An ancient stringybark marked the bottom of the property, where the creek used to be—it hadn’t run in years.

Harry and Carmel survived the dry years too. The drought was hard enough. As debts mounted Harry hit the bottle. At his lowest he’d hit her too. Isolated on their parched acreage with the dams empty and their few remaining sheep agysted they bunkered down through five dry years.

If it hadn’t been for Clayton the place would have been lost. He’d looked in whenever he could. Found jobs for Harry too. They rebuilt the fence between their places. Clayton set Harry up with the free-range turkeys that helped get them through.

When a week of rain filled the dams Clayton came to celebrate. Harry drank too much and passed out. Carmel and Clayton talked through the stormy night.

In the morning the stringybark was down, its shrunken roots useless in the mud. It hadn’t been the hard times that had made it vulnerable, but the slackening that followed.

Carmel and Clayton pulled on gumboots and walked to the creek, now a fast running stream along their boundary line. The fallen stringybark formed a bridge across the flow.

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