What lies on the southern border-the hut of dreams
True story of my childhood
There is a small bluestone structure on the southern most boundary of my property that my family and I refer to as ‘the hut’. A small and seemingly insignificant building, which years of harsh wind and rain have rendered useless. But it is significant to me. To me the tiny hut remains a source of immense pain and grief, feelings so intense that I have not entered within its walls for more than a decade. When the news of my dad first came I didn’t even know that the hut was the place it had happened. It wasn’t until the fire-truck arrived the following day to clean its insides that I became aware of the role the hut had played. I didn’t dare go down there then. I didn’t want to see it. At the time I was so weak that I could barely make the walk south from our house to the hut anyway. My sister went down. She even went in. I guess she is stronger than me in that respect. She never spoke to me about what she saw in the hut that day but I heard from a passing conversation between two friends of hers that she said it looked as if a sheep had been slaughtered. The thought of that brings a sickness to my stomach that I can not describe. The firemen came that afternoon to scrub the blood from every surface, to delete every trace of him from my life. It pains me to think of it, to conjure it up in my mind, to picture the remains of what is left when dreams die, when innocence is lost.
The exact date I do not know, but sometime in the early 1900’s a small bluestone hut was built. It took some five years, to construct the tiny shack, the place that would become a symbol of strength and prosperity to those it would house in the coming decades. It was built as a school for the children of the surrounding district who would walk barefoot, sometimes up to forty miles through thick bush land, to attend lessons.
Due to dwindling attendance the school closed in 1920 and the huts comfortable structure was abandoned and left to gather dust. That was until the early 1930’s when a young couple from the neighboring farm ‘Horseshoe Bend’ saw potential in the small yet significantly adapt structure. Placing it on timber pines, they floated the hut south down the then flooded creek and brought it to rest on the property they now owned.
After what perspective buyers were told was ‘unfortunate circumstances’ the couple sold the property in 1945 to middle aged bald man Tom Goddard. Goddard was a widely proclaimed drunk who used the hut as a middle point to sleep off the headache on his way to and from the local pub. He was of no productive value, and so the surrounding land was left wild and untamed while he drank away his days in the confines of his little hut. The highlight of his time at ‘Horseshoe bend’ was when he lashed out and brought the exciting new invention which they were calling the Television. He would sit completely entranced by the small black and white screen, so fascinated with the contraption that he would spend hours on end staring at the test screen and not even trying to tune in actual channels.
My parents bought the property in the late 1970’s and the hut was the only solitary structure. It stood alone in a 2500 acre landscape of nothing but red sandy dirt, which somehow my parents saw as a great foundation for a prosperous family life.
Built of bluestone and red gum timber panels the hut was little bigger than most bathrooms you see today, yet when it was built in the early 1900’s was a feat of both strength and admiration. There was little complexity within its tiny structure. Just an old open fire place to the far right and a bench or two protruding from adjacent walls, once handy for scaling fish or stuffing the duck for dinner. But it sure had character. It had weathered a thousand storms, provided shelter and comfort in times of hardship, and stood deserted for maybe decades at a time when raging floods and devastating droughts had deemed the surrounding land worthless.
When my parents arrived on the property the hut became their refuge while the main house was being built. For years they called its tiny dwellings their home. Hardly the ideal newlywed domain, considering the entire house was contained in one room, but nevertheless it did provide comfort and the necessary middle ground to hang ones hat while the bigger dreams where being laid.
When I was young, and the main house had well and truly become my families living quarters, the hut was used as a tack room, storing our saddlery and the occasional odd and end that had been banished from the more predominant main tool shed. But its small confines again limited its usefulness and soon enough larger stables were constructed and the hut was left deserted once more.
For years it sat gathering dust and cobwebs, housing I’m sure numerous black snakes and rats in search of shelter. When I was 12 my pet cat used the hut to raise her own little family, knowing full well that her litter of feral inbreeds would surely see the barrel end of my fathers 22 had her journey into motherhood been brought to his attention.
Despite its neglect and increasing uselessness the hut never ceased to rouse my curiosity. Although it was small and seemingly insignificant I was certain it held many stories, kept many secrets. I forget how the story came up, but round the dinner table one night I was told of what the hut had seen, what it had witnessed. The couple that had floated the hut to Horseshoe bend all those decades ago had, like my parents, come in search of a prosperous family beginning. Sadly harsh floods followed by almost a decade of deadly drought forced a riff between the happy couple and when the marriage eventually came to an end the wife moved to a nearby station leaving the husband to battle on in the harsh conditions. The hut became a bachelor pad for the deserted husband and his brother who had been called in to help. But a drunken night of poker within the tiny huts walls is where the true story begins. After a few bottles of whisky, fuelled by a feeling of worthlessness and a longing for revenge, the two brothers left the hut and headed out to pay the once wholesome wife a visit. In a storm of drunken fury and anguish the two men ravaged her one by one, leaving her alone, a wholesome woman no longer. The hut sat quietly waiting when the two men returned, but could not have fore sore what it would later witness. The woman so enraged, so tormented, would not be beaten. In a defiant struggle of sheer determination she walked the forty miles and stood at the foot of that blue stone hut, with nothing left but a yearning for the pain to stop and her trusty shot gun.
The two men meet their deaths in the hut that night, and the tiny room that had once held there dreams became the setting for their moral and physical demise.
From that night on when I walked by the hut I would feel a slight shiver, and I never once ventured within its walls alone again. I knew it was silly, childish to be scared of a little bluestone hut, but I felt it was somehow haunted. But its connection to my life was far from over and little did I know the significant place it would later hold in my nightmares.
Nowadays the hut is a mere reflection of its former glory. The roof has caved in leaving the bluestone and red gum timber panels to face the harsh winds unprotected. I can’t imagine what the inside must look like but I know my curiosity will never outweigh my fear. A hut that I had once avoided through suspicion I now resent through connotative grief and utter terror. It’s been seven years since the accident and yet I feel the hut knows more about that fateful day than I will ever know. Just as it saw many beginnings, the hut once again witnessed an end, and with it went my innocence and my belief in happiness. Horseshoe bend was to be a place of great prosperity, of life and love and above all a place to build a family. But just as the hut had been the place my father began his life of dreams so too it became the place where he would end them.