Saturday, March 26, 2016

Air

The air is what I remember the most. It is always the air. The feel of it streaming through my hair, buffeting my open mouth or slapping my cheeks out of shape. We would stand behind the cab of the ute, my sister and I, while Dad took the straight stretches as fast as he could because on the bends he would slow, taking peeks in the rear vision mirror to be sure that his girls were safe.

It was eleven miles to the school each morning and that means it was eleven home again. I suppose there were times we were driven in the car, but it is the ute that I remember the best.


My father had the ute modified. Instead of a standard issue Toyota tray back, he had a timber tray with sides and tailgate that could be removed, and and tilt tray mechanism that would lift the tray at the front, so loads like firewood or gravel could simply slide off when the pulley was lifted. This meant we had a tall mast behind the ute cab, so we could stand full height, toes gripping the fixed front tray end, and our frozen fingers hanging on to the cold metal pulley frame for dear life.

If we wanted to speak to each other we would yell into the wind, but our words were ripped away and rarely heard. I imagined the letters that formed them trailing behind us like confetti, finally falling lost and forgotten on the loose dirt road.

We would come around those last few bends, past the rusty drum letterbox of one neighbour and the clean white painted one of another. Then Dad would slow carefully and pull up in front of the one room school building. We'd jump down before the dust settled, bare feet searching for a sandy landing on the dry dusty verge.

I'd watch wistfully then, as he pulled away and his dust trail shrunk down the road. It would be six long and boring hours until that air would blast my face again.