You hear a lot of stories in this Valley. Sometimes I think the way a story travels is a story in itself. The Bush Telegraph is still a lurid source of information. I'm told that in the old days, gossip started in Frankcombe's orchards. Later sources stem from Shield's packing sheds. Nowadays, it comes from Brown's Mushroom Farm, and that makes me wonder! All that darkness and manure does a lot for the fertility of the local imagination.
After a while you realize, the longer a story travels, the more interesting it becomes. Eventually growing hair, extra legs and another head, it develops into quite a different (and very tall) kind of beast. But unlike the yowie or the abominable snowman, one tends not to doubt the existence of such an animal. For as long as the story lives in the minds of the locals, it is a living beast -- one that strikes terror in to the breast of the faint hearted. (Though I won't repeat those bestiality stories).
Newcomers to this district, soon get a sense that this is the country where legends are made, and the following reveals the type of stuff our legends are made of.
Rumour has barely escaped the lips of a recent generation, who were still youngsters 20 years ago. They tell of a time when a lad in their school made his mark by crapping in the Huonville pool. He then held the specimen victoriously over his head, while it was still warm. At the risk of repeating the lyrics of a still popular song then -- ooooh, it makes you wonder.
I figure this behaviour was considered acceptable had it been learned at home, for in that era, in his village, raw sewage still ran straight into the river. Perhaps the act was the result of confusion in the locality, when The Wilderness cry was to "Let the Franklin Run Free!"
Despite the beauty of the Huon, there is a less savoury side to life here, one that has nothing to do with bountiful fruit harvest, lush country and Devonshire teas. This other side of life is spiked with the danger and potency of a snake's underbelly.
Time has cast a shadow over the Valley's fertile soil and weathering our natural resources. Hard times have fallen. Hopes sink as unemployment rises. Another bank leaves town. From Cygnet to Huonville to Dover, municipal centres have shrunk as traditional industries wound down or closed shop. Long gone are the days when this region was the breadbasket for Sydney; the main food source and supply for the Great Southern Land.
Yet you don't have to look far to see that this is God's country. Each season brings a unique enchantment. Living here is like being part of a fairy tale. To the north, Sleeping Beauty* graces the landscape with her restful pose. To the south, and west there is the wilderness, mountains and forests to humble those who dare enter.
Here in the Deep South, there is a wild side. This is frontier country, where the law of the land deals a rough sort of justice. Where people take law into their own hands, and where the law breakers become the lore makers. It is the people of this place, with their honest values and simple way that have forged the Huon with a special brand of culture. That is not to say that this is land where time stands still. Modern times have caught up here... modern times in a post-modern world. Time moves slowly in the Valley.
Why, how many years after the release of the movie, was it before Geeveston, (the district timber town), achieved its own chainsaw massacre?
But that's another story…
* Sleeping Beauty is a mountain that resembles a woman in repose. -- Ed.
© Gail Galloway 2000
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© Jonathan Sturm 2001