The Big Country

Hey Annie

You had been in the Territory for 18 months and by the end of 2002 it was time to come home.

I think you put it this way.

“Dad if I don’t come home and do the other things I want to do, I never will, this place gets under your skin and there is so much to do”.

I hadn’t been up to see you when you had been away and communication was not great, except when you would go to Alice Springs for the weekend, often our conversations at these times would be late at night when you were barely sober.

The perils of working on a “dry” settlement, hundreds of kilometres from Alice Springs would get the better of you, the nurses and you would head to town for a big night out.

I flew up on Saturday afternoon and you met me at the Alice Springs Airport before we spent the night at a motel in town and then headed west, the next morning, to collect the last of your belongings at Haasts Bluff and of course; Bodie the dog.

Two and a half hours of travel on a dusty track, but you seemed to know every pothole and we got to the settlement unscathed.

The starkness, the silence and the solitude of this magnificent setting was only broken by the barking of the dogs and the guttural shouts of the people as you wandered around to say your goodbyes.

There was sadness in your eyes as you bade farewell to these people whose life you had been part for the last 12 months.

We loaded your belongings, made considerably heavier because of the red dust that invaded every crevice of your being, and then headed back on the same track we had come out on.

Bodie licked my lilywhite hands as if they were fresh meat and then snuggled down on the back seat. He could not have known what his future would hold, but there was an awareness he was leaving the only home he had known on these vast red plains. He would rummage and nudge the luggage, as if to say, “this was not here the last time we went to town”

That dog was to have a truly remarkable life; born and raised in the desert, making a home in Sydney and then the cold of Canberra, before finishing his days in the snow and green of England.

We had one night in The Alice and you spent the Monday morning. doing all the necessaries to change your life before we hit the road early afternoon. Travelling about 400 Kilometres before we pulled into Coober Pedy for our first night on the road. I had not been here since 1967 when we had been on a school trip through “The Centre”, but, seemingly nothing had changed in the intervening years.

An early start the next morning, so we could make the 1,100 kilometres to Mildura we had planned for, we went through three States that day flicking through the north of the Barossa and skirting Adelaide. We would talk about all manner of things as we re-established the deep bonds we had always shared.

Wednesday saw us leave Mildura a bit after sunrise and head East; collecting two speeding fines as we hurried across the plains, I think we shared the fines as we shared the driving, so both of us were at fault.

Another 1,100 kilometres for the day, saw us arrive in Sydney late in the afternoon and we arrived at Mum’s place just in time for dinner.

Thank you, Annie, for letting me share this journey with you, it was another special time.





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