Away in the lonely graveyard
Under the lonely sod
Lie our darling parents
Resting in peace with God

John and Maria Moody both lived for 75 years; John dying in 1901 and Maria in 1914. They are both buried together near Cambrai with the above inscription on their grave marker. As you may guess from that inscription it is a lonely spot, leaving one to speculate on the anguish of their children to have been prompted to write this.

Standing in the small rundown, dilapidated yard, with its litter of tiny graves and a few of full size, overgrown with shrubs and weeds, brings on a wave of nostalgia, with the bare, windswept paddock, surrounding the broken rusty wire yard; the stark and barren hills as backdrop and stretching away from them to infinity, the vast mallee plain. There seems no reason now, for the graves to be sited there, but I guess there was reason enough at the time; so many of them children too, babies mostly. Their mothers’ grief perpetuated by the isolated and lonely site.

A few hundred metres to the south, Pine Hut Creek breaks away from the bare hills and meanders its way down an extensive incline to the plain. Its sand and gravel bed, dry most of the time; the course marked by Red Gums and Mallee Box, indicating that a considerable quantity of water actually flows underground, along its course. It being said that one large Red Gum sucks up to 45 litres of water per day. The creek never makes it to the River Murray, some 40 kilometres to the east. In fact it barely comes off the hilly incline. A few kilometres after crossing the Cambrai-Sedan road, and after passing through a patch of remnant scrub, it terminates at a small lake.

An enchanting area, with or without Lake Moodie water in it, described these days by ecologists as ‘dry wetland’. This silt depression, that collects and holds water during heavy rains and fringed by River Box trees, is called ‘Lake Moodie’, after the man buried in the lonely graveyard.

One can stand at his grave and, looking to the east down the incline, you can pick out the patch of scrub in the distance, with the fringe of River Box trees that hides the site his name was given to.

Some months ago I spoke to Mr Jack Starick who is retired now and lives at Nuriootpa, but grew up and lived near Cambrai. Jack was born not long after John Moody died, and he remembers the story about the lake’s discovery. Apparently the area was leased as part of Rosebank Station in the early to mid-19th century, with the homestead then situated where the Marne River breaks away from the Mount Lofty Ranges. John Moody was one of the shepherds and at one time had been missing long enough that the owner went looking for him. He was found safe and well, camped by a small lake nestled in the scrub.

One doesn’t feel the loneliness at this place, the birds are ever moving and calling. The beautiful stands of River Box trees seem to exude a promise of things to come, an atmosphere of a place to be. On a sunny day, even when the lake is dry, there is almost the presence of a subtropical micro climate, brought on I guess by the Eucalyptus oil haze from the trees and the uncalculated volumes of water stored below ground that the trees draw upon and transpire. Whatever the cause for the shift in emotions, for me it illustrates the importance of trees, without having to resort to economic and practical justification. Elation is a form of happiness and standing here, it’s free. Try standing at the two sites for a time (the area around the graves and then Lake Moodie in the late afternoon) and experience the difference for yourself. Enjoy what John Moody discovered nearly 150 years ago. Had he and his wife been buried there, I suspect their children would have thought of a different grave-site inscription. Just what, one cannot know, but I guess ‘lonely’ would have been a word left out of the verse.

Nov-Dec 1994