Togranong (with audio)

Via Facebook, Mel B requested three items that hint at a yarn about modern (or near modern) life in Canberra’s south. These are certainly items that evoke memories of my youth in Tuggeranong. But I couldn’t resist taking a slightly different tack:

horsepink and black roller skatesroast chicken

Horse Agistment Paddocks + Skates Alive (Erindale) + Kingsley’s Chicken

Podcast Version

Text Version

At first I was nothing.

Then I was something:

Wind-swept and dusty.

There wasn’t much to me, just rock and dirt.

But it was exciting to be something.


And then the grass came.

At first, tiny little sprouts, searching out from me towards the hot sun above.

Burrowing their roots within me, searching for water far below.

Slowly, those first few buds grew healthier.

They grew into thick lush grass, yam daisies and native raspberries.


Now I am bush.

Proud yellow box and red gums rise from my dirt.

The hot sun still beams down, but the trees find moisture nonetheless.

Rivers nearby, with water far below me, are found.

Trees drink greedily from them.


New animals rely on me to survive.

Small ones at first, making their first tentative steps from the water.

Then Kangaroos, wombats and more.

Now there are humans too.

At first, they are my favourite animal.


They call me Tidbinbilla, and Birrigai and Togranong.

Sometimes it is hot, but they call me ‘cold plains’.

They are my caretakers.

We live together in harmony for many thousands of years.

The animals, the humans and I.


These humans know they must only take from me what they need.

They farm me using firesticks;

And carefully fish from my rivers.

They love me.

Then some other humans arrive.


These humans are different and treat me strangely.

They clear my trees to ‘graze’ different animals.

First James, then William and John build Lanyon

Then more and more come; growing strange things and raising strange animals.

Some of these go ‘feral’, killing my old animal friends.


These new humans love change.

Soon the farms and strange animals are gone.

New things take their place.

Small huts, then small houses, then large buildings.

They build, and destroy, and build again.


They think they are smarter than the old ones.

For a long time they don’t even treat the old ones as real people.

These new ones think they know better.

But they are wrong.

When it comes to me.


I still love all the human children.

Black, white, and everything in between.

They are my most favourite of all.

They smile, laugh and giggle.

As they get older, humans seem to forget how to do such things.


I like one particular girl more than any other.

She is different.

She is important.

Her name is Amy.

She has dark hair and brown eyes.


Her father is of the old people.

Her mother of the new.

She understands the old ways;

But lives among the new people.

I feel this is important.


Amy loves me in the ways of the old people.

She can tell there is something wrong.

Her aunties teach her to dig for food and make nets for fishing.

They teach her to respect me.

She understands the balance must be restored.


But she grows up amongst the new people.

She lives in a house.

She rides the strange horses in my paddocks,

And skates, laughing with her friends, at a rink they think is alive.

These humans do like going around in circles!


Amy’s favourite thing is to eat with her family.

At first anything will do;

A barbecue chicken at Kingsleys or Chinese food at Noble Palace,

But soon she longs for the old ways.

She begins to grow her own food.


We know the new people’s ways are wrong.

They are hurting me.

Amy talks to her aunities and uncles more about this.

And researches what should be done.

Soon she tries to convince the new people to change their ways.


She organises clean up days.

And shows others how to use digging sticks for food.

She teaches her children about respecting me.

And restoring the balance.

She is elected to a big house of the new people to argue her case.


She tells her children, and they tell theirs.

But not enough humans are listening.

Just as I’m getting used to this strange new world;

Full of buildings, knocked down and rebuilt,

Things change once more.


Amy has left me.

I don’t think she is coming back.

Did the new humans listen?

I hurt.

Not just because I miss Amy.


The hot sun is hotter than it should be.

I have less moisture. I am no longer the cold plains.

There are less and less human friends.

The animals and wild trees return, briefly, but slowly they leave too.

I feel lonely for the first time.


Now I am trying to be just bush again.

But nothing will grow in me.

I try and try and try, but something has changed.

Something is very wrong.

Something is broken.


The animals have all gone.

There are few plants left behind.

I think the humans did this.

But they have gone too.

I miss Amy most of all.


Now I am close to nothing again.

Wind-swept and dusty.

Little grows on me and nothing lives on me.

I am no longer excited to be something.

I miss being something more.


But just as I have given up all hope

A drop of rain falls from the sky.

Rich healthy rain.

I’m not so dry and dusty any more.

I have hope.


A tiny seed, long dormant inside me

Sprouts out.

A tiny blade of grass.

A chance to be something more again.

Soon more seeds began to sprout.


Amy did not forget me.

Her children did not forget.

And their children too.

And finally the humans changed their ways.

Perhaps just in time.


I am becoming something more again.

Perhaps it isn’t too late for them to be something more too.

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