19.11.21

Beyond the Black Stump

 Beyond the Black Stump




You want to know what it’s like out there? I can tell you. I’ve been. A few times.


You’ll hear different things from different people. Some will tell you of our native drop bears, their dangerous habit of dropping straight down out of trees onto unsuspecting travellers. (Don’t walk under the trees!) Or the bunyip calling from some lonely waterhole to entice you in. (You won’t come out again.)


Some will warn you about wild dingoes – which might sound more mundane, more believable. But though they look like dogs, they’re far from tame. Or you’ll hear about herds of marauding camels which could rampage through your campsite any night. And snakes and scorpions, too.


You'll be told to take much more water than you think you’ll need. A car repair kit would be handy as well. Also a good blanket; the desert nights are freezing. They’ll say, tell people where you’re going: your route, your destination, your ETA. They'll tell you over and over: if you break down, never leave your car. No-one will ever find your body out there.


Yarns to scare the tourists? Only one of those things isn’t true. 


Someone might mention the deep red earth, stretching flat in all directions; the grey-green scrub; colourful rocks rising suddenly out of nowhere in gigantic curves; anthills as big as trees; the white bark of the ghost gums.


The silence of the desert night. Impossible crowds of stars, so clear in that enormous sky.


If they went through in a good year, they’ll have seen evidence of rain – birds thronging the pools (water in the pools!), flowers blooming in the scrub.


They might describe a natural spring, deep outback where you’d never expect to find any such thing – skin temperature, surrounded by lush vegetation, deep and wide enough to swim.


Perhaps someone will whisper of rock paintings so old no-one knows their date; of special rituals for greeting the earth in particular places; of the spirits of ancient elders who might appear; of a mighty rainbow serpent … or mutter about mines wounding the land.


Tales to dazzle visitors? Only one thing I’ve listed is a lie. (It’s not the bunyip. It’s not the rainbow serpent.)






Written for FridayWritings #3 at Poets and Storytellers United, to the prompt: 'Describe the scenery beyond the black stump' – which should speak to Aussies in particular.

Photo of outback Queensland by Greg Spearritt, on Unsplash.



39 comments:

  1. It's the absolute draw of the outback.. no matter how many challenges, still makes me want to go there! Someday!!

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    1. I hope you do! It's actually rather wonderful.

      (And then come and stay a few days with me! But I guess we'll have to wait for the pandemic to wear itself out.)

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    2. Rosemary, thank you so very much for telling of the outback, I missed it of course for lovely visits in Tasmania and Sydney when I came. I could have come way back in my married life relief holiday. Our company, Ford Aerospace, had the contract to install, operate and maintain the satellite tracking station at Canarvan back in the late 60's and early 70's. There were NASA stations near both east and west coasts for our work places. My friends went but I stayed here in Houston. Divorced from my ex but still and always Dad for four kids. Plus I had gone back to college, better stayed too to meet my new and current wife.
      Loved the prompt, Rosemary, I'd picked my "saying" early but not too much good came to me about it. Too simple I think, must have had books on my mind. I use covers of new books at the library, then write (assemble) my spine poem from there. Seldom do I check one out to read. I may get the "Shakespeare for Squirrels" book. My beagle dog Adi, a registered therapy dog, a reading dog also, would have loved to have read it ei6th me. She chased the squirrels.
      ..

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    3. Well, Tassie and Sydney are not to be missed!

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  2. Your bear reminds me of the monkeys atop the Rock at Gibraltor. They love tourists.
    ..

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  3. By your descriptions - a wonderful place to visit. I think the dingoes would worry me though as I am not to keen on dogs of any variety, due to an unpleasant experience when I was three...
    The drop bears I would find fascinating! Or perhaps I'm fibbing!
    Loads of love
    Anna :o]

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    1. It is a wonderful place to visit! Well, it's been a long time since I travelled there, but I didn't see that many dingoes. I think it is perfectly possible to avoid them.

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  4. And now it is flooding out past the black stump...and to top things off there is a locust plague.You forgot to mention the bats which tear your hair out...LOL...seriously though you have to keep your wits about you when are out there...mistakes or carelessnes can be fatal...tis all manageable with the right attitude. I have always intended to write a survival book for city slickers but never got around to it.

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    1. That would be a terrific book! (And would probably make more money than poetry, lol.)

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  5. A wonderful description of your belonging place, Rosemary. My dear friend from Perth introduced me to so many things about Australia and it's ancient heritage. Thanks for sharing.

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    1. Like most Australians I live on what we call 'the coastal fringe', very different from our vast inland. But I guess all Aussies kind of own and identify with that red heart (aka 'dead heart'! Though it's far from dead). It is in our cultural consciousness, and visceral, even for the many who have never visited it in the flesh.

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  6. Yet brave hearts will visit. An absorbibg account.
    Thanks for dropping by my blog

    Much💛love

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  7. Oh, I love this vivid description of the outback. It sounds so wonderful, especially the clear stars in the desert night sky. and i could look at the aboriginal rock drawings all day.
    I know some of the Australian words like dingo because we nicknamed one of our co-workers that. and i know what a billabong is because I have some shirts of that brand. Anyway, i am wondering what is the 'lie' there. I am thinking it might be the camels but I think the Brits might have introduced those animals there to explore the desert.
    Anyway, an informative and entertaining post. :)

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    1. Not the camels, no. You are quite right: the British introduced them in the 19th Century.

      I am surprised only one person has picked up the lie so far (managing to tell me without openly giving it away). And of course Rall would know, and would know that I know she knows, but hasn't revealed it. It's just a little myth we Aussies like to tease others with, while swearing it's true.

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  8. Now I want to pack up my gear and head out there. You've described so many wonders... and the tone you've used to describe them--like a secret--makes the whole thing more alluring. This is just wonderful, Rosemary.

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    1. I'm so glad. I had three goes at it – first very factual, secondly humorous rhyming verse that I decided was mere doggerel, and finally opened my heart and poured.

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  9. I'm going to guess it's the bit about bodies never being found. I'm sure sometimes a few bones do turn up here and there. :D

    We Americans can get really wild (and wildly wrong) notions of what other countries are like. I love this glimpse of Australia from the point of view of someone who lives there and am charmed (as well as appropriately respectful of the things that live there).

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    1. Good guess, but wrong. That's more an exaggeration than a lie. It's true enough that to wander away from your car would be very dangerous and probably fatal. It is also true that some people missing in the desert have never been found, dead or alive; the chances are very high that they are dead.

      This is not a glimpse of the whole of Australia. The coastal fringe where most of us live is very different from what I've described here.

      When I visited Texas in 2006 I got rather sick of people there informing me that I live in a flat, dry country with no trees – their idea of the whole place formed by images of the outback. No, I live among mountains, rivers, trees taller than any I saw in Texas, and close to the ocean.

      But it is true that I have travelled through the inland a few times and can describe it accurately.

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    2. Oh yes, I should have been clearer that it was just a part of Australia. On a continent so big it couldn't be the whole of it any more than chill San Francisco, the stately Grand Canyon, busy New York, or brash Philadelphia make up the whole of the US. I apologize for the Texans (a thing I find myself doing a lot lately).

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    3. Oh the Texans were perfectly lovely in every other way, and several have remained my dear friends ever since.

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  10. mountains in texas, that's funny. you should come to colorado, i think you would like colorado. fishing in australia the seeing the outback is on my list, some time within the next ten years. loved all your descriptions, enjoyed the read rosemary.

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    1. I was referring to the mountains here. (I open my front door every day and look across at them.) And yes, I'm sure I'd like Colorado, from what I've heard. But I did appreciate the parts of Texas I saw, particularly the hill country around Kerrville, and I fell very much in love with the Guadalupe RIver.

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    2. Or to my part of the world, Central Oregon surrounded by the Cascades, snow covered as winter advances. So breathtakingly lovely.

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    3. I shall return, I shall return. If I say it often enough will it come true? I hope so ... I explored your East coast from top down to Sydney, now I must venture inland. Your prose makes me hunger for another visit. And I am stumped as to what 'is a lie.' Do tell.

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    4. But I might have to kill you if I do!

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  11. Proceed with caution and awe. Camels?

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    1. Camels are an introduced animal of course, but they are present in numbers, many of them wild now.

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    1. Just because some people don't believe in them doesn't mean they don't exist. (It is true they are very rare, and may even have died out by now.) Many stories the Original people tell have been dismissed as myths – but in recent times archaeologists have discovered them to be perfectly, true – literally true. Such as the existence of giant versions of all the native animals, exactly as described in the so-called myths.

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  13. I'm not even going to try to guess where the lie is. I simply want to say that, except for some of the creatures you mention, you could have been describing the Desert Southwest in the U.S. Uncanny resemblance!

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    1. I wish I could come and see for myself! It always sounds so beautiful, and your photos bear that out.

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  14. So many ways of scaring tourists. But wanderlust travelers would be dazzle by the vivid scenery captured in your poem.

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  15. If I ventured a guess as to which is the lie, I would be wrong. My knowledge is lacking of the dangers of the Australian interior. The dangerous wandering into the cornfields of the US midwest don't have the same fear (just follow the rows).
    I would love to visit your world as well as have you visit mine. The next best thing is to have our words shared, which you've done just fine.

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    1. I have visited parts of the USA, which I enjoyed very much, but there would be so much more still to see. Never made it to the midwest.

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  16. The narration is excellent, touching the required poits.

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