Sunday 29 – Monday 30 April 2012
At first, when the clouds rolled over, there was nothing – not a single drop, not a hint of the downpour that would later come. Terry marvelled at the sight of the black and grey clouds that seemed to congregate above his house. He knew it was silly to think that they were only above his house, singling him out, when he could see that the sky was filled with clouds, but still, the ominous nature of the clouds gave him pause for thought.
He looked around for the dog. She hated storms, and was best holed up indoors when one hit.
‘Ellie. ELLIE, where are you?’ he called for her, and waited to hear the sound of four feet scampering to be by his side. There was nothing.
‘ELLIE, COME INSIDE, GIRL,’ he called again. This time she came running, looking forlorn and unloved. Terry bent down to pat her, and she cowered at his feet. The change in atmospheric pressure bothered her. She leaned in close to Terry, taking comfort in his presence.
‘Let’s head inside before this lot drops its bundle, girl,’ he grabbed her collar and tugged her in the direction of the porch. She followed quickly, happy to be heading to safety and away from the storm.
Almost as soon as the man and his dog had reached the relative safety of the front porch, the rain began to fall. Slow, large drops sparsely dampened the red dirt around Terry’s farmhouse. He imagined them scarring the dirt across his whole farm and the surrounding areas. It had been too long in between drinks for the land, and Terry knew what would happen. The rain would pick up, falling rapidly, and wetting the dirt but little of the precious liquid would soak into the ground where it was much needed. Instead, the fast falling rain would form rivulets that would turn into rivers that flowed across the land, the ground unable to absorb any of the water. This was the beginning of the flood.
‘Thank God there are no animals left, Ellie. I don’t think I could move fast enough to get them to safety. First the drought, and then the flood. Just can’t win,’ he spoke softly to his four legged friend. She watched intently as he strode through the house, room to room, checking all of the windows and all of the doors. He collected a duffel bag as he went.
‘Wait here, girl. I’ll throw this in the Triton and come back for you.’
Picking up pace of his own, Terry headed back outside to his four-wheel drive. He threw the duffel on the back seat and returned to the house. Leaving Ellie patiently waiting in the foyer, Terry collected Ellie’s essentials – a large bag of dry food, a few tins of dog meat, and a small bag that contained a blanket, Ellie’s lead, and her favourite toy.
‘Forethought is a wonderful thing,’ he commented to Ellie as he returned to her side. ‘Come on, Ellie, out to the car. It’s time for us to head off.’
Less afraid with Terry by her side, Ellie walked out to the car and waited for Terry to open the door. He placed her things on the back seat next to his own duffel, and then walked around to the passenger’s side, opened the door, and signalled for Ellie to get in. She knew the routine, jumping up into the car and on to the seat. It took him seconds to shut the door and head to the driver’s side.
‘We’re off, Ellie. Might not be back here for a while, not with the sort of flooding that’s about to hit.’
‘Rain’s beginning to pick up,’ Terry said as he drove through the gates of his property. He threw a glance into the rear view mirror. The water had already started to flow; the rivulets would soon be rivers. In a matter of hours, if that, his farmhouse would be under water. It wasn’t the first time it had happened, and it wouldn’t be the last. Between droughts, floods, fires, and plagues, nature had a way of reminding you that nothing and no one could beat her.
Terry drove west. The red dirt road led to a poorly asphalted road into town, where the main road would take Terry and Ellie to the highway. They were some of the lucky ones who had relatives far away from the flooding plains. They would stay away until the media reported that the floodwaters had receded, and then Terry and Ellie would return to clean out the farmhouse, and continue with life on the land.
‘Part and parcel of a farmer’s life, isn’t it Ellie? We’re survivors, you and me. Always have been, always will be.’