The Homestead

What a beautiful home he’d made for them. It had taken three months of solid graft; every day at 4 o’clock Mary had brought him a bottle of tea and a thick slab of bread as he switched from farmer to builder.

Five months ago they had arrived at Sullivan’s Bend – of course it wasn’t called that then, it was 'Lot 387 559 62A'– a pocket of land in the bend of the river.  They had pitched a small tent for their sleeping quarters and stretched a canvas canopy between the branches of a couple of gum trees to served as a kitchen, parlour, and bathroom.

The land grant had been straightforward enough. Their letters of introduction from Lord Fermoy and the Parish Priest had painted a glowing picture of reliable and hardworking farmers who would be an asset to the Colony. With a trunk of clothes and linens, a crate of food staples, a few pieces of rudimentary farming equipment, and a sturdy looking horse, they’d walked nearly 40 miles from town to this, their new home.

It looked like the land was a flood plain, there were just few large trees and it was as flat as a billiard table. There was nobody to ask about flood levels or frequency so they’d taken a gamble and built the house three feet off the ground. If the river flooded higher than that they’d just have to sit on the roof; and he’d made a mental note to build an escape hatch in the ceiling.

The river had indeed flooded, every winter, but the water was never more than 18 inches deep and none of the rooms had ever been so much as damp.  They’d started out with two rooms: the bedroom and “the other one” which had served as a kitchen, a dining room , a bathroom, a parlour, and a store room for several years. As the children arrived and their savings account grew they had added a couple of rooms at the back of the house. One was a bedroom and the other was Mary’s long awaited parlour: the presence of which denoted the achievement of a social status Mary termed “genteel”.  Linen tablecloths and napkins were embroidered by the light of a paraffin lamp on the long winter evenings and they made Sunday tea an elegant occasion whenever visitors called.

The children grew up and worked the farm, land was acquired year by year from nearby farms until they joined to make a property large enough to subdivide into parcels for each of the children as they came of age, boys and...

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Katherine Horejsi
Aug 15 2021

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