Camped on a clay pan on Hamilton Station. The manager, Phantom, his wife, Allison, and young daughter, Amber, were coming for dinner as our hosts. We’ve met the Phantom before. He has always proved to be a gentleman, if not a bit of a rough diamond. A raconteur of sorts, who entertains our groups regularly with a mix of coarse language, humour, and unique observations on life.
Phantom arrive for our Thai feast, and eased himself into a cold beer and a yarn. Now it should be noted that the Phantom was drinking light beers.
During a blokey moment, the men drifted to Phantom’s ute, and after examining his rifle and .22 magnum pistol, we talked motor bikes and camel hunting. “This is a knife,” says the Phantom as he proudly shows us his camel knife, and forged from a car spring. He uses it to remove the fatty humps from the camels, saving his butcher’s knives.
Around this time our Thai friends, after some persuasion, ply Phantom with a Bundy, and start him on a dangerous course.
Over the next hour or two, the three of them consumed a bottle of Bundy, and a bottle of Thai “whiskey” made from rice. They were full.
Phantom sang us Three Blind Mice in Pitjanjatara. Very amusing. He then asked “Spanish”, one of our Thai ex-pats from Spain, to sing Three Blind Mice in Spanish. Spanish said he didn’t know it, and after pleading and cajoling for some time, we believed him.
Phantom was getting agitated, and disappeared for a minute, only to return with his pistol. He was convinced that Spanish was a terrorist because he didn’t know Three Blind Mice in his native tongue. He demanded that Spanish sing, or he would shoot him. He put the pistol on his head, cocked the hammer and asked again. Spanish didn’t know the song. Phantom held his pistol up and let a round off, put the pistol back on the Spaniard and demanded again.
Allison, the English rose and Phantom’s wife, awoke from her swag, walked across to her husband, and disarmed him.
Total eclipse of the moon. The shadow of the earth first touched the moon with red at about 10.00pm. Slowly the magic light filled the moon from the bottom, turning it into a three-dimensional ball of rock hanging in the night sky. As the light faded, the starts shone, and the sky came alive. Alive like a giant 3-D spider web bedecked with dew jewels, scattered beyond what the human eye can see. The forces of push and pull that keep it all together, keep it all apart, are vibrating with energy. As the moon ball kisses the earth’s shadow, I feel the cosmic tide pulling on my body. The weight of the universe sits on my eyeballs, and I feel lighter than moonbeams.
It’s dawn time down the floodplain
On the lower Cooper Creek
The mist stirs on the waterhole
As the Coolibahs sway and creak.
Like a green and ragged thread
That holds the fragile land
The markers of the sometimes flood
That seeps into the sand.
Where the budgies weave their magic
Among the boughs and leaves
A chattering cloud of colour
That plays among the trees.
They tell us tales of travellers
Who camped beneath their leaves
All the characters of the myths
That feed our modern dreams
The poets told the stories
Of how the dying stockman lay
And how the swagman boiled his billy
In the cool of the Coolibah shade.
How the men of far horizons
And the dying and the lost
All blazed their mark upon the trees
As a message on a post.
So now on your evening walk
Along the Coolibah shore
Think of the countless wanderers
Who have rested there before.
The Dierri and the Wongaroo (Wangkanguru)
The parched and desperate drover
All those who sought the shelter
Of the Coolibah standing over.
For now all is soft and pretty
The waterhole is fair
But imagine the searing heat of summer
When it burns to breathe the air.
Once again, we visit the protest camp. Our host, come presenter, is another of life’s psycho-nodes who are washed up in the backwaters and eddies of society. Let’s just call him the gate-keeper. He did actually confront us at the gate, fearing we were WMC people.
When asked to expand on the “water issue” at Lake Eyre south, he quickly went off on a conspiracy theory. He told us about the underground, how it’s inhabited by aliens with eyes as big as a phone book. They inject your blood with “irradium” so they can track you. He is an orphan because his mother (who owned a $10,000 green couch) worked for, and was murdered by, the CIA & AMEX. His father died when his pink coupe with black stripes careered off the end of St Kilda Pier. He has a CD that details the genocide of humanity that he has to reveal to the world.
Tomorrow night is a full eclipse of the moon by the earth’s shadow, and he is off to a dance party.
"Words are clumsy pretenders of the images of my mind."
As a practicing artist I have travelled far and wide across Australia, walked on country, camped on country and rolled out my swag. I thank the custodians and I acknowledge the traditional owners of country throughout Australia and their continuing connection to land, culture and community. I pay my respect to Elders past and present.