OUTBACK EDUCATION IN THE ‘NOT TOO DISTANT’ PAST (27)

Warburton Ranges (WA) in 1974-75 (27)

We had some interesting and varied life experiences at Warburton Ranges during the course of both our terms of appointment. Some had to do with people, others with environment. One thing for sure was that no two days were ever the same. And some periods of time were more environmentally challenging than others.

There had been little rain at Warburton during our time there in 1970. In 1974, the story was somewhat different. There was an abundance of rain that fell through to the community and in all directions, north, east, west and south, at one point during the year. The rain was soaking, the ground becoming saturated.

Elder Creek came in from the north and swung west around the community at some kilometres from the community. It overflowed to the north, with floodwaters coming into and inundating a good half of the settlement. Fortunately our school and houses were in the part remaining dry. The floodwaters only stayed for a day or so before retreating. However, the saturated soil burst forth into green, with vegetation and plants coming to life. Growth was quick and the green hue surrounding the community offering what was all too rare visual attractiveness.

Further out from Warburton, trees and shrubs burst forth with new and vibrant greenness. Spinifex, the predominant ground ‘grass’ in the Warburton, Peterman and Blackstone areas grew with a prolificness that was totally transforming of the species.

Animal life was renewed; part of that renewal brought forth a plague of mice which quickly overran the community. The mice bred prolifically and got into everything. Clothing in drawers and foodstuffs in cupboards fell victim to the feeding caprices and nesting habits of these vile rodents.

Mouse traps were at a premium. I managed to come up with three single spring traps and one that had four holes inviting mice to tasty cheese used to bait the traps. Outside our house yard and up against the fence was a 44 gallon drum we used for incinerating rubbish. During the day whenever we came home (from adjacent classrooms) and at night (as the traps went off to signal more victims), I would take the traps and release the now dead mice into the drum. We caught a huge number of mice during the weeks of the plague. The most disposed of in any one night was 64. I was up and down all night long.

The mice were into everything. Plastic lids on tins of food formula did not protect the contents of tins. Mice would chew through the plastic lids, fall into the food, gorge themselves and then die because there was no escape from the prisons they created for themselves. It was reminiscent of a last hearty meal before execution.

The mice would scurry across our bedding during the night. They could be heard scrambling between the outer wall and Masonite material that doubled as wall lining. They could be heard in the ceiling cavities.

Fortunately the plague did not last for too long. However, the mice were certainly active while the plague lasted

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