Today, flags are half mast at the Country Fire Service office at Naracoorte and I remembered.
Days after I watched TV and the dust storm cover cities in red dirt, hot air blasted the trees, throwing eucalypt branches into the community swimming lake where I was having lessons. The water was cool, even if I didn’t like the slimy feel of the cement.
The air blustered and howled through the pine plantation adjacent the oval, and I learned I will never love the north wind.
It was a baking, blustering, fearsome afternoon. The school bus trip home was slow through the dust and smoke and debris across the roads. We few kids were quiet.
I wanted to be home, but didn’t want to make that trip.
The wind changed. But there was no relief.
That night fire advanced towards the farm.
Dad took my younger brother, a skinny seven-year old slip of a kid, to fight the inferno with him from his ute with a pump on the back.
With Mum, I stayed by the house, distracting my youngest brother while she was on look out for embers with a garden hose.
Even now, there are tears. On this day, 35 years later.
We escaped with the loss of a few fences. Many lost so much more. They lost everything. They lost loved ones.
They became memories and ashes.
Ash Wednesday 1983.
And my brave seven year old brother? These days, amongst other things, he is a State Emergency Service volunteer in South Australia.