Some corner of a distant field


An old man digs the ground in a field, contemplating his life, retirement and the changing nature of work and the seasons. But the warm sun and the sweet smell of the meadow can be deceptive.


I enjoy waking up before the weather.

It never rains at 4:00AM. Yes, it’s always cold, but it’s not an uncomfortable cold; it’s the cold of an engine at rest, a day that has yet to fire into life. At this time, everything is fresh and crisp, as if it’s new and still in its wrapping.

Sunsets are beautiful, but the light fades to darkness. It’s like watching a candle burn itself out. The dawn is the birth of a new day; the sun spills colours into the clouds like a child’s paintbrush swirling in a pot of water. This growing smear of spectral hues arcing over me gives me a welcome reason to stop digging for a moment and take in the glorious scene.

I will never understand how soil can feel so soft when you are trying to walk across it, but has a defensive mechanism that turns it to concrete as soon as the spade strikes the first blow.

I cough the freezing dew from my lungs and stare over flat green fields. The countryside has such a beautiful sadness about it; a distant tractor ambles slowly along a furrowed field like a tear on a cheek. Other than the sound of the spade, the only other noise is a lone crow screaming for anything else in nature to reply.

No one can see me, so I raise a hand to wave to the crow. I lost half a finger on my left hand years ago. That kind of thing goes with the work; you sow, you reap. The stumped end always tingles when doing work like this.

The spade crunches another mouthful of earth from the ground. This particular patch is in a neglected no man’s land, just beyond the fence; an explosion of undergrowth stretches out from beneath a nearby copse of eucalyptus trees like an octopus to drag the uniformed fence posts back into the wild.

Barkers Road is not really road. It’s a manmade scratch in the dirt that meanders off Foxhow Road just before it walks a knife-edge between Lake Corangamite and Lake Gnarpurt.

Clearing back the overgrowth to find the ground had been tiring enough, but shovelling this dirt is leaving me dizzy with exhaustion. I’ve been planning to retire for years, but I keep finding ‘final’ tasks and jobs that need tidying up first.

As soon as you think you’re achieving something, that’s when all the vermin crawl out from the rocks. You can’t ignore them; you have to drop everything and deal with them immediately. All the while you’re tackling them, you’re not making any money.

Lots of people from the city want to move to the country. At least they think they do. Whole masses of people invade the outback, but demand all the finer trappings they wanted to escape. Pretty soon, a small town has grown up around them and they wonder what became of the empty fields and blue sky.


  • Page count: 240 pages
  • Publication date: 9 May. 2011
  • Publisher: CreateSpace
  • ISBN-10: 1460984765
  • ISBN-13: 9781460984765


Here are twenty-one unique, contemporary and entertaining short stories, chosen from some of the best entries in the ‘Stringybark Short Story Awards’ and other clever tales that sail across the desk at ‘Stringybark Stories’. Selected by David Vernon this anthology is the fourth book in the ‘Stringybark Editor’s Choice’ series.