The stories we hear as we travel can be funny, poignant, inspiring or outrageous
WORDS AND PHOTOGRAPHY BY MARG MCALISTER
I’m willing to bet that you’ve got a story to tell about the Other Half – just as he has an anecdote or two about you! Many of you have already shared them on the C&M Facebook page, at a happy hour gathering, or just while chatting to new friends in a country pub or on a peaceful riverbank.
It’s fun to have a laugh about the foibles of your travelling partner, but they’re not the only stories we find on the way around Australia. The Other Half and I were discussing this over coffee just this morning. We’re both suckers for a good story, and what blows us away is how many stories we remember (and recount to others) from every part of Australia.
You might have seen a 1990s program on SBS called Front Up, in which Interviewer Andrew Urban walked up to strangers on the street with his microphone and a camera and asked them questions about their lives. As he dug deeper, he would often draw from them compelling stories that usually had the Other Half and I looking at each other and saying “Wasn’t that fascinating?”
We’ve taken this natural curiosity with us on the road, and there’s nothing we like better than to chat to others and listen to their stories. We remember people as diverse as Warren the Travelling Tradie – who decided he’d rather pack up his tools and work his way around Australia than sit at home alone after his wife passed away – and Bernie Davidson, an opal miner and bus driver who spends the winters on his claim at Grawin, near Lightning Ridge. Listening to Bernie and his friends, we got an insight into the challenges and rewards of eking out a living from the land – as we did when we spent a night around a campfire when staying at Vlado Prpic’s mine out near Lark Quarry in Queensland the following year.
While we were there, Bob Black, whose parents had worked opal claims in the Opalton area for years, took us on a cook’s tour of the area. We met the locals and saw the rusted frame of a burnt-out car where Bob’s parents had been forced to walk 22km to safety in nearby Opalton in near-50-degree heat. As he said, it’s a miracle they survived.
These are just a few stories that have stayed with us.
STORIES FROM HISTORY
There are countless stories from Australia’s history that make an impact on us all. One that my Other Half has never forgotten is the story of Jimmy Darcy, a young stockman who was badly injured when his horse fell and rolled on him. He was taken to Halls Creek, where the local postmaster operated on him, following instructions delivered by Morse code. To oversee his recovery, Dr. Joe Holland travelled by boat and T-model Ford over difficult country, covering 3,700km in two weeks, only to find that Jimmy had died the previous day.
The story of Jimmy Darcy, the postmaster Fred Tuckett, and Dr. Holland’s doomed attempt to give medical aid, was widely publicised in the press and tugged at the heartstrings of many Australians. It ended up being one of the catalysts for John Flynn to start the Royal Flying Doctor Service.
Australian stories. They’re everywhere, and they’re fascinating.
RECORDING AUSTRALIAN STORIES
What do you do with the stories you hear? Do you pass them on to other travellers around a campfire or at Happy Hour? Do you make a note of them in a diary, or record them in a scrapbook with photos? Maybe you mention them on a blog, or in a Facebook post.
We find we do all of these things, choosing the stories that move us most. People’s stories, the events that form their lives, are important. Here are a few tips on how we can all do our bit to make sure they are not forgotten.
• Jot down essential details: names, dates, and main points.
• Make a note of any websites that relate to a story or someone’s history.
• Take photos and save them under file names that help you find them (e.g. Bob_Smith_Story).
• Use the voice recorder on your phone to record details or someone else telling the story.
• Make photo books or scrapbooks of the Australian Stories that make an impact on you.