I was only going to stay for a day, but halfway through the first, rainy day there was talk of Theebine Pub. Graham, Annie’s neighbour, came over for a cup of tea and soon he’d opted in too. Friends were rustled up and word went around that tomorrow night, Friday night, was the night for a catch up and a knees-up at Theebine.
I can resist anything but temptation – I was in. After all, what was another day here or there in the hobo life.
I stopped packing up and accepted Jock’s invitation to trundle into Kilkivan to purchase crumbed steak. There’s not much in Kilkivan – no supermarket, and as Annie said, you’d need to take out a small mortgage to do your grocery shopping at the general store – but there is a butcher, and a good one. So into town we went.
In the main street, who should we run into again but Graham. Kilkivan is not a big place, but still I love the poetry of coincidentally running into the only other person in the district that you’ve ever met before.
Graham is a local of some years; a bearded, laid back farmer with a bit of mischief to him. He grew up on a grazing property in the broad vistas out past Thargomindah, but has been farming the more gentle climes of Kilkivan for a few years now.
While Jock visited the butcher Graham took me on the guided tour of Kilkivan, which is basically a broad street with lots of mown grass and a few weatherboard buildings. We hunted brass historical plaques up and down the street frontage, and dropped into the Left Bank Café – which used to be the bank – to have a yarn with the new owners. The building is just a simple weatherboard cottage, not at all bank-like, but apparently the vault is still there. I wonder if they use it as a cool room.
Once the crumbed steak had been acquired, Graham offered to take us out to see the grave of the founders of the town. Jock had never heard of the place either, so we followed Graham’s ute across the river flat to the hill where the Joneses were resting in eternal peace. The hill has a view over the fertile river flats they farmed, and the place where they built a grand homestead. They would have also had a front row view over its gradual dilapidation, and its mysterious destruction by fire a few years back.
Turning to a different timescale, Jock took me further down the road to show me a grove of ancient blackboys growing in a gully. The Joneses might have rocked up in the late nineteenth century, but these plants have watched life ebb and flow around them for hundreds, even thousands of years.
There’s magic in seeing a place through the eyes of those who know it well.
In no time at all we were washing mud from between our toes and putting on our best thongs for a big night out at Theebine Pub. It’s about a forty minute drive from Kilkivan, but that’s considered local enough. The pub is a grand old Queenslander near the river, with two stories of breezy timber verandahs; Carlton Mid and XXXX on tap.
As we stepped out of the car into a large mud puddle, we realised that we’d pulled up next to a gentleman by the name of Fourstring Phil. Phil is a remarkable blues musician; he’s a bit of a fellow wanderer too. He’s been touring and performing for a couple of years now, just living out of his van and going wherever there’s a gig. Sometimes, when Annie and Jock have motorcycle rallies, Phil will come out and play.
This evening, he was on his way south to the APRA Music Awards in Sydney, and had just pulled in for a quiet beer.
He was out of luck on that front, however. Within ten minutes we’d harangued him into playing and I was acting roadie, running the amps and guitars up to the front verandah.
My luck was good – live blues on a summer night in Queensland.
I talked motorcycles and the Ace Café with Mick; hobolife with Phil; Dorothy bought me a whiskey and, well, what can I say? The jokes were refined, the dancing was exquisite. Trust me.