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Where Have All The Country Kids Gone?

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Dallas Boyd
Dallas Boyd

One rural school in the wops...

Includes: three classrooms, one office, one kindergarden, three playgrounds, one shaded sandpit, vegetable gardens, two swimming pools, one community hall, three tennis courts, one netball/basketball/tennis court, a massive sports field, and one Indian tepee (why wouldn't you have an Indian tepee?) Total number of students enrolled? 20. 

Where have all the country kids gone???
Like my friends, I grew up on a farm with my brothers. This meant trotting off to school on bare feet (because we couldn’t be talked into wearing shoes), wearing odd rugby socks pulled up to the thighs during the winter, and stepping into gumboots over the weekend. 
We camped under the stars without a tent in the summer, sleeping in paddocks, the bush, or curled up on old newspapers in a woolshed. We accidentally blew up cans of spaghetti on the fire and planned to blow up more. We baked sticky concoctions of flour and water to suck off sticks, and caught eels for the neighbour to smoke. 
We built rafts and kept frogs in our bedrooms. Jumped from trees into lakes. Drove motorbikes into drains. We wore trackies, polar fleece hoodies, and felt cool when were given hand-me-down Billabong tee-shirts that were too big. 
I think a few solid acres per kid never hurt anybody.  
These days it seems many of the smaller farms and cottages have been swallowed up by bigger farms, the owners of which, have already seen their children (like me) pass through the school, grow older and move away. 
The school’s original hall was actually burnt down by an arsonist some years ago, taking with it hundreds of dollars worth of gymnastics equipment, no longer being used. After the community went through the usual emotions at the loss of the prized hall (denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance) a new hall was donated from another community where it had been sitting unused. 
Once these little schools used to keep the communities abuzz with galas, cross country, calf and lamb days, Saturday morning sports and Christmas concerts… what happens when the schools close down?  Maybe it’s got something to do with being government owned or something, but they simply just seem… to sit there. 
I attended an amazingly dirty party a few years ago, that was sneakily held inside a school that’d been closed for a few years (kid's pictures were still hanging on the walls like ghosts - creepy). The guys covered over the windows with cardboard to keep the sunlight out, set up a makeshift stage in the abandoned classroom, hooked up their sounds, and played not-very-good punk rock and death metal all night while I worked the “bar” wearing ugg boots and a sleazy slick blue leopard-print dress I got from an Op Shop. Blimmin good night. After the party, I imagine the boys did a wee clean-up and left the school in the same condition they found it. (Yeah right). 
It’s a shame really... Us kids had some neat times in those schools. 

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