SNAKE OF PALMER RIVER
We sailed onwards from Curtin Springs. On this stretch of road, Matt and I were the Captain and Skipper of the good ship Land Rover. We rode up and over waves of copper-coloured sand dunes, juddered along stormy corrugations, and crept through stony creek beds.
As the sun hovered above a line of gum trees in the distance, a sign to Palmer Valley rose out of the mirage. Crossing the dry creek bed lined with eucalypt trees, their trunks white and thick and branches covered with lush green leaves, Dad slowed the vehicle to a crawl. He then turned into the creek and drove the Rover along a track of soft sand. After travelling some distance down the dry river bed, he stopped. The men stepped out from the Rover.
‘I think we’ll camp here tonight,’ Dad said.
‘You’ve got no argument with me,’ Mr. B replied. He gazed around at the cream-coloured sand and shady gum trees. ‘Now why didn’t you find somewhere like this before?’
Mr. B rubbed his hands together. ‘Right time to get the BBQ together and fire it up.’
While the older men cooked the meat, the lads ventured out to shoot some meat of their own. I followed at a safe distance. Walking over to a track that crossed the riverbed, I spotted a dark long object.
‘Hey, look at this,’ I yelled to the boys.
They stopped and turned.
‘Careful,’ Richard said.
‘Is that a snake?’ Matt asked. He raised his rifle.
I tip-toed up to the long dark creature and peered at it. A brown snake, two metres in length, lay across the track.
‘It’s a snake,’ I said.
‘Get out the way,’ Richard said. He raised his rifle and squinted lining up the target with his “iron sight” (the bit at the end of the rifle’s nozzle that helps with the shooter’s aim).
‘It’s not moving.’ I trod a couple of steps closer.
‘What are you doing? It might strike,’ Richard shouted.
‘They’re poisonous, you know,’ Matt added.
‘It’s alright.’ I walked up to it. In two places the snake appeared to be flattened. ‘There’s tyre marks across its body. It’s dead. Very dead.’
Richard crouched down beside the effigy and then picked it up. ‘Yep, it’s dead.’
‘And some car’s the culprit,’ Matt said.
As the sun sank into the horizon, casting its tangerine magic on the trunks of the river gums, the T-Team gathered around the BBQ.
‘Well, ma boys,’ Mr B flipped a steak in the pan, ‘you got anything to add?’
Richard and Matt glanced at each other and then gazed at the pink and grey waves of sand of Palmer River.
I giggled. ‘They wanted to, but their shooting venture was fruitless.’
‘That’s a shame,’ Dad said. ‘Ah, well.’
‘We could have the snake,’ I said.
‘I don’t think so,’ Dad cleared his throat, ‘we’re not that desperate.’
So, while parrots chattered in the gum trees celebrating another brilliant day in the Centre of Australia, having escaped the boys’ efforts to shoot them, we savoured our juicy steak from Curtin Springs Station.
© Lee-Anne Marie Kling 2016
Photo: Finke, I think © C.D. Trudinger 1981
[Palmer River is a tributary of the Finke River. The photo above reminds me of our Palmer River campsite.]