Acheron — Chapter 7
January came round again, and with it, the longed-for rain after a parched year. However, it seemed that we were about to get too much of a good thing. Such is the lot of the Aussie farmer.
The radio spoke in sombre tones of a deepening East Coast Low. Coastal New South Wales was soon awash. Then it swept down across the mountains and was upon us.
It rained all day, then it rained all night. Thunder cracked and lightning flashed, but mostly it just rained. The dry ground could not absorb all the water that fell from the sky — it ran off in great sheets, swelled every track to a stream, every creek to a river, every river to a raging torrent of mud and debris.
In a grey, sodden dawn after a fitful night’s sleep, I stepped out onto the veranda and peered through the residual drizzle into the valley.
I couldn’t make sense of what I saw. The familiar landscape had been rearranged. The tree-lined meanders of the narrow Acheron River were gone. In their place, a wide expanse of grey-brown liquid, dotted with tree canopies, power poles and the roofs of buildings. A flat and apparently motionless expanse, except where obstructions funnelled the flood: there you could see the current tugging and worrying at anything that tried to resist, stay still. Mobs of cattle huddled anxious and lowing on islands of higher ground.
The river bend where the Doyles’ farmlet had slowly grown and blossomed no longer existed. There was just water and the tops of trees and bushes.
I yelled for Dad and Uncle Andy. Soon the whole family was standing next to me. All I could do now was point — my voice had deserted me.
The phone was dead and there was no power. Mum went to start the diesel generator while we men put on our oilskins and boots. Dad started the tractor and I jumped up alongside him. We glanced at each other without a word. Andy hitched the trailer with his fishing tinny to the Landcruiser and we set off down the hill in convoy.
It took us an hour to get to Doyles. Andy had to leave the Landcruiser uphill of where the highway had been the day before. I helped him to launch the little boat and hopped in the bow, being lighter and nimbler than Dad. We advanced slowly and…