Characters I have met

Russ and Darlene Applegate

When I first met Russ, he was a young spirited cheeky old man with a limp. The kind of man who looked you in the eye when he talked to you. Always up front in saying just what he meant.

Having lived a hard yakker[note] life full of ups and downs [/note] life, he and his wife of several years were now retired and living the full life of gem hunting and fossicking. They also followed the road of most of the shows throughout the year, though Winter was one of their favourite times of the year when they would congregate up in Central West Queensland at a little town called Sapphire.[note] One of the small towns west of Emerald, named after the gem that was found in this location [/note]

Russ and Darlene had their favourite fossicking areas they would go to during their time up there in the winter. Usually Russ would be sitting on the ground, resting up against a nearby tree and giving orders to Darlene to dig more, or ask what she had whenever she stopped for a moment to examine a piece that looked interesting.

Every year from 1988 was Gemfest [note] An annual festival of gems which was one of the biggest festivals in Queensland of the year. Visitors from all around Australia, as well as international visitors would come to fossick, look and buy, or join in the fun of trading and selling at a local bit of ground at Anakie. All to raise much needed funds for the Royal Flying Doctors[/note] in August. It was a big event and meant that the local gem fossickers, cutters and collectors could take advantage of it to sell their wares to the thousands of visitors which flocked to the area. We travelled up there for many years under the banner of Greg’s Showcase and were easily visible in the large marquise with our bright yellow signs.

One particular year Russ and Darlene had a successful harvest in their fossicking. They always came to the marquise to see us and say g’day. I  looked out for them as I enjoyed chatting with a couple of genuine Aussies. So Darlene came ahead of Russ to say g’day to Greg and myself. She was beaming, and looked around to see where Russ was before she began talking.

Darlene’s smile did not diminish as she opened up her purse and brought a small match box out from inside her bra  to show us both. As she opened it up, she looked up at both of us, then around to make sure Russ was no where to be seen. A glint in her eye appeared and her smile beamed across her sun-tanned face. It was a rare sight in itself, to see Darlene smiling so widely, showing a gold filled tooth in her upper teeth.

Out she pulled a beautiful golden blue party sapphire. It was easily the size of my thumbnail. Definitely the size of hers. She was not a small woman and her hands were the hands of a well worked woman. Her nails, although kept short were wide and big. The sapphire was clean except for a small patch in the middle of one side. It would still cut a nice piece, possibly up to ten carat. She was beaming.

The best part of this brief meeting was what she turned to us and said….

“He don’t know about this, and I ain’t telling him either”

Then she let out a hearty laugh while she packed it back away and pushed it back into her bra for safe keeping.  I was in between giggles when Russ walked past to say g’day and asked “You seen Darlene?” before limping off into the crowd.

My day was made. It has been well over twenty years since this incident happened. We had caught up with Russ and Darlene again afterwards, many for a few more years before we eventually stopped attending the shows. Not another word was ever mentioned about that Golden Sapphire. I do still wonder what ever happened to this wonderful couple.

 

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