Video excerpts featuring the author in his hut in 1984, Archie Hair and Briagolong, can be viewed at related Video.
Set in the Gippsland region of south-eastern Australia, this collection of timeless stories are connected by a common theme and underlying philosophy.
Suitable for most ages the book, containing photographs and illustrations, blends folk history, personal experiences and original bush yarns with magic realism.
The book had its genesis one night when the author, Brian O’Keefe, was sitting outside a wattle and daub hut he had built beside the Freestone Creek in the hills north of the small town of Briagolong.
While waiting beside his campfire for the billy to boil something happened that was to become the catalyst for this book – a leaf fell from out of the dark and happened to land upon his knee.
Distracted from feelings of melancholia, Brian looked at the leaf and began to examine it. The more he thought about the leaf and the wonder of Nature the less he thought about himself. Thus began a journey that became a celebration of life.
As Brian remarked, “It is amazing how, depending on the way we perceive things, a seemingly insignificant incident can have an important influence on our lives.”
Downstream from his hut an elderly couple, Archie and Edna Hair, once lived. Archie had built two houses on the same site near the Blue Pool. Their first home was destroyed by a bushfire in 1965.
When Brian built his hut the Hair’s home was deserted. Although he never met them, he often passed their second house and wondered about the people who had lived there. Over time, he collected information about this popular couple and has used them as a vehicle for some of his stories.
As the reader is led through a rich blend of tales until the hope-filled end, it does not seem to matter that fact and fiction are often indistinguishable. What is important is ‘the wonderment’.
There are the Skyrunner birds, who believed that the only way they could become beautiful enough to attract mates was by sipping colours from rainbows.
There is Old Mister Fourtycoats who appeared in the Walhalla school grounds one misty morning in 1899 and enchanted the town during his brief stay.
There is the Plaid-billed Duckorpuss, who yearned to find another of his own kind and fell in love with a set of bagpipes: The origin of snoring: The rock that believed it would grow into a mountain, and the haunted bottle that was found on the Dargo High Plains.
There is the story of the Gippsland Fire Fish that self-combusted if they stayed out of water too long, and the reason kookaburras learned to laugh.
There are The Wee Bards, two diminutive Scottish poets who may, or may not, have been figments of Archie Hair’s imagination – and much more. Helen Cooper