As I write this, I'm sitting in McDonald's, Parkes, enjoying their free Wi-Fi, which gives me an opportunity to reflect on the last week or so.
I've just spent the lat three days at Lake Cargelligo Central School. 'Lake', as it's known locally, is a town of 1,300 (give or take) a couple of hours west of Parkes.
Lake is tired. Everywhere around Lake is tired. The lake that the town is named for has shrunken, the foreshore now a hundred metres or so away from where the boatramp ends. The streets are dusty, the silos empty, and the people seemingly resigned. They're harvesting at the moment. Or to be more accurate, those who have crops to harvest are harvesting. Some aren't even bothering. They're talking in very small numbers – one to two bags per acre. I'm not sure how big a bag actually is, but Matthew from Year 7 told me that his dad is currently driving grain trucks at Coonamble, a few hours up the road, where they're getting twelve to fourteen bags per acre. Last night on Prime, the news talked about the record harvest in Coonamble. They had shots of locals drinking up in the pub, smiling, grinning, celebrating. They got rain just at the right time.
I ate at one of the two Lake pubs most evenings. No one was celebrating in those pubs. One evening it rained, and the small number of locals who bothered to go outside to have a look didn't seem all that surprised to see that the shower lasted for a full fifteen minutes, then slunk away.
The kids at Lake Cargelligo Central School are like country kids everywhere. They're easy to engage, but difficult to get a response from. And you only have to strike up a conversation with their elders to know why this is. They don't need to impress anyone. And as a result, they aren't easily impressed. They just are.
The other things these kids are is older and wiser than their city cousins. I had to remind myself several times that I was speaking to Year 7s and 8s, not 9s and 10s. The teachers tell me of how overwhelmed these kids are when they go to the city for excursions. But I can't imagine there's much else that overwhelms them. Not when boys and girls in Year 6 and 7 tell me very matter-of-factly about going piggin' with their pig-dogs, or fishing for 60cm carp with a compound bow.
I love getting out on the road, and opening up the throttle a bit, both literally and metaphorically. I do love the bush. I was born in Trundle, which is about 45 minutes west of where I now sit.
I dropped in at Trundle other day. It felt familiar, but not like home. And when I introduced myself to the kids from Lake, I was very clear: I was born around here, but I'm not from around here. To make that claim would be to devalue the uniqueness of their growing-up experience. And that's the last thing I want to do.
(If you're reading this via Facebook Notes: this post is redirected from my 'head vs desk' blog.)