, the crunchy oval grass, blue skies and a collective breath.
I don’t remember what he said but I remember feeling special because he took the time to come to us and speak. I love that I can be a small part of that for some country kids next week.
I am hoping to blog throughout the regional adventures next week…just not here. Make sure you swing by the insideadog.com.au to hear about where we’ve been and what we’ve been up to.
Just another reason I love that youth literature is now my profession.