"Oh, dog food has gone up again," she said. She was elderly - 80+? -erect, smiling, meticulously groomed.
I had rushed into the supermarket to grab some printer paper, which, because of some rationale that I can't fathom, is next to the dog food. But, instead of answering and hurrying away, I responded to her age, grace and the whiff of loneliness I scented, and smiled. My doom was sealed.
I still can't work out how she seamlessly segued into the following, in no particular order: her father had his hearing damaged from WW1, when he was leading his half-wild horse from Tumbarumba that balked at getting on the ship in Sydney. The youngest brother lied about his age, went to ww1 too young, and was killed. Her father went into hairdressing, and made enough money to buy their "beautiful farm" at Oberne,where she was "from." Her father's name was Hartnett - they were called "hardnuts" at school, which led to many a scuffle: but she and her sister had dark red hair, (from their Irish mother, who was an O'Hanratty) and tempers to match. They had 90 cows, and her father used to buy new bulls from Dapto, because of, you know... but, they milked 50. The four of them would hand milk them morning and night, into kerosene tins that her father had boiled and inserted handles into, they would pour the milk into a 90 gallon drum, and father would leave them to milking while he went off to separate. Nearby was the old Cobb and Co staging post, a 3 story building with cellars and iron lace around the balconies. Now she lived nearby in a house with a giant river red gum in the backyard, and neighbours who had erected a 12 ft high brick fence. She pays her rates by installments, because she's not going to have the council getting interest from her money. Her dog, a border collie, is a wonderful watchdog: but, no one could get close without being detected by her 40 year old pet galah, anyway.
Yes, I made several futile efforts to extract myself: but, it took most of 30 minutes before I got away.
She was expert enough to not make it a monologue. Do you know Oberne? Do you know what a separator is? etc etc
I found her fascinating and very likeable. I have doubts that Cobb and Co ever went to Oberne - a place that there are no roads to, according to google maps, but perhaps they did when there was a gold rush at Adelong. I wanted to know whether the half wild horses were the boys own, or supplied by the army, but she couldn't understand my question.
Iwill walk the street where she lives, tomorrow - it is only 5 or 6 blocks long. I have the feeling that I will see no giant river red gum, and no 12 ft brick fence. I hope that I am wrong.