GUARDIAN 2: DAVID EVANS
The square suitcase sits proudly at the head of the table. Rusted hinges hold the hard lid up as items are carefully drawn from inside and laid out with precision.
David stands back and surveys his work with a satisfied nod: the diary, the map, the letters. They are priceless to a man who still lives on the resettlement farm purchased by his Granddad Joe, Joseph Sydney Evans, after World War I. They are artefacts that explain his family’s links to the land for a man facing the modern challenges of a rural livelihood in Australia.
Waving me to a chair, he sits down himself and says in a rather solemn voice that he ‘got cleaned up by a pretty bad hailstorm here’ a while back, but the memories of his father and grandfather before him kept him going.
‘Aw, the . . . the hard times he went through in France, to come here, and the hard times he went through here,’ David says. ‘Fair enough there was no one shooting at you here in the first few years of farming, but they may as well have been. It was a hard life. The ground was about 30 acres, but ironically, on Spring Creek Road, it had no water. They used to cart water up with a horse and slide.
‘His lungs were never any good, and he came here and took on the job clearing this place by hand, grubbing it out with mattock and axe. It’s a wonder he could work that sort of physical work at all, ’cause his lung capacity must have been way down after all the gas in France.’
David leans back in his chair and chuckles as he describes his grandfather.
‘Oh, he was a character,’ he says. ‘He used to drink a fair bit of port. As kids we’d sit up on his knee and we’d have what he’d call a cordial. He’d put a tiny bit of port in the bottom of the glass and the rest was lemonade, and that was a cordial. You’d sit up there with Granddad and have a cordial.’
David says his grandfather spent the rest of his life on this farm and always commemorated his time at war.
‘In his later years, he always used to go into the Anzac Day service,’ David says. ‘Towards the end before he died, he couldn’t get to town so he used to get his old pinstripe suit on, put his medals on, sit out on the back steps, have a few ports. Then, when Anzac Day was over, he’d put all the gear away and just go on with the rest of the day. He did that every year up until when he died.’
David says he personally hasn’t missed a dawn service in 40-odd years.
‘As hard a lifestyle as it is today, I like living out in the bush,’ he says. ‘At times I don’t know. If we get cleaned up by a hailstorm, you wonder, what the hell are we doing here? But no, I like it out here. As you can see we’ve got a pretty spot out here, nice and quiet. We got cleaned up by a pretty bad hailstorm here, probably the worst I’ve ever seen here. I just sat back and thought now what would Dad have done? He wouldn’t just curl up in a ball in a corner and forget about it all. He’d get out and get back into it. And Granddad would have done the same thing. I just roll up my sleeves and get back into it sorta thing.’