Except it’s not abandoned.
And the man who owns it is not happy that he’s been seen doing what he’s doing.
So unhappy, in fact, that Tom is terrified that he and Fred and Bill will be shot before Tilly can get back with help…
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Audience: middle grade
Length: short story
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When I was a kid I lived in a tiny town on the other side of the Blue Mountains called Gunyalup. Never heard of it? Not surprised. They found gold there in the 1850s, lost it in the 1860s, and pretty much the only people who hung around after that were those who’d built shops, like the general store and blacksmith’s, and some blokes who’d given up farming to hunt gold and went back to farming the rich New South Wales soil when the gold dried up.
My great-grandad was one of them. Me and my three older brothers grew up on 20,000 hectares of prime sheep country in the nineteen fifties. We helped on the farm, rode horses to primary school in Gunyalup and later took the rattly old bus into Stone Creek for high school, and generally stayed away from home from sunup to sundown if our parents didn’t have any work for us to do.
It was on one of those roam-everywhere days that we stumbled on something odd in the gully.
It was winter, and we’d taken the horses out. There was me and my next-oldest brother, Fred, who was fourteen to my eleven, and our mates Tilly and Bill Brerreton. They were twins the same age as me, but Bill was about a foot taller because he’d hit his growth spurt early, and Tilly was shorter than me. Both of them were built like thin sticks with brushes of curly brown hair, which was good because they could both ride the one horse, a big Clydesdale so old his muzzle was white, and so slow he couldn’t even get up to a trot anymore. But he was all they had, so they made do.
Anyway, the four of us were riding around Brerretons’ land toward the dam in the far corner, kind of checking fences because we hadn’t been asked but we knew it had to be done, when we saw this dirty-white thing in a gully not far from the dam.
It was a caravan, but it wasn’t one of those long luxury-type ones you see on the roads nowadays. It was not much bigger than a car, with rounded ends and a blue stripe around it and blue curtains at the windows. In front of it, and we guessed still hitched to it, was a beige Holden FX sedan, which was an unusual sight in Gunyalup. Most people, being farmers, had a ute if they had a car at all.
We pulled up the horses and looked to Bill, since it was his and Tilly’s farm.
‘Dunno,’ he said. ‘Not s’posed to be there, but.’ I saw his feet go out and his hands go up with the reins, like he was about to ride over there and check it out, when a man came out from behind the caravan carrying something small in his hands. Something heavy too, it looked like, because he was staggering a bit and his arms were dragging down.