A tough two years since devastation of cyclone Yasi
TOUGH people. That's what you could call Cardwell's Allan and Wanda Schmidt.
He's 86 and she's 66. They are in a new house now. Their old one was blown to kingdom come by cyclone Yasi on February 2, 2011.
They spent just less than 300 days living in a small caravan before the new house was built. The heat was terrible those first few months and the rain didn't stop for weeks. You could call in and see Allan and Wanda and they'd make a cup of tea and talk about anything but their own predicament.
They stood out because no matter how long the delays, no matter how bewildering the insurance world, they never said anything that sounded like a complaint.
You might try to help Allan and Wanda, but they'd just say everything was fine.
I was sitting with them in the laundry of their destroyed home in April 2011, nearly two and a half months after Yasi.
The laundry was piled with possessions they had salvaged from the house. The floor was wet from the rain and almost everything you touched was moist.
The caravan was so hot they spent most of their day sitting in the laundry, drinking tea and talking to each other.
They were using a generator to run lights and boil the kettle. Money was tight for fuel and they were limiting the time they ran the generator.
They didn't like to badger the insurance company.
The phone rang. Allan picked it up. A woman from the insurance company was on the line.
I listened to Allan talking to her and could tell by what he was saying that again he was being told that their claim was still being processed.
Towards the end of the conversation, Allan said to the woman on the line: ``No, no, I don't want to put anyone out or be a nuisance.''
When Allan put the phone down, I said to him that next time he spoke to one of the company's agents he should explain the situation he and Wanda were in and ask that their ages be taken into consideration.
Allan wasn't annoyed when I said it. He didn't tell me to mind my own business. He shook his head and said: ``No, no, those young girls are doing everything they can.''
What can you do with people like that except take your hat off to them?
He was a timber cutter and mackerel fisherman when he was younger. Wanda fished with him. It was a tough, hard life.
They were both raised with hard work. Staying at school wasn't an option. Life was all about work and looking out for yourself.
It was the way they were raised and the way they lived. They were people who never asked for any quarter. When the cyclone came, they still didn't ask.
You couldn't see it in Allan's eyes or in Wanda's when you spoke to them. But, the emotion was there, buried deep down below with a metre of cement on top.
In October 2011, the cement cracked. Allan had a heart attack.
Wanda thought he was going to die. A tough nut, he spent only one night in hospital and then he was back in the caravan.
Allan was angry with himself for having the heart attack. It was as though he saw it as a weakness on his part.
"I got to learn when I get unstuck ...'' he told me, stopping mid-sentence. "I got to learn to just shut up.''
I was there in their destroyed home after the cyclone. The roof was gone. Walls were smashed in and their possessions, what was left of them, lay in sodden piles.
They were curious, more than anything, that someone would be interested in what had happened to them.
Brisbane and the Lockyer Valley had been hit by disastrous floods weeks before in January. Wanda, instead of worrying about their own situation, was thinking of the people in the southeast who had lost loved ones and homes.
They're in their new home now. They are as content as two people can be. Allan has a few health issues.
Nothing too serious, but his doctor has him on iron tablets.
"I better keep away from that Gina Rinehart,'' he said last week.
"Why's that, Allan?" I asked.
"She'll send me to bloody China."
Tough people? You bet.
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Standouts: Wanda and Allan Schmidt outside their new home in Cardwell. Picture: EVAN MORGAN