How sweet it is.
Through five generations and beyond, some scandal, the occasional battle.
Marriages, children — hordes of bloody children.
Religion and faith, one sometimes existing without the other, love and laughter linking us in the battling bush towns and the uppity cities.
There’s Paddy, all 300 pounds of him with hands like shovels, planting his size 14s in the dirt track from Hillston to Cobar. He fancied a walk and wandered into the rest of his life.
Florrie gave him nine kids: he became mayor, ran the first picture show bought the pub and donned the tussore silk shirt and pants to referee the two bob thugs who called themselves boxers and everyone else in town whatever they liked.
Toiling in the Great Western. The shearers tired, thirsty and wondrously wealthy for a week, slapping an obscene wad of notes on the bar as the first blue spilled onto the verandah.
Night after night it was hot and hard but song, dance and laughter revitalised and renewed. So many celebrations at the drop of a hat.
He died in the Blue Mountains where the sweeter air was supposed to keep him going. When they brought his body back on the train to Cobar they say every railway station in western New South Wales was packed with people paying their respects.
His spirit breezes through occasionally. As a child I sensed him in my grandmother’s vibrato laden songs of praise. I saw his belligerence and bountiful humour in my uncle and his uncomplicated capacity for caring in my mother.
I’m no longer from there and I don’t belong here, but I’ll always have my flag.
How sweet it is. How sweet it is.