‘The Dinner Tree’

There are many natural icons that are synonymous with the Kimberley region in the north of Western Australia.  Like others, I fell in love at first sight.  To fall in love instantly, is being bedazzled in, and, by the moment.  One returns to that memory, repeatedly.

The Kimberley region, is like that for me.

Of all the things I’ve seen and experienced there is one that stands out for me.  One I return to every time I’m in Derby.  It is a visit to One Mile Dinner Camp and a large, old boab, colloquially known as, ‘the Dinner Tree’.DSC_0680.jpgThis is a place of history.  In the early 1900s the drovers stopped here at dusk, a midway point before they walked across the mud flats with cattle, to the Derby Jetty beyond.  The journey must have been arduous for the drovers and their cattle.  As is now, the sun would have been blistering hot from early day to night fall.  Reflecting on their hardship what comes through for me, time and again, is the sense of community they must have experienced at night fall.  The camp fires would have been lit.  The talk muted.  The cattle satiated having quenched their thirst at the Myall Bore and Trough (another icon), before getting here.  What did these men talk about?  Did they miss family?  Is this the only life they knew?  I have walked around this site and come up with all kinds of scenarios and characters that must have squat around a campfire, their weary faces aglow with rest at last.  I imagine the dinner of some stew, damper bread and billy tea would have been standard fare.  I know this because I enjoyed a similar meal a hundred years later at a cattle station.  After their meal, the embers would have been contained in the campfire, swags would have been opened and weary bodies wrapped within only to be unwrapped before dawn, when the next day would begin.  These men would have worked and rested as one, they would have got the other’s back and watched out for mates.  They were community, friends and family on the road.  To do this, they had to stay connected.  They must have known, for the common interest, the common goal, they had to be.

Have you noticed how different we are a century later?  Even families eat their meals peering into a screen while advertisements in the background tout ‘stay connected’.  You may have guessed from this and previous posts, this is my pet peeve!

Until next time

As always

a dawn bird