Children of the Coloured Sands Excerpt

A journey into truth
The past will return with exalted force
Suffusing, pervading, reshaping the course
To dwell in the heart to enter the soul
Converting hearts, forming new life roles
A family story – a story retold.

The matriarch of Jooloonga Station, Emily Parry, died at the age of eighty. Her only son Phillip, heir to the great empire, Jooloonga Station, held within him her final, gasping words. His recollections were soaked in the ambience of that vivid scene.

It was the day of her eightieth birthday. They were waiting for the guests to fill the exquisite, pampered gardens, which had been lovingly tended by four generations of the Parry family. Phillip was pushing umbrellas into the centre of garden tables when his mother beckoned him from where she sat under the pergola.

‘Phillip,’ she said, in an odd voice, with an insidious clutching pain creeping around her heart. Phillip knew immediately that something was terribly wrong.

‘Mother, what is it?’

‘Nothing Phillip. I have to ask you something and it is important.’

He nodded.

‘I met a nice young man called Martin, a little while ago,’ she said in a trembling voice. ‘Is he Colleen O’Halloran’s son?’ She took a deep breath, ‘and your son Phillip?’

Phillip sat facing his mother. He could tell by her expression, she already knew the answer.

‘Yes Mother,’ he said, eyes questioning. ‘He would never have told you. How did you ever guess?’

Emily smiled with the secret knowledge she would never share. ‘Let me just say he has a strong family resemblance.’

The pain in her chest had worsened. Phillip could see the distress in every nuance of her being.

‘Mother, you’re ill.’

‘No Phillip. I’m quite all right, just a touch of indigestion.’ She looked into the depths of his eyes. ‘I don’t feel angry any more, Phillip.’

She closed her eyes and leant back in the chair. Her breathing was laboured.

‘Mother! You’re not all right. I’ll get help.’

‘Don’t leave me, please.’ She jerked herself forward. A butterfly hovered over a flowering potted plant on the small table and never missed a flutter at the sudden movement.

‘Tell me about your children Phillip. How many do you and Colleen have?’

‘Two boys and three girls Mother.’

Emily smiled lovingly as she lay back in the chair. In hindsight, Phillip knew his mother no longer felt pain.

Still smiling, Emily’s eyes reflected a peace that is not of this world. She looked through the gardens to the black-soil plains and the distant hills. She knew this land, Jooloonga, had found its rightful heirs.

‘The Tan people from the Coloured Sands,’ she said, her whispered words drifting on air currents as she slipped to that other realm. Phillip put his ear to his mother’s chest before seeking help. The flutter in his ear was not his mother’s heart but the fluttering of delicate wings. When he looked, the butterfly had also departed like a spirit on the wind.

From Chapter 4 – a bad incident at a country dance.

Ruth sat tapping her feet. Rock was her speciality, after Professional Ballroom, which had been her ardent passion for the past couple of years. She soon had a partner and she really put everything into it. Her feet were quicksilver to the magic of the beat and her body was twirling, and spinning, rotating and whirling like nothing the locals had seen. Ruth laughed with pure delight at the young man with the shock of longish blond hair that kept falling into his blue eyes. He had a slim, taunt body that gyrated and twisted with every move, his feet tapping and rapping to the speed of the beat. He pulled her though his legs and flipped her over his shoulder. The crowd went crazy. They were soon doing a solo on the dance floor with the whole hall clapping in time to the boisterous, jaunty music.

When the music stopped, they fell laughing into the nearest seats. Ruth looked at him. He was just a kid, seventeen at the most. ‘Where did you learn to dance like that?’ she asked.’

‘More to the point, where did you learn to dance like that, and even more to the point, where do you come from? I’ve never seen you around here before?’

‘Oh, I’m from around here.’ Still pumped from the dancing, her eyes were sparkling gems. She completely forgot her reserve in that moment. ‘Have you heard of Jooloonga?’

‘Tell another, Jillaroo’s don’t rock- ‘n’- roll and Jazz it up like you do.’

‘I’m Ruth Par…ry.’ Her jaw dropped as the words came out. She’d just broken her own rule for the night. She was proud of her family and they’d demonstrated how modern and up-to-date they really were, far above the locals in this tiny shack of a town.’

The youth noticed the look of defiance on her face.

Excerpt: Chapter 13 – Douglas disappears.

Ruth awoke slowly, rubbing her eyes, yawning and stretching. She blinked into the twilight at the sound of chirping crickets, throbbing cicadas and the throttle of innumerable frogs. She swung her arm to feel for Douglas. She turned her head. She was on her own.

The sun was sinking in a ball of fire with the clouds near the rim of the horizon reflecting the red, mauve, pink, and orange hues. A crescent moon shone bright and clear over the pond, surrounded by wispy sun-streaked clouds moving in the breeze like a frothy sea. The golden crescent boat floated aloft, high above the ripples of cloud, clear and proud.

Five minutes later the sun was gone, and the floating, wispy clouds around the moon shone translucent through the faint golden haze. Sounds of the birds settling for the night gave way to the rhythms of frogs and chirping crickets. A male koala grunted in the evening air to mark his territory as an owl swept low with softy flapping wings for the first meal of the long night.

Ruth walked to the water’s edge and called Douglas. The only answer was the sad cry of the curlew as its echo flew to the heavens, over and over, like the cry of a small child. She found his clothes near where she was standing. A mortifying, erupting panic throbbed in her throat until she was chocking on hysteria. Her shivering scream reached the heavens.


Children of the Coloured Sands Poetry : Go to Barbara’s Poetry to read all 22 five-line stanzas or quintains that serve as an introduction to each new chapter.