Story telling from Australia
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.
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 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.