In November 2014, Tina Havelock Stevens travelled to Kandos to complete a residency and develop a work for Cementa15. She made a work about Jesse Hickman, aka The Lady Bushranger - a local woman, who’s tragic life included cattle rustling and living rough in the bush outside of Kandos. This post is not about the work directly, but about Tina’s experience of the area. It’s a little late, but a fascinating read.
Driving up to Kandos. Listening to Krautrock band Can, before that Tame Impala, before that a sound compilation with various bleeps, dissonant voices and insect sounds. Down I go into Lithgow, the steep descent…always observing the safety ramp with fear…thinking about brakes, edges, semi-trailers and tyre marks in the gravel of the ramp. The main street of Lithgow doesn’t surprise with it’s glow of melancholy…I sit in my car eating a white bread sandwich from a local bakery and observe a puffy teenager holding a one hundred dollar bill with outstretched arms…claiming to the guy with her that she’s never touched one of these…before heading into the pub. Lithgow has always intrigued me and creeped me…when I was little it was that place on the way to my Uncle’s farm in Bathurst…I’ve actually passed through it zillions of times…although we’d always bypass the main street. In winter there was never anyone around, just hard burnt smoke coming out of chimneys…and my dog got lost there…it was the only time we did stop in the main street and she jumped out the window to come find us. We couldn’t find her for a really long time… but then we saw her tail sticking out from behind some people. I’m pretty sure that was the first time I’d ever experienced a true sense of relief.
Anyway once you get past Lithgow it’s all about the mid western plains…bush gives way to dry paddocks and it’s all tussocky. Soon after passing the hydro station, which stops the Cox’s river dead in its tracks I come across a rabbit sitting in the middle of the road all confused…it’s obviously been hit as there’s blood on it’s head. I drive on…guilty. What could I do? I think about how my uncle used to hold lambs by their back legs and smash their heads against a tree trunk until they were dead. He had to. The crows had picked their eyes out as they were being born. I haven’t thought about this for a long time but now that I am I guess I’m kinda haunted by the eyeless heads sticking out from the running ewes. Farming is so fucked up really. Having to even think about that sorta shit is fucked up….puts me in a mood.
I can’t remember feeling the trauma I would feel if I witnessed that sorta thing now. When you’re a child stuff is just a given. You watch all the crap unfold in a passive fashion and believe it’s the way to go. Now my moral compass about that shit seems to spin faster as I creep towards decrepitude. This must all sound so bleak, but it wasn’t and I’m not unduly pessimistic as a result. Anyway so my Uncle’s farm still existed. He was once alive. Just. In 1996 cancer was spreading beyond his bowel like a lumpy vine, I don’t think having his hands in sheep dip and various other poisonous activities had helped things. One day he was just too uncomfortable to sit on the tractor. At the time I made a 16mm film with him starring in it. It was about a rabbit that had been splattered on the road. He brings it back to life…I used a taxidermied little guy that I bought from a shop that used to be in Darlinghurst as the star. My Uncle supplied some stunt doubles. We had a good time making it…it was a bit nerve wracking when he was climbing through the barbed wire fence tho cos he was on warfarin, a blood thinning drug. My Uncle got a little famous for his starring role, and then he was gone. The farm got divvied up and sold.
It’s always strange driving out this way and not going to Bathurst. Signs for Bathurst tend to burn a hole in my forehead… the eras vanished forever hole… but then I can just weird myself out pretty easily thinking about my feisty tiny Grandmother, my one of a kind uncle, cups of tea, blowflies, heat, frost, billycans, sheep, bulls, the river, the ABC, the local station, Glen 20, buzzing overhead wires, the Ute, biscuits in a tin, Bronte’s lamb tongues, morning tea, having to brush my hair before dinner, wakeful dreams, my Grandfather spooning molasses all over his breakfast, swooping magpies, the motor bike, dogs, Rusty, Rover, dog biscuits, poisoned dogs, slobber, steaming cabin of the Ute, acid on my jeans from a leaky battery, stinging nettles, dead stink, burning off, fixing stuff, things not working, cattle escaping, broken fences, chasing sheep… then sick grandparents, mum looking after them, my Dad shooting rabbits, pulling their skin off that smell unmistakable, fishing…killing …then beautiful sunsets, picnics….walking and being alone, the silo, locusts, driving at ten years old, feeling so goddaam good riding the motorbike, building jumps, standing on the back of the Ute holding on tight down the hill, wind smashing me in the face and screaming sounds into it.
![ Anyway I’m in Kandos now. Smells similar. Feels different.
Tina Havelock Stevens White Drummer