A crackle of static from the transceiver and, somehow, old Vern at the base station always knew whose crackle it was, would transmit a telegram or receive one, reading it back to make sure he had it right, sometimes quite private stuff.
falling straight down
mating cane toads
family card games
at the round table
Eight in the mornings was the weather. People would call in with their rainfall and we would know what to expect at our end of the river.
Once a day I sat at the desk and pushed the little button for School of the Air: a chaos of static and small voices, as eager as puppies, a teacher miles away asking and answering questions, speaking to one child at a time because if two people spoke at once all you heard was garble.
bare feet swing
under a vinyl chair
Some times emergencies would interrupt School of the Air. Conversations with the Flying Doctor that, of course, everyone would listen to. If needed, an ambulance plane would land on your local road or your bush airstrip if it was safe.
a dust trail
dips its wings
Jimmy Jackson went that way. We heard his mother explain,
‘Timmy’s cut Jimmy’s finger orf.’
With an axe apparently. THe doctor told her to wash the finger in milk, if it was dirty, and to put it back on Jimmy’s hand.
‘Will powdered milk do?’ she asked.
I don’t know what happened to Timmy, but Jimmy lost his finger.
And when I was grown and far away, I sent this: BABY GIRL HANA BORN MIDDAY SIX THREE STOP ALL WELL STOP my message across all those lonely miles, travelling on air, down the receiver aerial and out of a transceiver with its little glowing lights.
‘Received that Vern, over,’ said my mother.
red dust dusk
a country woman waits
to share good news
Afterword: This is from my childhood in outback North Queensland.
http://royalflyingdoctorservice.wordpress.com here is the RFDS’s blog. This one further west than we were, but you’ll get the idea. Ours was based in Charters Towers. They run a fantastic service.