With the chilling of the air, it’s time for us to don our gloves and get stuck into mining the junk that lines the banks and bed of our erosion gullies. It’s become an annual tradition to pick a path through chest-high phalaris, filling bags with debris. It’s scratchy, dusty work, with plastic milk bottles and the remains of plastic bags collapsing into confetti with the gentlest of touches. Yet despite the discomfort, we can’t help but have a forensic fascination with what we unearth. Each discovery is a cryptic clue into the lives of our predecessors, those who decided that the headwaters of a creek would be the best place for their unwanted bric-a-brac.
We’ve begun to notice a pattern to the dumping. There’s a kind-of filing system. In some spots, it’s all fishing gear, including a 2006 issue of South Australian Angler, now morphed into papier mache sculptural piece courtesy of nine winters. In other locations, its kitchenware: broken crockery, cutlery, mixing bowls, saucepan lids, salt shakers. In one patch there are the remains of a childhood: a decaying Mickey Mouse watch, a heart-shaped stone with an indiscernible message written in texta on the back and the splintered tines of a hair comb.
We’re closing in on the motherlode: the final snarl of steel, timber and demolition rubble. Perhaps in another few winters we’ll have trees established and the gully can begin to remember what it was to be a creek.