On Tuesday I spent the afternoon putting sealer on the wooden furniture. I had done two benches and a chair before David came wandering up. He asked me how much more I had left and I said I had three chairs, a table and a barrel. Rather than encourage me to finish, David suggested we all three knock off early to go check out the Fairbairn Dam, a local attraction he wanted to show us.
The American in me wanted to stay and finish my work, but the Australian in me said, ah, what the heck! Finish it tomorrow.
In a matter of minutes, Matthew, David and I were in the truck headed into town.
Emerald is a city of about 12,000. It's an adorable town that originated as a railway community in the 1800s. Everything in town is clean and nice. The streets are roomy with a traditional charm. The city is a gateway to a handful of towns known for gemstone production. These towns have just as wonderful of names as Emerald: Sapphire and Rubyvale.
As we pulled into town, David casually mentions a giant sunflower painting that I might be interested in. Duh! So we stop in town to see this huge, amazing, easel with—not just a sunflower painting—but a Van Gogh sunflower painting on it!
I was starstruck.
The guys thought I was kidding when I said it was the coolest thing I had seen so far on our trip. When I assured them I was serious, Matthew said he felt sorry for me because that meant the former parts of our trip had to be pretty bland in my mind. It wasn't that the other parts were bland, it was just that this giant easel was so awesome! For one, it was a GREAT tourism idea—my head was reeling already! And for two, it's the wacky stuff like this that you remember. How many times have I written about this in my Chamber column? How many meetings did I spend trying to convince people that weird is rememberable! Here stood exhibit A.
Third of all, I sort of considered myself an artist and I loved painting and easels and finally a town acknowledged the awesomeness of painting and made a monument of it!
It wasn't until later that I learned the full story of the easel. Apparently a man named Cameron Cross began this “Big Easel Project” several years back. His goal is to reproduce all seven of Van Gough's famous sunflower paintings on big easels and place one on every continent in the world. I love this!
The first easel is in Manitoba, Canada, the second is in Emerald, Queensland, Australia, and the third is in Goodland, Kansas of all places. Naturally, now I want to go see the one in Goodland Kansas. I explained all of this awesomeness to the guys but they really didn't care as much as I wanted them to.
After the easel I followed my way around a mosaic walkway that was just as magical as I had anticipated, and then we were back in the truck, headed to the dam.
The dam was cool, but it was sort of just like every lake dam in Oklahoma. I realized that lakes are sort of a novelty to Australians because they are spoiled to beaches. Lakes are kind of like—different. This became apparent as I noticed how proud Emerald was of their dam and lake. From this lake comes all of the irrigation for the cotton, citrus orchards and vineyard throughout the region. It was named after Mr. David Fairbairn, the Federal Minister for National Development in 1967.
After driving through the dam area we drove back into town and stopped at a camping and fishing store, just for the fun of it. I tried on a hat and made cool comments at the camping gear the guys pointed out.
The fun part came afterwards.
David said we could get Wendy's ice cream! Matthew and I started talking about which flavor we'd get and how we could get fries to dip in the shakes, just like in America.
But then we realized Wendy's was a local merchant and not the American enterprise we thought it was going to be. Fortunately, this Wendy's was even better than the one back home. I got a Mega Super Shake which was basically a vanilla milkshake mixed with chocolate candies and topped with a big scoop of double chocolate chip ice cream.
THIS was the dessert I had been craving.
Australian's have nice desserts but let me tell you, they don't do it like we do back home. They have nice, modest things like scones and cinnamon cakes and things. These are nice, but my sweet tooth often craves something much crazier. Something with a combination of flavors and fats and sugars. This was that.
We ended our day by getting groceries and cooking burgers and sweet potatoe chips for dinner. Grant joined us for a ping pong competition and we all went to bed full and happy.