The township of Nambucca is uneven and hilly and I set out this afternoon (my last few days in town for another year or more) to put those bitumen striped hills and gullies to good. Exercise. Along the way I met a little dog named Sally who trotted along with me all the way to town.
Leaving the house you can get up quite a pace on the steady decline, and it was half-way along that Sally appeared and I knew instantly she was following me. “Who are you?” I grinned, but she ignored me and padded along making the centre of the road her own footpath.
I tried to tell myself she was on her way home, when a man I didn’t know came out from the house on the corner where I had babysat kids in my teens. He stooped down to pat her and grinned the same way I had when Sally first showed up. She’s home I thought, but when I turned right into the next street Sally did too.
I remember the first time I rode my bike all the way to the top of Rosedale Street: right up past the Catholic Church. Rosedale Street is the most fun street in Nambucca Heads when you are a kid. You’ve ridden down Palmer Street’s easy slope and hung a right onto the top of Rosedale, then, like a diver preparing for the world’s most difficult dive, you stop at the top peering down into the gully or the “big dipper” motionless in concentration. You put your pedal foot up ready, again totally still. Then in a sudden gust you hammer down like crazy, jumping those pedals all the way to the bottom, hitting the other side’s straight up and pedal your guts out. It was exactly that spot where Sally was trotting along today but I was lost in memories of the other side of the road where Dad had his accident and my cousin Peter McClung went looking for his ear.
Back when dad was one of the two town posties in the pre-motorbike days, he had to ride his pushbike around our uneven little town delivering the mail. Rosedale Street got him when I was not quite two. Flung over the handlebars landing in the gravel somewhere I can picture but can’t quite explain, he was carted off to hospital. Now my memory is pretty scratchy of the details of the accident, and dad’s out fishing tonight with my brother, so I can’t get a refresher to fill you in properly. But I can tell you with conviction that my older cousin Peter (who idolised dad as a kid) was told at school that dad was hurt badly and his ear had been torn off. The shy little Peter quietly slipped away to the bottom of Rosedale but never did find the ear.
Sally and I crossed the road about where my old garage-sale pushie usually halted about 15 metres from the top. I’d jump off and run the bike to the finish hoping no-one would ever see my shame at having missed my target. That’s when a car swerved to miss her and the driver glared at me for walking “my” dog off-lead and not being more careful.
“Can I pat your dog?” said a tiny little girl being held by her older brother.
“Will your dog bite me?” said another little kid.
“I don’t know.” I said, and bent down to look at Sally’s tag, stroking her head. “Sally! She’s a girl dog,” said me and the kids all gave her a pat.
Another two blocks and we were almost in front of the town library when I finally phoned the number on Sally’s tag.
“Yes we do!”
“Yes she is!”
“She lost her mother recently and now her father’s died too.”
“Yes, please do.”
So as I turned back Sally followed, stopping also for a group of grey-haired ladies (who had overheard pieces of my loud mobile-phone-voiced conversation) wanting to know exactly who was Sally and where I was taking her. I felt quite emotional telling the old girls that Sally’s owner had just died a few days earlier and that I was taking her to the Forest Road (to her new owners).
The Old Forest Road I remember from my kid days was all dirt and bush but I knew from the lady’s phone description exactly where Sally lived. We wandered along the now fancy bitumen road, more houses now but still a lovely Forest Road filled with pockets of rainforest and an old forgotten creek snaking through the gully below. Lost in memories was I again of dad’s old ute flying down Rosedale Street filled with kids on our way to Sunday School
Sally had knocked up a bit climbing the hill, so we had a little rest but when we reached the end of Forest Road and saw an elderly couple waiting at an open gate the little dog let out an excited sort of yelp and took off to greet her new family.
The township of Nambucca is uneven and hilly and those dips and crests hold so many special memories and now I have Sally to add to their treasure. But they don’t hold Dad’s ear! Some wicked workmate of dad’s told a little boy a terrible fib. Yes dad is 80 years old now and I am pleased to report he still has both his ears.
© 2017 Melinda Irvine
Daily Prompt: Uneven
You can also read this story on the ABC Open website submitted under the “My Back Roads” project. Look for “Rosedale Street“. ABC Open is a great platform to establish a writing practice.