Full of Bull
[Extract from The T-Team with Mr B: Central Australia 1977, a prequel to Trekking With the T-Team: Central Australian Safari 1981.
The T-Team with Mr B — In 1977 Dad’s friend Mr Banks and his son, Matt (not their real names), joined Dad, my brother (Rick) and me on this journey of adventure. I guess Dad had some reservations how I would cope… But it soon became clear that the question was, how would Mr B who was used to a life of luxury cope? Especially when the T-Team encroach on a bull’s stomping ground.]
The Rover lumbered along barely visible ruts in the sand; fine red sand pock-marked with spinifex, saltbush, the occasional acacia and rocks. My brother Rick, Matt and I huddled in the back cabin. Out of the dusty window, I caught glimpses of mountain cliffs emerging over the stumps of the immediate foothills.
In the front, Mr. B spread a detailed map over his knees and dashboard.
‘I say, ol’ chap,’ Mr. B cleared his throat, ‘where, exactly are you taking us?’
‘Mount Liebig bore,’ Dad replied.
‘Are you sure we can get there without our trusty guides?’
‘Eventually, we have the map.’
‘But, where’s the road?’
‘It’s there, I can see it.’ Dad adjusted his weight in the driver’s seat. ‘Anyway, if we get stuck, we have the kids to help us. Besides, S and N are just out hunting, they’re around if we get lost.’
‘And how are we meant to contact them, if that happens?’ Mr. B locked his gaze on Dad. ‘Smoke signals?’
‘Er, um, well, H gave me very good directions to reach the bore, and then the road is more marked. So, we’ll be right.’
Mr. B pursed his lips as the Rover groaned over a bump, and then muttered, ‘I hope so.’
The T-Team elders perched in the front seat of the Rover in silence as they negotiated the art of bush-bashing towards Mount Liebig bore. Mount Liebig rose above the foothills by increments, cliffs growing like a pair of front teeth.
Dad grinned as the track grew visible, the vegetation vanished exposing a football oval sized clearing. A tank on high metal stands marked our goal. ‘Liebig Bore,’ Dad announced.
‘About time,’ Mr. B said, ‘I thought we’d never get here.’
We spilled out of our cramped tin can of a Rover and stretched our legs. While the men set about refilling our water reserves, Rick picked up his rifle and aimed it at the top of the tank.
‘Hey!’ Dad snapped. ‘I don’t think…’
Too late. A shot echoed. And a dead weight covered in feathers plummeted to the ground. Rick then, paced over to the grey lump at the foot of the tank and picked it up. ‘That’s my dinner sorted.’
‘Not a good idea, son, shooting near tanks,’ Dad said, ‘I don’t think the owners of this land would appreciate a hole in it, if you’d missed that pigeon.’
‘But, I didn’t.’
‘Not this time,’ I added.
Dad looked around and stamped his feet. I sensed my brother’s near-bullet miss with the tank, had spooked Dad and he wanted to make a hasty escape before suffering retribution. Herding the T-Team back into the Rover, Dad rapped the tyres as he sped from the clearing. With dust billowing behind us, he accelerated down the graded road that led away from the bore and around the back of the Mount Liebig.
I watched fascinated as the shape of the mountain formation changed from jagged cliffs, to hunchback with cliff, to slopes preceded by foothills shaped like shark’s teeth.
The T-Team continued around the mountain base, until Dad slowed the vehicle to a stop at a small creek. Gnarly eucalypt trees squatted on the sandy banks, while next to them, taller bean trees waved their emerald leaves in the wind.
Dad glanced around at us and sighed, ‘We’ll stop here to have lunch.’
We climbed from the Rover and dusted the fine grains of red earth from our shirts and jeans. I studied the creek bed and my eyes widened. Bright red and brown bean shaped seeds scattered the sandy floor in every direction. I had seen similar bead necklaces in the store at Hermannsburg, so over lunch and then later while Dad and Mr. B explored some nearby gorges, I collected a heap of beads to make a necklace. Then, while we waited for our elders to return, Rick, Matt and I played a game of cards.
When Dad and Mr. B returned, we drove on to find a proper camping spot. Finally, we found a sandy creek bed that suited Mr. B’s tastes and which offered even more beads for me to collect.
Dad, on the other hand, paced the clearing, tapped his pockets and grumbled, making mention in passing that this was a cattle’s stamping ground. The rest of the T-Team ignored his warning.
After tea, and bedtime; Rick snored contentedly having eaten his pigeon (cooked), and a happy Mr. B climbed into his sleeping bag on air mattress on soft sand.
A rumble shook the ground. Then thumping. A bull roared.
Mr. B leapt from his bed. ‘Come on Matt, to the Rover.’
Matt screamed and scaled a nearby bean tree.
Rick sat bolt upright and grabbed his rifle.
I curled up in my sleeping bag, my heart galloping.
Dad remained an inert lump in his bag.
Another roar. Then more stamping. Closer stamping.
Mr. B marched from the Rover to Dad and then poked him. ‘Bull! There’s a bull charging our camp!’
Dad scrambled to life. ‘Get your bedding. Into the Rover.’
We sprang into action, feverishly plucking up bedding and diving for the Land Rover. Matt climbed down the tree and jumped in too. For a few minutes we huddled, trembling in the Rover.
Then Mr. B spoke, ‘I say, where’s that damn bull?’
‘Not here,’ Rick said.
Dad shrugged. ‘There’s no bull near us.’
‘What do you mean? We heard it? Where is it?’ Mr. B argued.
‘It’s okay. Sound carries in these parts. We’ll be safe.’ Dad opened the Rover door and stepped out. ‘They won’t come anywhere near us if we have a fire going.’
During the night, I heard a cow lowing. I opened my eyes and in the light of my personal campfire, thought I could see a bull or cow underneath a nearby tree. But it stayed there and did not attack us.
© Lee-Anne Marie Kling 2019
Feature Photo: Mount Liebig emerging through the foothills © C.D. Trudinger 1977
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