frontier country

My Dad tells a story about going to Greymouth with his Dad, when he was about ten years old. They stood on the bridge over the Grey River, the one which connects Greymouth and Cobden, and watched as the Barber (the dense, cold fog which marks the start of a day in the colder months of the year where we live) swept down the Grey Valley. Despite hailing from Canterbury, my father said he had never been so cold in all of his life.

On that holiday, he went out on the boats once with his Dad and the local fishermen. He liked the boat but the boat didn't like him - our shores are choppy at the best of times. Another day he and his father went up to the forest and sawmill to see where Uncle Eddie worked. Many of the men were missing limbs from workplace accidents. My father swore there and then that he wouldn't be a forestry worker when he grew up.

Forestry accidents are relatively rare now for the simple reason that forestry and sawmilling activity is relatively rare compared to those days. I still sometimes hear bitter comments from locals about central government building houses and grand buildings throughout the country with West Coast wood and then prohibiting Coasters from milling any more (there is still a pine industry, but no more felling and processing rimu like what was used to build our own home).

Fishing accidents are also less common because there is less fishing. Much of the fishing off our shores is done by big boats who don't even berth in Greymouth, much less put any money into our economy. Some fish does dock here in Greymouth and it is a pleasure to support our local fish shop.

There is a reason it feels like frontier country here in Wetville. Much of our economy is built on extractive industries. The nature of a frontier is pushing boundaries. Tourism doesn't push boundaries like the search for more coal and gold.

Parts of today went well. The sun shone and as the pressure at work has eased compared to the last fortnight, Brighid and I spent time in the garden instead of me working extra hours. I planted a pumpkin and two tomato plants. Brighid decided to play water controller, turning the tap off in the middle of watering because she thought I had done enough. Naturally, I have no idea where her bossy streak comes from. But in my mind was often a guilt, that I had enough distance to be happy while so many others near me are going through hell.

This morning at kindy there was a basket out collecting non-perishable goods for volunteers working with those affected by the trapped miners. Tonight I read in the paper that the Salvation Army are running a drop in centre each day to support community members who need to talk and process current events. Something I can do! There are chocolate thins, tea and coffee in the car boot now, ready to hand in at kindy in the morning. Now I know the Sallies are helping, I hope I can find out more things to do from my Sallies stalwart friend, C.

Thank you Ele Ludemann for your comments on National Radio today. While I'm honoured that Ele mentioned this blog, I wish with all my heart that I was still preoccupied with our December holiday, bits and bobs of gardening, cooking and reading and that local news focused on the latest school gala, instead of being paralysed with grief.

I wish all our men could be safely above ground right now.


Janet said…
Just wanted to let you know that I have been thinking of the miners, you and your town over the last days - hoping and praying for the best.

The Pike River mine is constantly in our news (in Melbourne) as it should be. So far the coverage, on the ABC at least, has been agonising but quite respectful I've thought.

So, sending you all some bloggy well wishes and solidarity.

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