Country hospitality in the wake of COVID-19

Country hospitality in the wake of COVID-19

South Australian Police authorities were deployed to the Victorian border to assist in the screening of residents into the state. The warm welcome and generous contributions from local farmers did not go unnoticed. (Image source: Matthew Buck)

By Ashleigh Buck | @ashkbuck

On Tuesday July 14 2020 Detective Brevet Sergeant Brett Carpenter and his partner, a fellow detective, were told they were being sent out to work the border up near Pinnaroo the following Wednesday morning at 10am.

At a checkpoint 10km from Pinnaroo, a backroad that services the Murrayville and Pinnaroo communities was ‘home’ for the two officers for eight days, each working 12-hour rotating shifts.

“Our ‘home away from home’ was an industrial generator, portable loo on a trailer and a boom light to illuminate the intersection of a dirt cross-road on the main road between Pinnaroo and Loxton,” Brev Sgt Carpenter said.

At first look the accommodation was bleak, it was the middle of winter in what most would call ‘the middle of nowhere’. It wasn’t until the detectives encountered a local resident that they realised the true generosity of the small country town they were based in.

“Our first contact was a local resident giving us a half 44-gallon drum to contain a campfire, which soon made for a 24-hour beacon for the remainder of our stay,” Brev Sgt Carpenter said.

“The next day we met a husband and wife that lived just across the border in Victoria and are active members of the small SA community serving as SA Ambulance volunteers.”

The frustration of ‘cross border’ exemption became apparent to the detectives after conversations with these locals. A level of patience was needed, with a sound explanation of every move and assistance being vital in making sure the bureaucrats in Adelaide understood the importance of maintaining a lifestyle that involved farming either side of the border.

A vast number of farming families are based in Pinnaroo, some more prominent than others. Summerton Rd in Pinnaroo was named after one of these families and their generosity was something that Brev Sgt Carpenter and his partner were grateful for.

“We were joined by the Australian Defence Forces (ADF) a couple of days into the rotations, in which they begun setting up tent for shelter, but it would still be days before we received any temporary accommodation to combat the frosty nights,” Brev Sgt Carpenter said.

“The Summerton family were kind enough to bring us a trailer load of Mallee stumps to keep us warm as well as later, a makeshift camp oven and fresh local food to cook a meal.

“Trucks coming and going to collect fresh produce, mostly potatoes, began delivering some for us to eat.

“The local bakery was our first stop every morning at 6.45am, hot coffee ready to go and a special roll or wrap for lunch.

“The local pub was our destination for dinner and a counter meal was the next best thing to a home cooked meal and we were more than happy to help out the local community by spending the money at their amenities.”

Each day locals would stop by and have a chat with the detectives and ADF personnel ensuring they knew to ask if they needed anything, whilst simultaneously offering anything they could to assist in making the stay more comfortable.

“One afternoon a young family stopped by and their eldest son of 5-years-old handed us a box of treats; lamingtons, a cherry ripe, iced VoVo’s, the Advertiser and two litres of Farmers Union Iced Coffee,” Brev Sgt Carpenter said.

“The young boy handed us the gifts before saying, ‘Thank you for keeping us safe.’

“These words resinated with us for the remainder of the trip.”

For both detectives the experience was a memorable one. Each local they encountered showed immense country hospitality in a time of crisis.

“Nothing was too much trouble for them, using farm equipment to shift heavy generators, supplying a kettle and coffee or sugar and teabags,” Brev Sgt Carpenter said.

“With the genuine heartfelt ‘thanks’ from the local community, we have forged friendships that will last a life-time and we look forward to going back when this is all over.”

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