[ Road Trip - PaRT 2]
Welcome back. Read this post yet? Wonderful, let’s continue.
As Anna mentioned, there was a certain level of trepidation about making this trip. My Nanna lives there now, which is always a treat, but the town itself? Please bear in mind, that before now, I’d only ever visited Murgon during family trips. Without such services as a getaway car and the freedom to use it at will. As such, my impression of it being The dullest place on Earth with spiders, may have been a teensy bit biased.
In preparation for the drive, we’d been supplied with a list of various roadside amusements to keep an eye/ear out for.
The Kilcoy markets and Yowie statue? Check. Spot the Ned Kelly letterbox? Check. Hear Bell Birds while stopped on the range? Check. Visit Butt Art (not at all what it sounds like), in the town of Blackbutt? Check.
One site not on the list, which caused us to do a double-take and
slam on swiftly and safely apply the brakes, was Virgil’s Touchwood Artisans’ Village on the D’Aguilar Highway (between Yarraman and Nanango).
Virgil’s turned out to be a gallery/shop of everything from hand-made wooden furniture to aboriginal artworks. (I seem to recall there was even a shoe museum tucked in there.) Dotted around the central building is a collection of workshops housed in little wooden huts. For me, the highlight of the trip was meeting Michael – the gentleman pictured below.
Mick carves jewellery, pendants and statuettes, either for general sale or by commission. He specialises in bone and Australian hardwoods, but seems more than happy to try his hand at all manner of materials. As with most of the crafty places we visited, the whole atmosphere here was relaxed and welcoming. Country folk, hey?
Actually, this was a rather serendipitous time to stop by. A few weeks ago it was my birthday, and my amazing wife crossed an item off my wishlist – I’m now the proud owner of my first dremel. A Dremel Stylus to be exact, one of the smaller models designed to be used comfortably with one hand. It is easily the coolest tool I’ve ever owned, with a drill-bit style collet system and attachments for carving, sanding, cutting, engraving, polishing… Basically, imagine half a dozen rotary power tools have been condensed into the body of a large airbrush.
The Stylus is a cordless model, which is great for fiddly desktop work. Nothing like dragging a cable through a delicately arranged project. The unit simply rests on the recharge base when not in use (automatic cut off when the battery is full). Powerful, solid, nicely balanced, comfortable… forgive me if this sounds a bit like a commercial review, I’m just plain chuffed with my new toy, okay? (Disclaimer: If Dremel did decide to give me money for saying nice things about this, I probably wouldn’t object. *cough* Just putting that out there.)
Anyhow, upon mentioning my new aquisition to Mick, he was more than happy to show me through his various tools and attachments. Much helpful advice was gained. He even insisted on giving me a nice piece of bone and a big chunk of soapstone to try my hand at. I have assured him that, next time I’m passing by that way, I’ll be sure to stop in again and show him my first attempts. This is by no means an idle promise, as Anna and I both found any number of curious side paths out that way we never knew existed. We’ll have to head back one day to check out a few more.
Now then, by my count, I already have two incomplete projects posted to the site here: A Writing Desk and a Steampunk Mini. Now I’ve gone and queued up ‘carving stuff’. Welcome to the way my mind seems to work. In any case, Shelmertime.com is as much about finding a sense of discipline for our creative endeavours as it is about sharing the ride with everyone reading. I assure you, I’ll be working through all three projects over the next few months. I just can’t promise there won’t be a fourth.
You see, Donald is my middle name. It’s also happens to be my mother’s maiden name. The two facts may be related. Donald is by no means as uncommon in these parts as Shelmertime, and I dare say there are any number of Donalds Roads about. The (admittedly personal) cool-factor about this one, is that it was named after my grandparents, who owned the sole house along this stretch back when I was a youngin’.
I have a lot of scattered childhood memories of visiting Nanna here. Isolated pockets of imagery and sensation – those little bubbles of space-time which don’t seem any less significant for the their lack of context. In no particular order, here’s a sampling:
- A path down to the dam, between swathes of dry grass, too tall to see over (I was a lot shorter).
- My cousins, excited over a plastic bucket full of brown dam water and yabbies.
- The sound of crows – which have recently come to dominate the Brisbane suburbs – still puts me in mind of a hot afternoon, sitting in a cane rocking chair at Nanna’s place.
- A willy-wagtail nest next to Grandpa’s Whiskers (a kind of plant).
- Tiny, copper ornament magnets on the fridge. Assorted frog statuettes across the kitchen windowsill.
- An unused Front Door, around the side of the house.
- A pantry, with bottles of glowing-pink coconut milk flavouring.
- Taking a walk along the dirt road to look for koalas.
- Picking up interesting stones.
- Thinking every piece of rock was an interesting stone.
- My pet rope being accidentally discarded in an outdoor bonfire (about the angriest I ever remember being).
- Being fascinated by an old-style writing desk (which now proudly sits in my lounge room).
- Learning to play battleship, after finding the rules in a yellowing activity book. Spending the day drawing and cutting out a board and pieces.
- Overhearing my mother teaching my younger sister how to spell our surname.
- Water tanks, and the concept of Tank-water.
- Pea pods.
- Nanna boiling water to pour over frogs (they attract the snakes, you know).
- A robot made out of plastic bottle tops and lids, which came from a dump shop.
- Jumping over a Huntsman (big spider) as it runs across my path.
- Cowering under a sheet from a Huntsman (again, a very big spider).
- Nervously fearing a Huntsman (dead, still a spider) curled up on the floor of the car.
- And for some reason, tightening and unscrewing the legs from a vinyl covered foot-stool.
I have a photo somewhere of a scruffy-headed younger Ryan, holding an equally scruffy little dog* under one arm, posing on this same corner. The sign has changed, but for everything else, I feel I could have been there a week ago.
*The dog’s name was Scruffy – a Sydney silky terrier and deserving of the name. I’ve no such excuse for my hair.
Oh! One last thing.
Apparently, Yarraman is from an aboriginal word meaning Creepy Mechanical Horse…
Related Links Virgil's Touchwood Artisans' Village - The place to find Mick the carver, and a selection of other crafty folk. Dremel's Official Site - Certainly not the only place on the net to learn about Dremel gear, but an obvious start. Huntsman Spider - Enjoy.