This is a true story, as well as I can remember it, anyway. It happened to (or was caused by) my grandfather. He was working as a drover or as a stockman (I don’t know the difference) at the time.
“We were working out past Barcaldine – out near the black stump, it was – and we pitched up next to this little billabong. All the usual little things were going on – some bludger always jumps into the water, desperate to wash away the red dirt and the flies, someone else gets the fire going, puts the billy on to boil…”
“A chill was gettin’ into the air – that touch of frost as night sets in, when you’re sleeping on the ground and right next to the water.”
“Roger came back to camp – he was our Black-tracker; don’t look at me like that boy, it’s not racist, it’s what they were called in those days.”
“Anyway, we’d sent Rog out to track us down some tucker, some roo tail or a little wallaby, gotta be small or they’re full of worms and stringy, too stringy. Maybe some goanna. Whatever he could rustle up. He comes back into the camp, and sees Johnno shaving in the billabong, scraping the blunt-edged blade against his sandpaper jaw. Now, kooris don’t like you putting any of your rubbish into their water – someone else might come along and need to drink that water you’ve fouled up.”
“He comes back and goes bananas. ‘Get out of the water – you’ll get the emu-man on to ya!’ The emu-man has emu feet – he’ll kill you for defiling his waterholes. Hates the smell of white men, the smell of soap and tobacco. Toothpaste. Hates our stench. Johnno said something about him being a superstitious black bastard – and I heard him muttering you white fellas reckon you know about everything, but you don’t about the bush…”
“We taught him a lesson overnight – scattered emu feathers and claw prints around the fire…never seen a man run that fast!”
Not much of a story today for the A to Z Challenge, and yes, I know I’m a day behind, but I’ll write a story on Sunday to make up for it. And I just travelled 7000 kilometres with three small children, so I think that’s a pretty solid excuse.