Strawberries in the Desert

Story telling from Australia

The kindness of strangers

I must have passed the metal fabricators on Blende Street dozens of times, mostly driving to the supermarket, sometimes cycling, once or twice walking. It’s next to the TAFE, opposite the grounds of Broken Hill High. 

My attention is always drawn to the school on the opposite side of the road, where their thriving miniature farm has an orchard, sheep, grapevines and a crop of green lucerne. Gertrude is often there, grazing placidly in the background. I don’t know if her name is Gertrude, but the sign suggests it should be. 

Gertrude was nowhere to be seen on the day I walked past

One day, not so long ago, I walked to the supermarket and stopped on the way to admire the farm, as usual. On the way back, weighed down by a backpack full of groceries, bag in each hand, I was walking slowly enough to notice a line of citrus trees planted down the side of the factory. 

How had I not seen them before? Judging by the pruning, the trees must have been decades old. Each was a deep glossy green, and they were laden with fruit, some of it lying on the ground.

I’ve never noticed the citrus trees before

I hate seeing fruit go to waste.

The gates of the factory were open, and I watched a lone man in overalls walk towards one of the few cars left in the car park. It was after four on a Friday afternoon; most people had gone home already. 

I waved, and the man waited. I wish I’d asked his name. I wish I’d asked what he knew about the trees, who looked after them, when and why they were planted, but I didn’t want to hold him up when he was on his way home at the end of the working week, so I just asked if I could pick up some of the windfalls. 

‘Go for your life,’ he said, leading me around the side and opening a metal gate.

‘You can pick them if they’re ripe,’ he said. ‘Just don’t fall over.’

Sound advice. I’m capable of tripping over my own feet on a flat surface.

There were plenty of obstacles on the ground to snag an unwary picker, dazzled by dozens of ripe mandarins, oranges, lemons and limes. So I trod carefully, avoiding bolts and concrete slabs, and picked cautiously.

I chose two oranges, two small mandarins and a lime, then I made my way home.

Such kindness from a total stranger, and such unexpected bounty from a town on the edge of the Outback. 

It’s one of the many reasons why I love Broken Hill. 

5 comments on “The kindness of strangers

  1. Keith & Jenny Treloar
    July 3, 2021

    Another one of your little gems Deb xx

    Sent from Mail for Windows 10

    Like

  2. Within my fence
    July 3, 2021

    I love it when I get fresh, and how wonderful for you !!!! Have a great day!!

    Like

  3. monsoonwendy
    July 8, 2021

    And did you marmalade it Deb? Having been the recipient of Deb Marmalade, I can only hope so!!

    Like

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This entry was posted on July 3, 2021 by and tagged , , , , , .

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I'm a writer based in Australia with a passion for gardening, remote places and people with a story to tell.

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