Darryl saw his father lying face down in the creek over the hill. Darryl was stunned. His father was the best rider he knew there’s no way he would have fallen from his horse.
Darryl jumped off the horse and ran to his father. He turned him over and knew at once that his father was gone. He was blue and barely warm and he had weird blisters all over his face.
Darryl managed to get him on to the back of the horse and head back towards the house.
Claire was distraught. Stephen had complained of feeling sick that morning and she had tried to keep him in bed but he insisted that there was too much to do on the farm and had headed out as usual.
An ambulance turned up and Stephen’s body was taken away for an autopsy to determine the cause of death.
Rumours went flying around the adjacent farms that Stephen had died from Mad Cow Disease and the panic spread. Some of the farm workers walked out on the job and other’s just stopped turning up.
It was over a week later before they heard anything. Their local doctor had been given the results and had come around personally to let them know that it was an unidentified virus that had killed him. Claire and Darryl were full of questions but unfortunately the doctor couldn’t help. They didn’t know what the virus was and as yet it didn’t even have a name. They’d only seen a couple of other cases and were still working hard in the labs trying to get some answers.
It was decided that Darryl would leave college and come back home to help out. Claire needed him, she looked like a ghost. She would hardly eat and would spend a lot of the day in bed. Darryl would make her dinner and cups of tea after his long day herding, riding and building fences.
Darryl ploughed on and helped his Dad’s right-hand man Phil to organise all the workers each morning. There was so much to do, Darryl wondered how his Dad had always been on top of everything.
But something wasn’t right. Every couple of days a worker was getting sick and wasn’t coming back. Darryl was seeing the same blisters he’d seen on his father on some of the other workers. Darryl was scared. This was getting out of control and it was spreading so fast.
Four weeks after his father had died the farm came to a halt. The workers had all gone and his mother was getting weaker and weaker. Darryl couldn’t run the farm on his own and his mother was his first priority. He tried to get a doctor to come out but all doctors were trying to contain the virus in the city.
Claire took Darryl aside on her last night. She told him that he’d been the most wonderful thing in her life and she never regretted a minute of it. She had seen him working hard and following in the footsteps of his father and that there was no mum prouder in the world. She loved him very much and she didn’t ever want him to feel he was alone because in one way or another she and his father would always be there.
She quietly slipped away as Darryl gently sobbed by her side.
Darryl lasted another couple of weeks at the farm. He slaughtered some cattle and sheep and cured the meat and hid it so that he could always come back if he ended up starving.
He left the farm one morning – not looking back. He took his father’s four wheel drive and headed for the city. One way or another he was going to make it..