A light hung off the tent pole. It was an old fashioned globe, one with those curly wires that give off a yellowy, orange glow.
It was powered by batteries and would last just long enough to read one of those tacky paperback cowboy yarns. They always smelled like secondhand bookstores. It was as if the smell and the words transported me to the plains of Utah or Nevada or wherever Larry and Stretch ate grits and shot baddies.
But soon the light would fade to nothing and demand that we took ourselves off to bed. On a farm, far from the big city lights, the stars hang like a blanket of glitter in the dark southern sky. Outside, frogs croaked and grumped at each other in an incessant chorus that lasted until dawn.
In the morning we’d wake to the smell of bacon and eggs cooking on a wood stove. Mum always did that. Never once did she send us kids to school without bacon and eggs and porridge to fill our bellies. On the weekends we ate Weetbix, like the townies. But not during the week.
That’s what life was like on the farm – simple. Our home was a shed that we shared with the tractor and the harvester and the burnt orange P76. In the winter the rain would swirl in through the open side of the shed. We’d grab the big tarpaulin and pull it over our beds and pretend we were camping.
For a shower we’d pour warm water into a 2 gallon camp shower. “Make sure you wash behind your ears,” Mum would say.
But despite the lack of creature comforts I never once felt like I was missing out. I had a back yard bigger than most suburbs, my pick of horses, a gun, dogs, and cows to chase.
And I had that light that let me read cowboy yarns then forced me to look at the wonder of a star-filled night sky. Imagination and reflection. Who thought a simple light would have so much strength.