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DESTINY VALLEY 

DESTINY VALLEY

An entertaining and engaging tale, Destiny Valley follows the fortunes of the Grainger Family and the lives of those living on the Hawkesbury River.

In early winter 1890, Stephen and Emmie Grainger travel by horse and wagon to Colo Valley. Looking to make a fresh start, they settle into farm life with hopes of a new future. But prosperity doesn’t come easily to Orange Grove Bend. Plagues, drought and bad farming decisions by Stephen make the farm lurch from one disaster to the next.

Further tragedy strikes when Stephen is killed in a terrible accident. It is now up to his two sons, Ian and Robert, to forge their own destiny in the world.

Ian, the strong capable farmer, takes Orange Grove Bend in his hands and makes every effort for it to prosper. But it is Robert that will bring new life into Colo Valley with his entrepreneurial talent and drive to succeed.

Nature’s terrible rage and powerful human emotions set the stage for a pioneering adventure that will delight readers. Love, intrigue, passion and danger all play a part in Destiny Valley.

In Store Price: $AU25.95
Online Price:   $AU24.95

ISBN: 1-9210-0572-6
Format: A5 Paperback
Number of pages: 281
Genre:  Historical Fiction 
Cover: Clive Dalkins


 

 

 

Author: Harry Wallis 
Imprint: Zeus
Publisher: Zeus Publications
Date Published: 2005
Language: English

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About the author 

Harry Wallis was born in Coffs Harbour NSW in 1915. He lived in Sydney and then in Paddington for some years and later in life wrote a book (published in 1999) called Paddo about the exploits of ‘larrikins’ in the 1920s.

After his schooling, he worked in a government housing department and dealt with wide groups of people whilst managing large housing developments. After retiring, he wrote many short stories and achieved publication throughout Australia. Before this, he had written and had published many short items about Army life under the pen name Gunwheel in the old Smith’s Weekly magazine.

After retirement, he continued to write short stories and finally wrote a major work, Destiny Valley, which is based on his experiences in his teens and early twenties whilst spending some time in the Hawkesbury and Colo Valleys, where he participated in a number of trips on a river boat trading along these valleys.

Recently Harry has also had a number of short stories read over the radio in Queensland. Although fictional, the characters in his writings are obviously based on observation and experience, and denote a keen knowledge of humanity. 

CHAPTER 1 

Failure Farm 

The woman stood silently as she watched her husband unsaddle and hitch the two horses in the shadow of the huge grey gum tree on the hillside. It had all sounded so magnificent to Emmie Grainger when they had first moved into the Colo Valley, off the upper reaches of the Hawkesbury River in early winter 1890.

They had been three months on the road, travelling by horse and wagon, all their possessions and provisions carried with them.

Each night at dusk they camped in the open, using as a shelter the space under the standing vehicle. Any roof over their heads would have been grand indeed, Emmie thought, as she looked up at the light filtering through the leaves of the big gum tree.

For most of the journey, her husband Stephen had ridden ahead on his hack, whilst Emmie click-clacked at the stolid half-draught horse drawing the high-sided wagon.

Emmie’s relief had been abundant when her husband had returned from one of his daily site-seeking expeditions to say that he had located a site for their future home.  

“D’you know what, Em?” he cried excitedly. He did not wait for her response, but went on, “It’s the second of May today - and that means it’s just twelve months since they opened the big new railway bridge across the Hawkesbury River at Brooklyn - last year, 1889. That was the day I decided we’d make this trip and settle in this valley.”

Stephen took Emmie’s arm, as she smiled broadly and her agreement became obvious.                                                             

Together they danced a merry jig around the wagon that had carried them all the way from Sydney Town.

“We’ll build our home on that flat-topped hill,” said Stephen proudly. “Imagine how many crops that black soil will carry.”

“Looks good to me, too,” Emmie admitted, a little uncertainly. “But, we’ll have to build a house first, won’t we?”

Stephen nodded absent-mindedly. His thoughts were on the soil, on his farming plans. “Of course,” he said, eventually. “Don’t you worry, Em,” he grunted, as he turned about and led the way up the slope to the top of the riverside knoll.

“We’ll soon knock up a simple little house to start with, and can add to it as the money comes in.”                            

*      *            * 

The ‘simple little house’ took another three months to build. The walls were of split slabs of bark, cut from the ironbark trees studding the hillside. Roofing timbers were constructed of small saplings, framed and crisscrossed, with just enough pitch to allow a run-off for the rainwater. The roof covering - flattened sheets of bark shaved from the trees used for the main framework. The floor was the earth itself, rammed and pounded, mixed with sawdust and crushed sandstone to reinforce it.   Those were the beginnings of Grainger’s Farm, which became known as Orange Grove Bend                                                                                 

*          *            * 

With the passing of time - and Stephen’s uneven efforts, Orange Grove Bend became altogether a poor result from obvious good beginnings.

The house, sitting on a level, well-grassed knoll, on one of the rolling hills at the foot of the range surrounding the valley, was on a commanding site.

The setting, flood-free, and readily accessible above the farmlands, the valley and the straggling road, was itself both practical and picturesque.

Grainger’s Farm, on its hill, overlooked the heavily timbered river banks, with the broad winding stream glistening and fresh, bisecting the narrow fertile valley, and winding down to join the Hawkesbury some twenty miles eastward.

In the distance, beyond the river, could be seen a small settlement which passed for a village. Its only commercial building was a pub called The George Inn.

From that village at the foot of the mountain range, a narrow road wound its way through farmlands and bush to a larger village called Putty. At this point, a river punt or ‘ferry’ could be seen regularly plying cross-stream to a rutted road on the Grainger’s side of the river.

 

*          *            *

                                                      

Grainger’s Farm, despite its splendid position and its original conception, gradually became in doubt. Perhaps not to its owner, Stephen Grainger, but to the other farmers.

Mismanaged from hopeful beginnings, the farmhouse eventually became run-down and neglected - in a word - decrepit ...

Had the original building been well maintained, or even a similar added-on design continued, the effect would have been almost grand, in a pleasantly demure, Colonial manner.

‘The Main House’, so inaptly described by Stephen Grainger when first erected, had been a long, one-roomed building, with an open verandah in front.

The axe-smoothed pillared supports of the verandah roof gave the dwelling a false air of spaciousness, which faded when you entered the front door. The room you then saw would have been originally the total living, sleeping and cooking area of the house. Now, it was filled with abandoned, worn-out and discarded furniture, cooking utensils, threadbare clothing, old harness and saddlery - the once liveable room resembling a marketplace for broken dreams - a market with no sales. Dreams, forgotten, hidden in the cracks and fissures of the piles of lost-loved, unused belongings. This was Stephen Grainger. Dreams, hidden away with antimacassars, pot plants, pot-pourri and poncet boxes. For his wife, Emmie, was too busy to cope with Stephen’s unfulfilled plans ...

As the children came - two sons - Ian, born in 1894, and Robert three years later, so too was the house extended. The home was like a tree, with branches sprouting from the double trunk which was its base.   

The boys were provided for as they grew - and the spirit moved their father - by the ‘adding-on’ of two slab-sided flat-roofed square sleep-outs, which Stephen labelled ‘bedrooms’, both situated a few yards from the main house. Eventually, a squat, thin-roofed ‘walkway’ gave rough but all-weather access from the boys’ bedrooms to the living areas.

Grainger’s farmhouse grew with the family’s needs, Stephen’s ill-planned building following necessity. With Grainger altering his construction styles and his technique, with every crisis, need or whim - the ‘simple little house’ became a great mishmash of odd-shaped gables, ugly-angled hips, sway-backed skillions, and uneven roof ‘valleys’ - each out of character with the others.

The house and the farm could have been attractive - and thriving - but the building set the pattern for the whole. It reflected the varying attitudes, the changing vigours of its owner.

Stephen Grainger was a starter, an enthusiast for beginnings who rapidly lost interest as the work progressed ... He’d become obsessed with an idea, a scheme and commence swiftly, with keenness. But, in almost all of his projects - somewhere along the line - he’d run out of steam, his energy and interest waned, and he’d either abandon a job outright, or slap it together without concern for the final result - and leave it to posterity to judge.

And now - Posterity was judging it.

 

The house on Grainger’s Farm, at Orange Grove Bend, Colo River, had gradually grown into disrepair and decay since its enthusiastic beginnings. The original design had been solid, simple, effective, as far as it went, colonial in style, yet the added-on ‘bits-and-pieces’ had generally given the building an appearance of conceptions gone wrong. There was an air of despondence and despair all over.                                                                                                                

Pit-sawn weatherboard, nailed over the original slabs of the Main House, and which also covered the walls of the ‘additions’, had been bare of paint or ‘whitewash’ for many a year. A few crinkly flakes here and there were all that remained of the original hand-brushed covering. The corrugated iron roof, roughly sheathed onto the old thatch-type cladding, was now streaked with weathered corrosion. It was zebra-striped with rust - orange and russet - which, oddly, toned in with Nature’s tints on the limbs of the great gum trees surrounding the house.

The verandah floorboards, lain lazily on top of the initial rammed earth and sandstone, were gaping like the irregular worn molars of an agape, ageing monster.

Grainger’s farmhouse was a failure. An ill-assorted jim-jam of tacked on bits and pieces, the epitome of its owner.                                             

Stephen Grainger, too, was a failure. Life had caught up with him, tossed him hither and yon - and passed him by.

 

*          *            *

 

Strange that Emmie Furlong would ever have married Stephen Grainger in the first place. For Emmie was a tidy-minded, placid, but determined girl, who made her own decisions, went ahead and carried them out, irrespective of the result.            Marrying Stephen was one of her decisions ...

Like many women, Emmie saw only the good in her man. His eagerness, his keenness, his quick acceptance of new ideas. Emmie had thought that between them they’d carry all the keenness, the eagerness, the new ideas, to fruition, to fulfillment, on the farm in the valley. Favouring his good points, Emmie ignored Stephen’s procrastination, his inconstancy, his mercurial ups and downs. She had it firmly fixed in her mind that she’d be capable of influencing him to improve, and where flaws and faults existed, to replace them with perfection.

Of course, it didn’t work out that way. Not with Stephen, nor the farm.

Ten years after they settled on Orange Grove Bend, the late summer rains came, flooded the river flats, washed out their corn, heavy with golden cobs glinting through the drying husks …

Stephen had assessed the expected value of the crop, borrowed from the Bank in anticipation of its sale, and planted an orange grove with the money thus to be provided.

Although the young citrus trees were on higher ground than the corn, above the flood level, they were toppled and uprooted by the scouring storms.

The Graingers lost the lot ... The orchard, the farm crops - and portion of the newly-cleared pasture land near the river ...

All Stephen Grainger’s work for no result …

But the farmhouse still stood.

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