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By Vincent Serventy

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The wallabies never attacked the garden again. Gardening, fishing and cooking were all fun. But when the weather was fine the boys gathered salt from Pink Lake. They hated the job, but Somers’ orders kept them working hard. They carried the loads on shovels to the 45 shore and dumped them in a heap above the high water level. As each pile grew large enough they covered it with branches. When the leaves were dry they set them alight. The heat of the fire melted the surface salt. This formed a crust about six inches thick, hard enough to stop the rain dissolving the heap, and making a kind of salt roof.

They used to slap mud on to make a snug shelter of wattle and daub. Around Albany the local acacia gave the best sticks, so gradually the small tree was called wattle. It was a pretty plant. In the middle of winter beautiful balls of yellow flowers blossomed, changing grey landscapes to golden. Somers described what he wanted. ‘It doesn’t have to 33 be all wattle sticks. Any tree that has stems or branches about nine feet long and as thick as my thumb will do. It must be supple. Wattle is best but I can use gum trees, spearwood, paperbarks, tea-trees.

All right,’ agreed Somers. ‘Tom’s Peak it will be. ’ Two hours later, tired and scratched, they reached the beach. It had been a hard slog, not only because of the thick shrubbery but also because of a great tangle of dodder laurel climbing over the bushes. All were glad when they broke out of this green jungle and reached the shore. The beach was made entirely of empty shells that tinkled as they walked over them. ’ Somers held up his hand. ‘Seals! What a piece of luck. Fur seals too. ’ Matt gazed at the beautiful creatures stretched out on the beach.

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