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U3A Writing: A Weeping Eucalypt

Mima Fisher tells of taking her pupils on an outing in the Australian bush.

A School Excursion 1940

My little bush school consisted of 11 pupils ranging in age from six to 13 years, and from Prep to 7th Grade. We were like a happy family.

When spring came that year, the trees and grass looked fresh and green, and the surrounding grain crops had grown tall. I decided we should have a day in the bush, taking our lunch, and observing whatever nature would show us.

The children helped in the planning - how we should travel, what provisions we needed, and the timing of the day. The farmer with whom I boarded let me have the old cart horse in his spring cart.

The younger children rode with me. Two other boys rode their ponies and double dinked their mates. We each took sandwiches or cakes, and one mother baked some special sausage rolls for us. A canvas waterbag provided us with a cool drink when necessary.

We left at 9:30 am and went west to the banks of Lake Albacutya, which had been dry for over 30 years. On the way, we passed several rabbit warrens and noticed the devastation of the area around them.

Two lunettes (banks formed as the lake dried back in earlier times) were crossed. The children were excited to find shells on the sandy banks, and suggested they were remnants of aboriginal feasts, left from the days when the tribes inhabited the area.

As we came nearer the edge of the dry lake bed, we saw the huge red gum trees surrounding it. They differ so much from the whipstick malle scrub in the outlying country. The lake was filled with Wimmera River Floods about every 13 to 14 years until the river was dammed to provide water for the large dry area of the State. When filled, the water stayed for about five to seven years, giving these lovely trees a drink.

Now the little eyes were alert, looking up into the trees to seek birds nesting in the hollows. Many kinds of parrots were there, galahs and Major Mitchell cockatoos. We chose a good clear spot for our picnic lunch, sharing the goodies we had, and giving the horses a rest under the trees to graze on the lush grass around them.

Something disturbed a goanna from among the bushes. As it ran towards us, one of the boys yelled, "Watch out Miss! It might run up you!" Luckily it found a tree to run up, so we had a good close look at it.

Before we turned back from our excursion, we found a special tree we had been told about. It was a weeping Eucalypt, native to Central Australia. This one grew on the edge of the lake, among the red gums, and was very rare in this area. (Sadly, many years later, vandals deliberately burnt it out.)

The children were pleased with the day, happily comparing notes on what they had seen and the samples they had collected. Their Nature Study books showed they had had a successful day's adventure.

Do such excursions happen these days? I think not. There are so many barriers to be crossed to gain permission.


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