By Greg Doolan
Old Mack Donald had a farm. It had once been a large dairy farm, sitting in between the range and the Shoalhaven coast of New South Wales. But with time had come age, aching joints and falling milk prices. On the flipside, the abundance of city folk looking for a slice of country life had driven up property prices, so in the end it wasn’t a hard decision for Mack to subdivide and sell off parcels of land as needed.
So on his now much smaller farm Mack still kept a few cows,though had also planted out fruit trees, a large herb and veggie garden, and had gotten himself some chooks for eggs, a few ornery goats, and a couple of pigs.
He had also, at the age of 82, just gotten engaged.
Gracie, 52, was not a farmer and not a local. She didn’tmind pottering around the garden and collecting chook eggs, but having spentthe better part of her adult life criss-crossing Europe in pursuit of steamy romancesand the odd wealthy German industrialist, Gracie was more accustomed to smokingweed than pulling them out of the ground.
Their engagement had come hot on the heels of the briefestof whirlwind romances and had become the talk of the valley just as quickly.Indeed, trouble was brewing at the Jamberoo Country Women’s Association’s quilting circle…
“‘Well we use the quick-piecing quarter-square triangle method,’ I said. ‘That’s how we roll in Jamberoo’. Then I marched right out.”
“Good for you, Cecily.”
“Thank you, Belinda. I swear ladies; if I ever set foot back in Canberra have me committed. By the way, I think you’ve dropped a stitch there dear. Anyway, what’s been making news?”
“Old Mack’s got himself engaged.”
“What! When did that happen? To whom?”
“The last time I rolled anything, it was my Trevor into the Wollongong hospital.”
“Not now, please Michelle. I asked Belinda a question.”
“Well, you know, Cecily. Last Monday. Mack was at the Kangaroo Valley pub and this woman – Gracie, I think her name is – walked in wearing a kaftan. They hit it off.”
“Then they got it off.”
“Language please, Michelle. Continue thank you, Belinda.”
“Anyway, before we knew it, she’s moved in and Mack’s announced they’re engaged.”
“Well I never. Such behaviour. I mean, what exactly is he thinking? He must have gone mad.”
“Randy, more like it.”
“Michelle, do I really have to ask again? She must be after his money. Macklin’s never shown interest in marrying. I mean, the number of times I’ve brought him my famous suet dumplings in beef stew over the years; not once has he shown an inclination to marry.”
“Maybe he’s not interested in your dumplings, Cec.”
The Jamberoo Country Women’s Association’s quilting circle had never known as frosty or as uncomfortable a silence than the one that followed.
“Actually, you’ve dropped several stitches on row, Michelle. I think you need to unpick and start again from scratch. Don’t you?”