For Life and Other Stories

A Note From Mary

Steele Rudd

OUR SCHOOL is on the bank of the creek. A big building it is, and holds a great many people. It’s made of stringy bark. There’s a door in it and three calico windows. A piece of board with “SCHOOL” marked on it is fixed on the roof over the door. Father had the board put up; he thought perhaps someone might mistake it for a hotel. Father is on the committee. Rose Ann Crowe is the teacher; but she doesn’t get anything for teaching. Her father gets it. She gets out of peeling the potatoes and cutting wood and work like that, at home.

We have dances in the school sometimes, and last week there was a play got up. Sandy McCallum got it up. It was his own composing. “In Australia” was the name of it, and it was splendid. They learned to act it in Crowe’s barn at night. A big crowd rolled up to see it when it was staged. Some came from the Rocky, some from Prosperity, some from Grurney’s—from everywhere they came.

Old Riley was on the door, and Jim Smith shifted the scenery and looked after the lights.

There were twelve lights—big, fat lamps that flared like fires. At eight o’clock the play commenced, and Jim blew all the lights out, except those wanted on the stage. The smell of burnt fat was terrible, and drove everyone out. But they came in again. It must have been very old fat. Rose Ann played an overture on the concertina, and the curtain was lifted. The curtain was not a picturesque one. It was made out of bags that were stained with brine and pricklypear juice, and did not look artistic. When it was up, though, after a lot of pulling, the bark humpy that was on the stage was quite real. And the people laughed at Patsy Riley lying on his stomach in front of it, poking his tongue out at a goauna; a live one tied to a peg. Sandy McCallum was dressed in old clothes, and he had to pretend to hammer Patsy, and when he rushed at Patsy with a hoe, Patsy ran into the humpy, and it all fell down on him, and somehow the goanna got away and went among the people. All the women sang out and jumped up on the seats, and the men aimed kicks at it. But there was no light, and the goanna crawled up on a window and dropped down the other side on Goostrey’s dog, and bit it on the back; then climbed a tree before anyone could secure it. But the play went on without its goanna, and was a great success.

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