National Geographic : 2009 Apr
"I can t stand lying in bed every night and hearing the cattle bellow from hunger." Still, the most poignant gatherings are out of public view. One takes place in a modest farm- house near Swan Hill. A government rural nan- cial counselor sits at the kitchen table, advising a middle-aged stone-fruit farmer and his wife to declare bankruptcy, since their debt exceeds the value of their farm and a hailstorm has just ravaged their crop. Holding his wife s hand, tears leaking out of his eyes, the farmer manages to get out the words: "I have absolutely nothing to go on for." e woman says she checks every couple of hours to make sure her husband is not lying in his orchard with a self-in icted gunshot wound in his head. When the meeting is over, the coun- selor adds their names to a suicide watch list. Back in Barham, Malcolm Adlington sits Adlington would ever wish to do. But when the hell did his dad or granddad ever have to deal with a bloody seven-year drought? It has been three parched years since any dairy farm walk that Adlington can remember. Instead, there are morale-boosting events with upbeat monikers like Tackling Tough Times or Blokes Day Out---or Pamper Day, which Adlington s wife happens to be attending today. At Pamper Day, a few dozen farming women receive free massages and pedicures and hair- styling advice. A drought-relief worker serves the women tea and urges them to discuss what s on their minds. ey all share di erent chapters of the same story. "It s been two years without a crop." " e family farm is on its knees." "We sold most of our sheep stock---beautiful animals we d had for 20 years."