Hyphens (HLD 307)

24 Jan 2021

A while ago I read a fascinating quote that basically said our lives represent the hyphen between two dates. Date we were born (hyphen) date we die. What we do, the lives we live, the people we love, places we travel and whatever we achieve….it’s all a hyphen between the beginning and the end.

I’ve never been really sure what to write about this quote, until today while we have been investigating one of the oldest (white) settled areas in our state. There are old buildings, remnants of old buildings, and markers telling us where stuff used to be.

As the area grew and developed and more wheat and sheep farming took over space from indigenous peoples and kangaroos, they spread out. They built dwellings, they built shops, they built pubs, they built infrastructure.

Their townships were thriving.

But they are no longer there. Sometimes there was another town not too far away, that had a better pub, or a better school, or better access to water or transport. People gradually took their business elsewhere, and the town just drifted back into the dust.

Bricks and other building materials were no doubt removed and reused elsewhere. Sometimes there are still hints of the buildings which were once there, but often the best hint you will get that a township used to be in that spot, is a sign. Sometimes with dates, but often not. Dangin, Greenhills, Balkuling, Bellakabella, Doodenanning – just some of the places that were hyphens in the life and history of this area.

One of these places – Dangin – apparently became a ghost town because the major land owner was a staunch Methodist and did not allow alcohol to be served at the Temperance hotel he’d built. There was another town by the name of Quairading close by, with pubs that sold alcohol. Quairading is still a going concern today, and Dangin is dust. There’s probably a lesson there somewhere.

There were about half a dozen ghost towns we could have visited today (if we had managed to find them) – all within half an hour or so of the town we are staying at. The goldfields region of our state also has a large number of ghost towns, and likewise the northwest of the state. And those are the ones I know about!

To go back to the hyphen analogy, those towns are no more. They lived, they died. The stories of the lives impacted by that space, their struggles and their triumphs, will have likely been passed on to their descendants, hopefully.

It will be the same with us all. We may be remembered by a plaque, listing our dates on this earth.

But the hyphen won’t tell anyone the whole story of our existence. It will be up to our descendants to articulate our hyphens.

Live your hyphen well.

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