When you look at a map of Australia, it looks like a big country. When you drive within any part of it, you are certain it is a big country.
My job took me to many states of Australia and this time it took me to Western Australia, up near the top, on the left hand side on the coast a place called Broome.
This town was a kind of staging post for the mining towns built deeper in the desert. These other, smaller towns, were a long way from Broome and even further from each other. My work required that I drive from Broome to a place called Tom Price and then along a joining mining road to another deep desert town with the unlikely name of Paraburdoo.
The custom is that you call by the Police station and tell them if you are making a journey into the bush, as it is known. The reason being, they call the place where you are heading for, where you advise them of your arrival, so that if you fail to arrive, they can come out and look for you.
Call me townie, call me stupid, I actually forgot to do this. In my ignorance i thought a few hours bouncing along a track which in turn ran most of the way alongside a pipeline, which fed, I supposed, water to the town, Tom Price.
This is a lesson to all townies, city folk and foreigners, who think the system of reporting your journey, to be a joke, or unnecessary.
Journey by Day.
I set off a little later than I had intended. The previous evening I had met a guy who was a licensed roo shooter. He was the most taciturn and interesting person I had met in a long time and he did like a drink. Not wishing to be anti social, I tried to keep pace with him, until a six pack turned into many six packs and then ceased to exist at all.
So, hung over and late, I set off for Tom Price.
Reading my map, there was no chance of getting lost because there was only one track which ran most of the way beside a pipeline.
Absolutely could not go wrong.
About ten miles down the track I realised I hadn't informed the police that I was going into the bush, or where I was off to.
In my present state the thought of going back was not welcomed, so I drove on, doing my best to make up the time I had already lost.
The track, was a track. A little wider than a car, very bumpy, stoney and not straight, as I had believed it would be.
By now I was able to focus on the track more intently, so I put my foot a little closer to the floor. The six cylinder Commodore, which I had hired, did what they were famous for. It grunted, it roared, it got up and went. Looking back, I can see that driving between seventy and ninety miles an hour, on that track was not my finest, or most thought out moment.
At that speed, I approached a structure, like a bridge, except this was over a “dip” or gully, the gully was not that deep, neither was the bridge particularly long, however beyond it was a small mob of kangaroos, just sitting, right across the track.
I began breaking and sounding the car horn, which had the same effect as ringing the doorbell at a deaf home. Not one of them even moved.
Recalling the actual impact, is a lot like recalling a dream. The things you thought were moving slowly, actually took short seconds to happen. A memory of burning flesh was more memorable than the crashing thud as the car bumper and radiator grill made its way back, to meet the engine.
Kangaroo parts were cooking gently on the extremely hot engine block and the two dead animals were huge. I cannot say it is vivid in my mind but those memories are permanently imprinted.
The big reds of Western Australia are quite something. Many people never see one up close, or any kangaroo for that matter. I now had one on the road and another in bits, laying on my very wrinkled car bonnet. very close and extremely personal.
After the immediate shock and desperation, which all must feel directly after a collision, I sat thinking what do I do now?
The car wouldn't start, I had not informed anyone of my plans and worse, much worse this was not exactly the express way to anywhere. So the chances of another car coming along this track were remote.
Basically, I was buggered.
Then came the night.
I’m not sure how many people realise that when darkness falls in Australia, it literally falls. We don't get “twilight”, or a fading day into night thing, we have day, then, we have night, just like that.
As shaken up as I was, nothing had quite prepared me for the night, more to the point I guess, THIS night...
There is an odd, almost unreal time between when it is dark and then perhaps, the moon shines.
There is little light to speak of, even though the sky is clear, clear in the same way a cup of pure clean water is clear. Anything that does shine, reflect, or glisten, does so from reflections in the sky.
The moon, at least on this occasion, was huge. Vast actually. The massive size makes you think of movies you may have seen, where close up shots of the moon make you think wow!! how beautiful is that?
Within an hour the moon and all her little sisters were there, glimmering away, the moon had a giant shiny face, surrounded by stars, which were magnificent diamonds competing for dominance.
It was at that moment, I noticed you could actually see the outlines of actual cosmos, if that’s what they're called.
I had never seen such a thing before, the surreal nature of looking somehow into forever, makes you feel very small indeed.
And small, I did feel.
very, very small and now quite uneasy.
I had heard tell of the visibility of the stars, in a clear night sky particularly without light pollution. There it was, a magnificent umbrella of supernatural proportions, from as far as I could see, to even further than I imagined one could see.
Having driven off, as I had done half cocked and mostly unprepared, carrying nothing except a briefcase full of now, useless papers. I realised how cold it had become. Even if that cold was relative, the days are somewhere in the mid to high thirties. Now, it wasn't warm at all, indeed I was bloody freezing. With no clothing to cover myself with.
As a smoker, I had a lighter, but except for the car, (and my business papers) there wasn't anything much to burn. Certainly nothing nearby and I wasn't game to go wandering off. I had left my suitcase in the Hotel in Broome, with all my clothing, which I remembered again and moaned about, again.
So I was stuck with what I was wearing and had to make some other plan, as soon as possible, because I was also hungry, cold and hungry, but by some primitive bit of luck, I did have water. Even I was not so stupid to go anywhere without water. Ever.
Shivering even more now, I began looking about me. The brightness of the moon and richness of the stars had somehow mesmerized me for a short time.
I then came to the uneasy conclusion, I was being watched.
Don't be a dick, I told myself. Who the hell would even be out here, unless they were as stupid as I had been?
If that were so, then why wouldn't they make themselves known, right away?
The bush, yes, (I don't know why they called this particular part of Australia the bush) the tiny stumpy things growing here and there, were anything but bushy.
All the same, they could and did, throw a small shadow, which from the corner of my eye grew and would impossibly, keep moving about.
I jerked my head this way and that, determined not to get myself into a state of panic.
Flicker, russell, glint, one after the other, exaggerated no doubt by my overactive, anxious mind, mixed with fear. Yes, pure fear.
The longer I sat, the more my mind wandered. Maybe it was the other kangaroos, those I had not hit. The mob was about seven, or eight strong, as best as could tell in the few seconds before I murdered two of them.
Revenge, I wondered, how smart were these beasts exactly?
The guy I had spent last evening with, drinking and talking, was a licensed kangaroo shooter.
He told me these roo guys can be pretty cunning. He told me many other things about roos, most of which I put down to his being alone a great deal, with a gun and a six pack, probably lots of six packs, for company. Until he wouldn't have known his rifle from a tinnie.
Right now, I would have settled for a six pack.
Honestly, I would have been mighty grateful for just one can of beer.
It would be easy for me to dismiss the rest of the night, gloss over it. Simply tell of those few times where my flights of fancy ran wild.
I would be less than honest if I was to do that.
I should tell you about the very long, pretty scary night. All of it.
I mentioned before, the dead bodies of the roos.
It now occurred to me, the one which was still whole laying on the road, may not actually be dead. What if I had only knocked it unconscious?
Do kangaroos take revenge? Was it even still there?
I couldn't see from where I was sitting at the time and I was nervous about going over to find out, what if it isnt there any longer?
Those kangaroos were very large fella’s. A Big Red is no pussycat.
I had read a little, about Aboriginal beliefs. Until this night, I had not given a great deal of thought as to why, or how, these beliefs may have come about.
In a blinding flash of revelation, I could understand it so much better now.
The affinity that Aboriginal Australians have with the cosmos, animals and certain locations around the country. somehow all made sense.
My thoughts about the books I had read and the dire situation I currently found myself in, gave me an insight with such clarity that my mind really did begin to drift off, all over the place.
The combination of animal spirits, or worse, the spirits of human beings taking on the form of certain animals, was becoming less of a fantastic belief and more pressing with each thought I had.
By now, I wasn't sure which perturbed me more, the spirit of a man sneaking about as an animal, or an animal spirit, come back to kick my ass for being such a reckless bastard and killing his mate.
Go ahead, scoff at me all you like.
I was the silly sod sitting in the middle of nowhere.
Darkness was punctuated by the stark relief of silver and black, which wouldn't for all the wishing stay in one place.
Whether it was the wind, or small animals, there were noises.
As I was sure there are very few “small” animals in that part of the world, my logic made the illogical more probable and way less appealing.
Having called the Aboriginals to my mind, I was able to add to my fast approaching hysteria, by remembering there were quite a few “problems” between the Abo’s and the white Australians. Some of which were extremely heated and nasty.
Up here, a long, long way from Canberra and Sydney, they might decide to take things up a notch.
So, genius that I was, I had managed to introduce spirits, both of men and animals. Now even live men, all of course out to get me.
As if this wasn't already enough, I had also introduced the possibility of angry ghosts of the kangaroos.
Go ahead, call me names.
Laugh and call me a poofter, or whatever else.
I was there, me, myself and I. Alone, very alone..
As each long miserable hour passed, I became accustomed to the dancing shadows and the chatting things, what ever they were. I even stole myself to go and see if the dead kangaroos, were indeed dead and likely to remain so.
So it went on, all night long.
Overcome, as I had been by the need to be warm, I had torn off the cloth seat covers from inside the car, then wrapped them about myself in the form of trousers and a hastily constructed top.
I must have looked like a cross between Robinson Crusoe and a scarecrow.
Not a pretty sight.
Nevertheless, this is how the wonderful lady found me the in morning light, shortly after dawn.
She was a local. Her job was to run the milk, which she did every few days from Broome to Tom-Price.
She had a flask of hot tea, which I would have bargained my sole for, right there and then, that is, if I still had one after last night. I had done some pretty heavy bargaining at various times through the night.
It was of course, unnecessary, because the lady gave me all the tea I could wish to drink.
The lady, like so many true blue ozzies, said not a word. No judgement, just took it all in at a glance and understood.
Bless her heart, I wasn't game to ask her for a hug, but my goodness, I really could have done with one.
When one relates such a tale, which I was obliged to do. To the car hire company, the police and then my partner, back in Brisbane, who had received a very nasty letter from the car hire company, before I had even arrived home to Queensland. They were amazed that a simple kangaroo accident had destroyed a brand new Commodore saloon.
No worries though, they had insurance and so did I.
I admit, I did not mention, or relate any of my fears, or the frights, during those reports. Or the reason for them.
A man does have his pride.
Anyway they are the sort of things a bloke keeps to himself !!!!!
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