Wongan Way/The Wongan Wayside Part I
The Wongan Wayside
PART I.—August, 1915
The Wongan Way, like the way to a certain place in Ireland, is a “long, long way" in many respects. It is a long way from the city to begin with; and when we arrive at the railway station, which is called Wongan Hills, it is still a long way to the siding that should he called Wongan Gap, but is not. Here we are met and driven out through the Gap, and between the hills to our friends at Wongan Hills West—the real Wongan Hills.
Here and now the Wongan wayside is beautiful throughout the changeful days and restful nights. The Angel of the Rain has wept in pity over the land that last year languished in drought and dust. The “early and the latter rains" have brought healing and hope to the marred, scarred faces of the bare brown hills.
Last year My Lady of Spring passed by the land, sighing. She could not trust her precious things with us. She would not place her tender children in homes where the Angel of the Rain had not attended, to see that their cradles were curtained and cushioned with green ; their sweet faces washed clean, and their tiny feet kept white and soft. So we had no flowers.
But now the hillsides are white and gold with scrub blossom; and all along the roadsides we see quaint orchids, patches of blue, tufts of lilac, clusters of pink, and tradings of scarlet. The wild fuschias are in bud; so are the sursaparillas and the fairy fringe creepers.
My Lady of Spring is designing for herself many beautiful costumes and draperies. The wild hops and other spicy shrubs distil for her a variety of perfumes. Everlastings are as star-dust beneath her feet, as she wanders on her “long, long way” from hill to lake. Loitering awhile along the creekside, she hears the music of falling waters over rocky slopes and between fern-clad hanks. Then down she strolls from the rich red-soiled hills to the white sand-plain; past great clay-pans of milky-looking water; along the Saltwater river, where wattle shrubs covered in cloth of gold are united to their perfect reflections, and seem to be holding mystic communication with their other selves; past shallows where the smooth clay beneath the clear water is latticed with the footprints of wading birds; past flats where companies of trees appear to be standing knee-deep in water—to the lake side.
And, oh! the joy of seeing the dear sweet lake, whose sole refreshment through dry years has been her own salt tears; the desolate one, who had been deserted by former friends and lovers—to see her pleasure now, as she welcomes to her home flights of happy birds; as her waters lap around the “swan’s nest in the rushes.” She reflects at morn the image of the hills that were once afar off, and receives to her gleaming palace at even, the sun in his armour of gold, with his attendant courtiers of cloud.
Of course, as we pass along the Wongan wayside in the company of My Lady of Spring, we see growing crops; we realise that Wongan is a land of promise. We pass a few of the homes, we meet some of the people on their way for the mail, or home from the townsite; and children going home from school.
Some day, when these beautiful hills are better known, when photographer and artist have done their duty to the country by picturing the natural beauties of the district in press and gallery; when weary towndwellers sigh for country air, and coast-dwellers long for a change inland, they will hie them to the hills for rest and healing, and will find them.
Some day—and yet some other day! A halfmocking voice seems to foretell a more distant future. It says: Some day, when the rainfall of the good years is conserved for use in the dry years; when a great condenser distils fresh water from beneath the saltbeds; when the latent mineral resources can he developed; the travellers to the hills will not be only tourists, artistic parties, health seekers; hut armies of industry. We do not know.
But if ever those days come, when our rocks shall be melted in the furnace, and our hills dissolved in the crucible; no burnished metal can be so precious to us as the wide clear vision of our early years here. No king of industry can love the land as we love it in its innocence and infancy. No noisy town can claim our affection as the “long, long ways,” the slopes and gullies, the smiling wheatfields of Wongan Hills West.