If you turn off the main road and travel around five furlongs … in the old money … down a dirt track called Kruger Road, you will come to Rosie’s Hut.
I first heard of Rosie’s Hut around … oh … fifteen year or so ago now … when we first brought this place from my Aunty … old Vera … you see, she had gotten old and was a bit crook, so her doctor advised her … quite strongly .. that she needed to move into the main town in the Barossa for the sake of her health … so she put this property on the market and we just happened to be looking for a dusty little spread out here in the mallee and bango! … Bob’s your uncle … so to speak.
Well, one side of the property backs onto Kruger Road, just a stone’s throw from Rosie’s Hut … so it wasn’t long before my curiosity got the better of me and I wandered over to have a squizz at the place.
“Hut” is probably the wrong description of the place … because it is too large and too well-built to be considered that … but at the same time, it is just a one roomed building standing by itself without any other sheds or out buildings backing it up. But there, that’s what it is called … sure an’ I did originally think the name was in relation to a woman’s name and I could let my imagination … of which I have an over abundance … conjure up an image of a past age, with a woman living out here in the hut … a woman with rich red hair … of the Christina Rosetti type … an image of her as depicted by the Pre-Raphaelite painters … throw in a touch of Shirley MacLaine in Irma la Douce and you are getting somewhere near me.
Or perhaps as the Inn-keepers daughter in the poem The Highwayman by Alfred Noyes:
“The wind was a torrent of darkness among the gusty trees,
The moon was a ghostly galleon tossed upon cloudy seas,
The road was a ribbon of moonlight over the purple moor,
And the highwayman came riding–
The highwayman came riding, up to the old inn door.”
And so on it goes … a lovely piece worth the read.
But in truth, there was no long-tressed woman to stand at the hut’s door, no blue-eyed daughter in the moonlight, no simpering eyes in the moonlight, to tempt a young man to share in the moonlight … the local knowledge of why Rosie’s Hut was there or why that name, took a little searching on my part over a span of these near fifteen years … for all those who lived through those years have now passed away and have taken with them that knowledge of who, what and why these people and places existed … Except! …
Except … there were clues that gave it away … the first was old Mr. Rosenswieg … he was the “Ted” in my story of Ted and Edie dance the Rumba … he was born around 1933 … and he filled in the rest of the name from “Rosie” to Rosenswieg … hence: Rosenswieg’s Hut. Evidently another branch of his clan owned land around there but had disposed of it before he was born … But he did give me the next clue to the reason for the hut’s existence … He told me that back in the early days of cropping here on the flats, in the late nineteenth century, some landholders did not actually live on the blocks, but rather would come down from their hills homesteads, bringing their workers, family and horses and assorted equipment for either sowing or harvesting … depending upon the season and would camp down on the flats paddocks while they did an intensive round of ploughing and seeding or harvesting and bagging the seed or sheathing the hay …
All the family including women and children were brought down to help with the labour-intensive work … the women to cook, the children to clear stones from the paddocks or feed the horses and that is why there was that one solid-built “hut” … to give the women and children shelter at night after doing the cooking and serving for the workmen and family … who slept in the thatched-roofed post and beam outbuildings.
It was a different life back in those days … this area being known by it’s branded name: “Breakheart Country” … all hard work and muscle for both the men and the women, while the children also were expected to pitch in to help … I know about the children being there in the fields because I have record of one child from my German relatives family dying from burns because of being caught in the burning of the stubble that was practised in those days before ploughing for the seeding season.
That explained the whys and wherefores, but not the confirming date of the construct and by association, the times of when those families stayed in the hut.
What threw me about the dimensions of the one-roomed hut, was, as a builder myself, the proportions and construct told me that this was no family home … not even in the pioneer sense … I have experience of those pioneer settler’s houses … they are mostly of stone/post and beam with pug and pine-walled infills. Rosie’s Hut was well built, the corner quoins not of local limestone nor a local granite, but layered large pieces of slate … this secured the corners of the building and held it fast for a long time, unlike other early buildings the fell down without the solid corner bondings … The lime mortar placed the building in the latter part of the nineteenth century, but the machined roof timbers of Oregon and the stamped/branded roofing iron from England gave the date to around the turn of the twentieth century … The clean walls of solid, lime plaster showed that there was never any room divisions and there was no evidence of wall plugging for cupboards … so the one big room, with a small fireplace with a large German vault-oven behind it showed this hut served as eating place after a hard, long days work and then the private sleeping quarters for the women and children, while the men slept in those thatched shed outbuildings …
It would seem that everything required for the month’s duration needed to seed or harvest the crop was brought down from the hill farm, including the slate building stones as there is no slate of any reasonable quality to be found on the flats … I wrote of those days and the trials and tribulations here.
So now, after all these years, I feel I can quietly say with a sense of confidence that Rosie’s Hut had a long and fruitful career as cookhouse/shelter until the days of the horse drawn farming era came to a close … the end of many things … much back-breaking work, labour intensive farming and all, yet there must also be admitted that alongside those daylight hours of chore and grind, there was also the evenings of no doubt some singing of old folk songs from their homelands along with the weary relief and satisfaction of what they had achieved and the resulting harvest would give claim to the nod of a job well done and payment well deserved … a thing fast becoming obscure and unfathomable in this age of cynical weariness.
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