Hepburn Springs, Victoria, October 2022.

Bendigo, Victoria, May 2006.

Mum grew up in Victoria’s Western District surrounded by dogs and sheep and was a primary school teacher for many years.

She was also a hands-on Gran from the get-go, so it came as no surprise when a retired library video, Don Spencer’s Thumbs Up! Australia was tucked into our toddler’s overnight bag.

Sh Sh Sugar Glider; Please Don’t Call Me a Koala Bear; Dig, Dig Dig Like a Wombat and other Australian children’s songs provided sleep and sanity through the third trimester of a tiring twin pregnancy.

But the song that made a lasting impression on me was Bob The Kelpie. His namesake travelled with us, while the melody slipped away until we moved to Hepburn Springs; a decision that came as little surprise to those who knew us best.

We toyed with the idea of returning to the area for three or four years and inspected countless properties but there was always a reason to delay.

Our jobs were in Bendigo, our son needed to be ferried to work, the girls were settled in school and property prices down south were through the roof.

Then, this year, things changed – the pull that began as a niggle, progressed to a call and wound up a scream.

We went from hosting high tea for Dad’s Australia Day 80th birthday with Mum bringing the egg and lettuce sandwiches, to her being diagnosed with stage four cancer about a month later.

So, our sporadic house search sped up, with things aligning when the real estate agent convinced us to step inside a property we hadn’t intended to inspect.

It was much smaller (the girls would have to share a room), it was much smaller (we would have to adapt to living with less stuff), it was much smaller (we would have to get creative when our son comes home long or short term) but it immediately felt like home.

The Maine Movers patiently picked up a truckload of furniture and personal possessions and planted us in Hepburn.

A couple of day later the girls and I were wondering whether wading through boxes of bubble wrap and newspaper sheets would ever end. Then we grabbed the lead and took Bob the dog for a walk, winding up at Harry’s Hepburn, a cafe on Main Road.

Just as the drinks were being served Bob bounced up.

“Bob, sit … Bob!”

Bob the dog.

The waitress began to fuss over our beautiful boy before telling us us her husband, Mark,  played banjo on a song called Bob The Kelpie.

My sleep-deprived mind flooded with memories.

I didn’t want to say our Bob was named after a dog in a song by that very name, but what were the chances, really?

The most I offered was: “My son loved to listen to a song he had on CD … or something … it couldn’t be the same song, could it?”

“It was recorded a long time ago, as you know, it was Mark’s first session as a professional  musician, but yes… “ the waitress smiled.

As the girls and I walked (and carried) Bob back home through hilly Hepburn the song’s melody and lyrics resurfaced.

As soon as I could I rang Mum.

“Oh, I remember the evening you brought the girls home from hospital, it was Dave’s 40th birthday … Paul and Hayley from his work popped around and James was just a little tacker, overtired and overwhelmed. All he wanted was Bob The Kelpie,” she said.

“As I heated the casserole Paul sat by the video player ready to rewind the tape back to Bob The Kelpie again and again…”

James always wanted a Kelpie to call Bob. He didn’t get a Kelpie, but he did get a dog.

His name is Bob. Bob the dog.

 

Stereo Story #687

*Don Spencer was a host on ABC TV’s Play School from 1968 to 1999. He was also a presenter on the BBC version from 1972 to 1988. He is now 81.

 

 

Kate Foulds grew up on the family farm in Musk, in central Victoria. She completed a post-graduate journalism cadetship at Kyneton’s Midland Express before cultivating her craft at The Bendigo Advertiser. Kate enjoys crochet and serving customers at a Bendigo boutique. She is mother to a son and daughters who are identical twins.