From Barkala Farm, we go to find the place where Ted lived until he was six, in Pilliga when his young father was rising in the Commercial Banking Co, (now the NAB) and he was given his first manager’s job – in Pilliga. Arriving in Pilliga, we go to the Post Office to ask where the old bank might be, only to find that we are standing in it – the very building where Ted slept as a toddler!
Well, as you can see by the photos above, there’s not much in Pilliga these days, so we’re on our way to Walgett. It’s red dirt country, mulga trees, salt bush and prickly pear. Entrances to sheep stations, but never a sheep in sight. The bright green cotton crops are vast – no fences (is this road on private land?). Mirages water the horizon, an eagle rises in front of us, black with yellow splotches under its wings.
Now there’s a place on the way we just HAVE to visit – ‘Come by Chance’ – because we’re so fascinated by the name. We veer off the road, led by Maps, and are within 5km of it when ‘Maps’ goes haywire and tell us to do a U-Turn, that it’s 24km in the opposite direction. We even pass a sign that talks of their picnic races, but can’t, even after several consultations with Maps, find the place. Oh but then I remembered Banjo Paterson:
“But my languid mood forsook me, when I found a name that took me,
Quite by chance I came across it — `Come-by-Chance’ was what I read;
No location was assigned it, not a thing to help one find it,
Just an N which stood for northward, and the rest was all unsaid.“
So we came to Walgett, which looks a lot like many western towns – IGA, Coles, a couple of coffee shops, just one main street and everyone chatting to each other – and to us.
We find a pleasant tree-lined spot just out of town in a Rotary Park, with a lagoon spread with tall reeds, a spouting fountain and a prolific birdlife – friendly domestic ducks and drakes wanting a feed. An early morning walk with Charlie is enlivened by a chat with ‘Les’, my new second-best friend, driving a B-Triple, who cheerfully tells me the story of his lifestyle on the road between Swan Hill and Dirrambandi.
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