My father Cam once told me about a wedding he and my mother, Jan, attended on a station north-west of Meekathara back in the early ’80s. Yarlaweela was owned by friends of ours, the Forresters. Shirley and Ross also owned Eumeralla, the farm next to us at Mogumber and in the 20 years we were neighbours I came to know them well. Ross and Shirley were both from old station families. The Forresters had pioneered Yarlaweela and Shirley’s family were from the famous Mount Augustus Station not far away*.
Footnote – The Mount Augustus monolith is both higher and more substantial than Ulrulu. (JF)
Yarlaweela is several hours drive from Meekathara and an hour or two from the nearest neighbour. In those days the homestead was surrounded by lawns and windbreak trees and off to one side was the vegetable garden, water channels between rows of greenery and fruit trees, the ancient red earth enriched with sheep droppings raked from under the shearing shed. Home-grown fruit and vegetables were an essential in those times. The run to town might only be undertaken once every five or six weeks. Greens weren’t going to last that long. The potager was important and a lot of work went to caring for it and the other great feature of the garden was the bush house.
Bush houses were de rigueur around Meekathara those days. Imagine a gazebo, its sides lined with wire-netting woven with brushwood and creepers twining up and turning the walls lush and green. Water from an overhead tank trickled down through the foliage from a perforated pipe around the top, cooling the furnace blast coming in from the desert. Three windmills supplied water to the homestead. One was for the house and the vegetables, another for stock, the rams and horses in the house paddock, and the last was dedicated entirely to the needs of the bush house. So you see the bush house was really a room-sized Coolgardie safe, just right to keep people inside cool and indeed a splendid place for an afternoon siesta to the tinkle of water all about. There was plenty of space for the family and a bit of extra for the occasional blow-in.
In summer, everyone would be early to rise, would be breakfasted and off to work before five. By noon, or thereabouts, temperatures would be way too high to be out in the sun. Maximums were quickly into the forties in summer so everyone headed home for a bite and to stretch out in the bush house for the afternoon.
It was a typical old-fashioned bush wedding Cam told me, station families gathering from all across the Nor-West and a few up from the Gold Fields. It ran for two days, plus a day beforehand for anyone early and a day or two later for those slow to leave. The ceremony was under some trees late afternoon and celebrations carried on into the evening and the small hours. Then they picked up again the next day. In fact Cam remembered waking around five the morning after that and only then had things really settled down. From the bathroom there was a view over the lawn to the bush house, some thirty wedding guests were silhouetted in the pale light, station boys rolled up in their swags on the grass. Among them and undaunted by snoring bodies stretched everywhere were a similar number of kangaroos. These were going for their lives Cam told me, taking advantage of the first quiet for days to nibble away at the one patch of green for miles and miles around.*
Footnote – Valerie reminds me that when she first came to Australia she stayed on a station neighbouring Yarlaweela, by coincidence, around the time of this wedding. Valerie remembers lawns around that homestead too, all of them clipped nightly to bowling-green standards by kangaroos. The owners did not possess a lawn mower, had never dreamed of buying one. (JF)