Flashback to 1969
The yellow school bus pulls off the main road and lunges to a halt. My brothers and I cross the road gingerly, three small figures in the soft afternoon sun. There’s the drone of a tractor in a far-off paddock, the occasional screech of a galah in the tall gums above. I head straight for the four-gallon drum perched sideways atop a wooden post at the start of the gravel track that winds up the hill to the house. It is hot to the touch.
I lift the little flap door that’s designed to keep out the birds and possums to be greeted by the unmistakable smell of freshly baked bread. Inside is a double hi-top, tall and crusty, joined at the middle and wrapped in a slip of tissue paper. Morris’s, the local bakery, does the bread run out to Kybybolite three times a week, delivering fresh loaves to farm boxes along the roadside, and stopping at the Hynam general store to cater for the 10 or so families who live in the town.
My hand is in the drum pulling out the hi-top that’s still warm in its makeshift oven. I take a whiff. There is something profound in the smell of fresh bread, something so grounding and ancient that connects us to those who have toiled the land, to all who have broken bread. Today I am unusually hungry but it’s only a 15 minute walk to the house. The bread is expected home in one piece.
I start to walk up the track. My elder brother has gone ahead on his bike that was hidden behind a big gum. My younger brother is inspecting a bull-ant nest. The bread smells so good. Just a nibble won’t hurt. I break the loaf in two and put one half in my school bag. A ridiculously big bag that looks like a small suitcase made of thick cardboard. Inside is nothing but my empty lunch box rattling around, and my reader. I pick at the soft, white fluff and dodge a blue-tongue lizard basking in a stupor before pulling at more bread, like fairy floss. I’m nearly at the crest of the hill now as I dig further into the bread. It occurs to me that it may be a little late to patch the loaf up now. A sudden rush of guilt washes over me. I jump over the stock grid, where the sign Langkyne signals the entrance to our property. My younger brother catches me up and rips a handful of bread from the soft centre. Let’s face it, it’s too late now.
I put my case squarely over my head to walk past the row of pines, shielding myself from the swooping magpies that nest here in springtime. At least it has some use! One hundred yards to the house. The sheepdogs run to greet us. I open the back door and hand my mother a beautifully hollowed-out crust of bread.