2017–18 Primary Division Winner

My Roots – Matilda Jenkins

Dad was out today, driving the old Chev Blitz down the soil, which is hard and sticky, more like clay than soil, forming a makeshift airstrip. That means the mail plane’s coming.

Usually on mail days, we make a picnic of it. Bring the billy and some smoko down wherever dad marked the strip and light the fire. It serves two purposes: to let the pilot know where the wind was blowing, and to boil the billy.

The mail plane only comes once a fortnight on really clear days, and if it doesn’t come, we have no way of knowing about the outside world. Still, we don’t mind, me and David. We have the Aboriginals here, to take us down to the beach where we feast on Nullack and crabs and wallabies. They’ll piggyback us down there, not make us walk like Dad does.

Besides, we like it here at Inkerman, on this property. It’s remote, but it’s our life, and our ancestor’s life.

Well, so this was a mail day. Everyone went down in the back of the Blitz to the waterhole, the stockmen, Aboriginals, us boys and all, and that was where Alfie yelled.

He pointed out into the waterhole, where we could all see the beady eyes blinking out of the mud.

As the waterholes dried back, in the dry season, the crocs’d bury themselves in the mud near a cattle pad. You always had to look out for crocs before riding a horse into water on a cattle pad.

This was what we were seeing now. The boys raced back to the house for a rifle, and I just stood there, looking into the eyes of the crocodile, my eyes pulsing with excitement, daring it to leap up and bite me.

I was tough. We all were. We weren’t scared of a big old croc.

The boys came back with the rifle and someone shot it. The fire went right out of his beady eyes.

That evening, the men came in and loaded him onto the Blitz. We still have a photo of Mum standing on him, triumphant.

This story is based on an experience of my grandfather’s. He passed away in 2012. This story seems the perfect embodiment of my heritage: what stood out to me from my research was the toughness of my ancestors. They survived droughts and flooding rains, and ran stations all over Australia. They worked hard and displayed true courage. And that, I’m proud to say, is my heritage.