Anyone who’s lived rurally will feel my pain…. 171



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Living in the Mallee during summertime is not the easiest thing to do.

There are snakes, big brown snakes. They come out in the cool of the evening and bite the unwary. They also bite the dogs – I have lost several dogs to snake bite.

No, it is not easy. But, the worst thing for me is the wind and the dust. Wind alone is bearable. Even though it is usually hot and dry, it is bearable. Coupled with dust however, is another matter.

When I was a young kid I thought my mother was crazy. She would shout loudly and order everyone inside to shut all the windows and cover the beds and furniture with plastic covers, whenever the wind sprung up. Mum would become very grumpy and unreasonable.

I just did not understand what all the fuss was about.

dust storm

I mean to say, I loved the dust storms. One could hardly see in front of one’s eyes, but it was fun. All this thick red choking stuff floating about. It stuck to everything and made wonderful patterns on windows and walls. Or so I thought back then.

Fast forward almost 60 years and I have changed my thoughts on dust storms. They are hideous things. They creep up with little warning and smother everything in a thick blanket of dirt. Red dirt that is very hard to wash off or sweep up.

Beds have to be changed, curtains washed, floors swept and washed and then swept and washed again. Outside the verandah resembles the neighbours fallowed paddock. I swear I could plant spuds in the dirt on the verandah, and they would grow.

The dogs go from white to red and their eyes are full of mud. Red mud. The car is absolutely unrecognisable. Just like a mound of red dirt.

My feet leave craters in the dirt. It is not unlike walking on the beach, only the sand is red. Everything is red.

Fences are only half as tall is they were after a dust storm blows past. The red dirt piles up in front of them and needs to be graded away. These darn things make a lot of extra work for a person.

All the plants are covered in red stuff, they can hardly breathe. Out comes the hose, to clean them up. Thank goodness we still have water. A dust storm will usually strike just after one has done a big clean up in the house. They know, these storms are smart.

They will not blow up if the house is unswept. They wait, picking the ideal time. They like it even better if there are nice wet clothes on the line.

They know if a person goes to town and leaves the windows a little bit open. They know if one is expecting visitors and the barbeque is all set up.

They know everything.

I cannot see any good reason for a dust storm, I mean, there is no real purpose to it. If I want extra dirt in my yard and house surely I can just take the wheelbarrow down the paddock and get some. At least then I could put it where it is needed.

I wish with all my heart that dust storms would cease to exist.

It would make my life a lot easier!

Have you ever seen or been in a dust storm? What happened? Or do you have them regularly at your house? How do you deal with them? Tell us below.

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Jenny Lockhar

  1. Sounds truly awful but I might just use that as an excuse next time my husband asks if I have dusted recently lol.

  2. I don’t live in a rural area but I did have the man next door pour petrol all over himself and run through the house with a lighter, he had a fight with his wife, the lighter started a fire on a net curtain and him and the house caught on fire. Sadly he died and the house burnt down and thank God for the fire brigade who came very fast or my house would have been burnt down too. I feel very sorry for all those who are facing fires

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  3. I too, remember all the trials of these frequent storms while growing up in rural Sth aust & seeing the devastating effects for my parents trying to eek out a living on their farm

  4. I can barely imagine, how awful it is to fight those red dust storms! Red dust and dirt doesn’t come off things easily – it’s like red paint… I feel for you.

  5. I have not experienced it to the extent described, but have had some experience of the red dust, it permeates every thing seems you can never completely remove it. My mother when pregnant with me used to put her finger in the dust and lick it – perhaps it was the iron she craved.

  6. Hi I lived in Coonamble when I was a kid and one time this massive dust storm came into town it was a great curtain of red that hung in the sky unfortunately my parents were not prepared for what was to come the choking thick gritty windy nightmare and aftermath everything coated in a fine red dust but as I learned its living in the bush as for the snakes and centapeades and catheads and flies and wild pigs and millions of rabbits mixed together in a 5 year drought …priceless

  7. We lived in Elizabeth in the1968, had 3 sons that where out on their bike,and we looked at the sky. In the distance. It was Black, we thought it was a storm. So went looking for our,3 sons, as we went closer, we could see it look Red. And we found the boys, and turned, and Run, we made it home, as it covered our hause, it was 5 miles long in the morning the house,was covered in Red Dust. Outside was think for miles, it took us week to clean up. It come from the north. Never ever saw anything like it , and never hope to see that again, it was frighting, and some thing you thank God you servived.

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    • I reckon I would have seen something similar when we lived there, but I was gone from there by 1963 but they were frequent occurrences.

  8. My poppy used to say to us kids, that’s all the kangaroos out west stirring up the dust. 🙂 In Qld we had dust storms in the 60s they were terrible.

  9. Lived in SA in early 60s only a kid we were caught in that horrendous dust storm. My brother’s were out in it they sort refuge in the nearest house. I don’t think people turned people even kids away. It was so surreal

  10. I remember the remnants of a dust storm covering Brisbane just a few years ago – the dust lingered – we breathed it – it was around over and in everything – took ages to dissipate!!

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