A convict family's struggle for survival in the Australian outback
A sample read from the e-book, Nathaniel’s Bloodline by Peter Blakeborough
‘One heck of a story. I didn't need to read more than a few paragraphs to know you had it. Success will surely follow.’
-- Paul Schoaff, author
-- Paul Schoaff, author
Assisted by Isobel and the children, Nathaniel Asker set about establishing his farm. They felled trees and used the trunks and branches to build rail fences to stop the animals wandering. A separate area of fertile-looking land was fenced off and tilled so that vegetables could be grown. Meanwhile they continued to live under the cart while they felled more trees to provide the material for a log cabin.
Every day without fail the sky was clear and blue. The nights were cool but not as cold as higher up on the Great Dividing Range. The long hot summer continued and the settlers realized that the region was experiencing a severe drought. The situation became serious. Every day the Askers carried water from the river to sprinkle on the vegetables and they drove their animals down to the river each day to drink, but they had no means of getting water to the grass.
Summer gave way to winter but apart from shorter days and sometimes freezing overnight temperatures little changed. The drought continued. They lived on vegetables and meat from dingoes and kangaroos. As spring came and the grass failed to grow again they started eating their precious but starving farm animals. The plan had been to breed from the animals, fatten them and then drive them back over the mountains to the Sydney market. Unfortunately that was not to be and instead they watched them slowly turn to skin and bone, before dying an agonizing death. The great Macquarie River had become a mere chain of stagnant puddles, and the remaining animals barely had the strength to get themselves down to it to drink. When the sky eventually began to darken in the torrid heat of their second summer, Nathaniel knew that his dream of a better life had turned into a battle for survival.
The struggle took its toll on Nathaniel Asker. Even young Andrew could see that his father, whom he had always thought of as an old man, had started ageing faster since arriving in Bathurst. He hoped that the rain would come soon to make life easier for them all.
The sky continued to darken but still the rain failed to come. Each day large towering cumulus clouds built up during the heat of the day only to dissipate again in the cool of the evening. Finally a huge black cloud gathered above them and they watched in awe as it spread from horizon to horizon, growing heavier and darker by the minute. There was a brilliant flash of lightning followed a split second later by a massive thunderclap right above them. The lightning flashed again and again, as the family looked on, spellbound by the natural drama. The lightning flashes increased in frequency, dancing through the cloud, and sending flashing bolts right to the ground. When the rain came at first it was in isolated large drops.
Nathaniel smiled as he turned his weather-beaten face upward.
‘Bloody wondrous,’ he shouted happily.
‘Gee whiz, pa, I thought it was never gonna happen,’ Andrew shouted excitedly as the drops became more frequent.
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Within seconds the rain was so heavy that it drowned out the sounds of the family’s shouts of joy as they celebrated the end of the drought. Together they stood in the rain looking to the heavens in awe-struck gratitude. They sang but barely heard their own voices above the noise of the downpour and the rolling thunder.
Then, without warning, a great wind came and lifted their cart from the ground, carrying it a hundred feet beyond their pathetic vegetable patch and dashing it into a pile of splinters. The debris from the cart had barely landed when Isobel started to scream only to have her scream instantly stifled by the loudest crack of thunder yet. She had seen the most lethal fork of lightning yet shoot down from the heavens finding its mark in the huge Stringybark tree that shaded their primitive home in the hottest weather and provided a landmark to home in on at the end of each day in the fields. In an instant their beautiful tree exploded into a ball of fire.
‘I ain’t never seen a storm like this in Sydney Town,’ Isobel said with growing alarm. ‘Is we gonna be okay?’
‘Sure we’re gonna be okay, me dear. Just wait an’ you’ll see we’re gonna have fresh grass, good vegetables and healthy animals again. I was beginnin’ to wonder me-self but now that the rain has come, there be no doubt about it, comin’ ’ere was the best thing we ever done.’
‘What about the cart an’ our lovely tree?’
‘I can easy make another cart an’ we got plenty more trees.’
The last light had barely faded when the earth floor became first a sodden morass and then a swirling muddy river. It rained continuously throughout the night and the thunder and lightning went on until the early hours. It was a miserable night for the whole family crammed inside their sodden one room shanty with a foot of water covering the floor.