I rang my sister in Central Queensland last week.  She informed me that they had decided to move some of the furniture around in the house including two full bookcases.  She had elected  - or had drawn he short straw - to remove all the books, go through them, cull the odd one or two and so make the shifting of the heavy pieces of furniture, easier.  She told me she had books everywhere, on the table, on chairs, all over the floor “And you’ll never guess what I’m doing now.”  I said “I know exactly what you’re doing now.  You’ve come across a couple of poetry books and you’re sitting down reading them.”  We both burst out laughing.

How many times have I been dusting books and done the same thing, picked out a poetry book and that was the end of that.  Actually, when I come to think of it, I have never really wasted that much good time dusting  in my life so it really wasn’t all that often I was caught up in this exercise, knowing exactly what would happen if I did.

We discussed the poetry she was reading and she told me about a book of A.B. Patterson’s work which had been first published in 1895.  The same book was then brought out again on its hundredth anniversary, 1995.  She had bought it at the Longreach Stockman’s Hall of Fame when coming back from a trip to Darwin, with her daughter.  The foreword had been written by a man who had read Clancy of the Overflow - from the original book - in 1967, had  been  captivated by the thought of seeing ‘the vision splendid of the sunlit plains extended and at night the wondrous glory of the everlasting stars,’ recognised ‘my dingy little office’ as his own, sold up, went out, bought a horse and headed west, took up droving  and continued doing it for years.

I love that story.  I could have done that myself.  She said the same.

We had a great discussion about books and part of the story was that she had had a big box of books since her early twenties which she has hauled around with her wherever she went - which isn’t as difficult as it sounds as she lived in the one house in Brisbane for about 40 years - and that she still had most of them.  It reminded me of my own books which I had hauled around over the years and therein lies this story.

In about 1991 we were moving to the Northern Territory for a while and so set off on the adventure with what we owned, which wasn’t very much, a few clothes and a box of books.  The box of books was big enough for us to have to buy a trailer of sorts in which to carry it.  The car was the same one we had been travelling around Australia in for the best part of twelve months so we had it packed with our camping and cooking needs and of course, the dog.

At about Ti-Tree, a roadhouse on the Stuart Highway, we had to buy tyres for the trailer and managed to procure a couple of used Uni-Royals - which at that time had not been made for about fourteen years - paying an exorbitant price for them.  They knew they had us by the short and curlies so there wasn’t much use protesting.  It was their way or the highway and the highway, as you would know, was long.

Arriving at Mataranka, we settled into one place while the occupants were away, then rented another on Carew Road for a couple of years until we finally bought a caravan which we parked on a property owned by friends until we finally left Mataranka at the end of 1994.  All the while, the box of books came with us, unopened, but somehow a comfort.

While we were still renting the house on Carew Road, before buying the caravan, we had travelled south for Christmas and to miss some of the Wet Season and while down in Bathurst the Police rang us to say that our trailer had been stolen, the thieves had loaded it with gear from the five-acre block next to the one we rented and scarpered.  They had been picked up by the Police at Kulgera down near the South Australian border and would we pick up the trailer on our way back.  No worries.  When we picked it up there was still gear on it owned by our neighbours and we took that back as well.  Fairly casual in the Territory.

At Easter time in 1995 we decided to go back to Mataranka and deal with all the gear we had left there.

They say a rolling stone gathers no moss but when you stop rolling for a couple of years the moss is everywhere.  We had a Holden Shuttle by this time and we packed it to the hilt with moss and other stuff, loaded the trailer, also to the hilt, had a garage sale and gave the rest away, with moss still clinging to it.  We gave the caravan away to The Better Half Club as an office for their headquarters.  

Yes, while there I was a founding member of The Better Half Club, the name speaking for itself.  We were fairly active and had a lot of fun, going fishing one weekend and camping out overnight.  I think the only catch of the weekend was mine, a beautiful big Barramundi.  We had two boats between us and the other one tipped over at some point, with all the good fishing gear being thrown into the Roper River.  The girls were okay at that point but were hesitant about going home to tell their husbands the fishing gear was still up the creek.  We all dived for it but I don’t think much was brought to the surface.

Anyway, back to our trip back down south.  We started off well but a few hundred kilometres down the track we lost first and second gear in the Shuttle, which, loaded up as we were and with the trailer on behind, wasn’t all that fancy.  When we stopped, it had to be on a good slope so we could get a bit of speed up before letting the clutch out in top gear and it is difficult to find a petrol station with that sort of slope on the apron.

However, we made it to Alice Springs where we had a good friend living at the time so were able to stay with her while arranging for the NRMA to ferry the Shuttle back to Bathurst on the back of a truck.  The only thing was, they would not take the trailer.  What do you do with a battered trailer loaded with books and moss?

As fortune would have it, our friend, Shelley, had another friend from the south staying with her while he was working in Alice but his father in Oberon, was not well and he wanted to get back to see him in the near future. So the deal was for us to take his ute to get us back to Bathurst then we would pay for a flight for him to come down to see his dad.  We loaded the trailer on the back, making our way home and having a good trip.  As it turned out, he could not get away from work by the time we arrived home so we ferried the ute back on a truck going through to Alice.  Very fortunate indeed and a wonderful three days spent in Alice Springs into the bargain.

As for the books, we were renting a small cottage near Bathurst for the first five years we were down here and the box remained unopened.  We then moved over to a small block of land and built a house, all the while with the box being carefully stored in a forty foot container close by.  Sometimes I ask Himself about that box and its contents and he assures me it has been emptied and the contents distributed throughout the house.  As many books and much moss cover the inside of the house, I can’t disagree with him but always at the back of my mind I think it is still there, in the bowels of the container, covered with moss and other things,  because every now and then I think of some of the books that were in that box that I haven’t seen for a long time and I wonder.  Because of the moss I can’t, myself, get into the container so have to take his word for it.  In a hundred years’ time someone may find treasures untold. 

 By the way, we still have that trailer, sporting two new tyres - worth more than it.  What stories it could tell, and that’s just in the 28 years we’ve owned it.

The moral of the story of course is, if you’re a rolling stone, keep rolling.