On a back road to the old family home the sight was guaranteed to gladden any heart.
Nearing the crest of the hill the road curves slightly around a rocky outcrop.
Now look up and … there, atop a big granite boulder, a greeting party of half a dozen gnomes straddles the gateway to the Shire of Mt Alexander.
They never cease to put a smile on my face. Each time I returned home the wee concrete folk were steadfast in their welcome.
Who cemented them there in a spot so precise they could be seen only on entering the shire, not leaving, and then visible only for a split second before the road dropped away to the valley below.
Many people who travelled that road never spied them. Some we Shire folk told to look out for them thought we were mad.
Then one day I wound up the hill and the gnomes were not just gone, but massacred. The bloody red stumps of trousers identifiable as belonging to the two largest ones and a little disembodied head were all that remained.
I let out an involuntary cry. It was shocking, as much for the malice aforethought as the effort it must have taken to get up there just to tear a little whimsy from the world.
For some weeks after I took an alternate route. Eventually, commonsense put me back on track and I’d near gnome man’s land wishing hard to find they’d been replaced.
Today their concrete stumps are barely distinguishable from the granite.
And I wonder that they were ever there at all.