Glenmore, far western Victoria.
They returned to the yard. Honk trumpeted his displeasure but to Callie’s relief remained out of harm’s way. She’d had enough of his snappy mouth, and the tour with Tony had left her feeling tense and fractious.
‘The house has been let go a bit,’ said Tony, studying the front.
‘I know. It would have been hard for Nanna to keep up maintenance on her own.’
‘Your parents never came to help?’
‘The Hope Foundation takes up a lot of their time.’
At her flat tone, he shot her a speculative glance but commented no further. He continued around the side of the house to the backyard and eyed Callie’s makeshift repair to the water tank’s pipe. ‘Do you plan to do any work on it before listing?’
‘Only the absolute minimum. I hadn’t planned on hanging around.’ She glanced across to where the newly renamed Morton stood, hanging over the fence, dozily watching them. ‘But I might have to stay on a bit.’
‘I know you’re keen to sell but the better the property looks the more you’ll get. It’s a cliché but first impressions count. Although I don’t suppose it matters in this case. Given the location, Glenmore will probably go to a developer who’ll knock the place down anyway.’
Callie focused hard on Tony. ‘What do you mean?’
‘I mean, you’re potentially sitting on a gold mine. You haven’t been here for a while but Dargate’s had a massive injection of wealth, and people are looking to spend it. The demand for small acreages is huge, and Glenmore’s in a prime location.’ He indicated south. ‘You’re, what, a kilometre from MacLeans Bay?’ His arm swept east. ‘And if that wasn’t enough, you have Becketts Landing and the river just over there, plus you’re barely seven kilometres from town. The only place with more potential than yours is Amberton, and Gramps refuses to sell even though it’s the best thing for him.’
A sick feeling lodged in Callie’s stomach. Glenmore broken up, the house flattened. The possibility had never occurred to her. ‘But this is prime grazing country.’
‘It is, but it’s also prime hobby farmer territory.’ Tony squinted across the paddocks, nodding. ‘This’ll sell fast, all right. I’d bet my reputation on it.’
A motorbike revved in the distance, causing both of them to swing toward the sound. Callie waited for it to come into view, but the bike remained hidden by forest.
‘I hope you’ll give the business to Graney’s,’ said Tony, turning back to her. ‘We’ve a reputation for taking good care of our clients. I’ll make sure you get the best price possible and seeing as you’re an old friend of the family, I can even cut a deal on the commission.’
Callie swallowed. She stared at Honk, at Morton, at the paddocks and machinery shed, at the land her family had loved so much. ‘I don’t know.’
Instead of fading, the motorbike noise increased, carried toward them on the light sea breeze. Callie shaded her eyes, frowning as, to the south, a helmetless rider appeared at the edge of the forest and turned up the firebreak that ran along Glenmore’s western boundary. Though the track was sandy and rough, the rider handled the terrain easily, standing in the saddle, legs and arms absorbing the bumps like springs, loose blue singlet billowing.
Tony glanced at the motorbike and when he spoke, an urgency tightened his tone. ‘I know you’re keen to get this moving. If you want I can have the sales authority drawn up today.’
Honk waddled under the clothesline and lowered his head to feed. What would happen to him if she sold? This was his territory, had been for over twenty years. She couldn’t just leave him. Callie’s gaze drifted back to Morton, still hanging his warty face over the fence, tail swishing at flies, eyes half closed as he snoozed in the heat. What if no one wanted to buy him? The only other place would be the knacker’s and that fate was too sickening to contemplate.
Overwhelmed, she raised her eyes skyward, thinking of Hope, her parents, Nanna and Poppy, trying to stay strong against the terrible ache that gripped her heart and tightened her throat.
A Memory Story
In my younger days I used to belong to the Nelson Trail Horse Riders’ Club. We’d spend a day, sometimes a weekend, riding the trails and forest tracks to the south of Mount Gambier, around the South Australian – Victorian border.
The rides sometimes took us to a broad sweep of beach several kilometres east of Port MacDonnell, where we’d gallop across the sand and let the horses splash happily in the sea. We rode to mysterious locations such as Hell’s Hole, an eerie sinkhole hidden among thick scrub that opens without warning and plunges toward deep, cold water, the thought of which still gives me the heebie-jeebies. We even did occasional night rides, spotting forest animals and playing horseback hide and seek in the dark.