The country’s most recognizable bugle tune blew through the frigid morning air of Taralga, like a shot of electricity through crystal. The poignant melody bounced around the mountains, floating with the breeze through the leaves of the freezing trees down to the tent housing my missus and me. We opened eyes wearily to see that the mist of midnight had subsided and ANZAC Day morning welcomed us with brilliantly bleached marshmallow clouds lolling lazily across the baby blue sky.
We packed the tent and the bags, filled our water bottles, and meandere into town.
Good olde fashioned nationalism had risen the town of Taralga from their heavy set slumber and their soft down duvets, tempting them to the wooden framed Taralga Town Hall to remember the men who answer the call for war and fell. We walked down the empty main road to the only café-grocery shop in town and came face to face with limited breakfast options. For the brioche-biting-baby-booming-soy-sucking-city-slicker the ‘Taralga Local Store/ Café’ offers a unique breakfast menu featuring a variety of Mrs Mac’s gourmet meat pies with the option of a rich-sugary tomato based sauce for garnish. Accompanying beverages on offer were a variety of chilled flavored milks, of which one is coffee. We ordered up our breakfast of champions and watched as the town’s folk left the Town Hall at the closing of their ANZAC Day ceremony, brimming with digger pride.
We climbed out of Taralga (population 489) at 10am underneath the sky blue sky and before too long we were coasting down a mountainside towards Goulburn, population 28,000.
When we arrived, at around 2pm, the ANZAC spirit was alive and well – from the country music blasting from the show-grounds to the back slapping, VB lapping camaraderie emanating from the packed pubs we past on our way down town.
The third venue on the ‘Cross-Hand, Brown-Land and United-We-Stand- Rural Tour’ was the Astor Hotel, situated on Goulburn’s main drag. I had organized the show only two days prior and the manager was very accommodating, putting us up in a hotel room for the night and giving us a feed and some frothy beers for our services.
The Astor Hotel flaunts its family friendly atmosphere with pride. It glides along the silver topped steel surfaces and dances with glee from the myriad of plasma screen TV’s hanging like portraits of royalty on the walls, offering up a smorgasbord of sports. We ate with Rugby Union to our left and Cricket to our right. The food was divine and the time was soon right for the performance of the night.
I set up on a bar stool perched between the Broncos V Rabbitohs and the Tennis to strum the numb-toe-woes that go with the peddling minstrel, riding head down against the alpine winds that blow, delivering to rural towns the songs of a wide brown land that only travelers know.
But against the bright neon lights, the clatter of forks and knifes and the chuckle of the public holiday drunk, the Guitar and Vocals disappeared. I played the same sets that had garnered fame in the northern hamlets of Oberon and Taralga but this time the town was distracted and I faded into the back ground like a plasma screen TV that only showed golf. I sung and I sung and I sung and I sung, but got through to no one, as all around me families lapped up their day off contently in the comfort of this neon community.
But it was really no worry to me, I had a plan.
Little Gus and his sister Lauren, aged 5 and 7 respectively, wandered into my line of vision conveniently at the end of one of my 9 minute introspective folk-ballads. I put down my guitar and asked them.
“Hey, little ones, you wanna see a trick?”
Their wide eager eyes looked up at me and they nodded. I grabbed my juggling balls and went at it. Three balls, four balls, two balls, all balls everywhere- juggling up and down and all around. Like little stunned mullets they looked on in awe. I had them. Two more little ones joined and soon there were four kids staring up at me in wide eyed wonder… finally I had my crowd.
With no time to waste I grabbed the guitar and started singing songs appropriate to my new audience. I started off with a song called ‘The Bicycle Dance’ which had them running around on pretend bicycles. I soon followed up with the hit song ‘The Devon Dance’ with lyrics that go-
Do the Devon Dance, do the Devon dance
Like you got a wet fish in your pants
Soon they were bouncing around in the space before me yelling and laughing. Their parents came over to see the spectacle and, realizing that their children were sufficiently entertained, brought themselves another round of drinks.
After half and hour I was pooped, performing the Bicycle Dance and the Devon Dance to excess. The parents polished off the final drops in the bottom of their schooners and rounded up the juniors. They thanked me for my services and to show me their gratitude threw a fifty dollar note my way.
So no big bearded fans were won in Goulburn, instead I found four facial hair free youngsters lapping up the music like milk. Four new and excited fans, none of who were taller then my waist.
Next stop Canberra.