Good Reading : November 2007
This was a very funny man. A great mimic. I had nearly pissed myself, I was so shaken up, scared and laughing almost hysterically.The old woman was patting my back and, eventually, I stopped laughing and calmed down enough to eat a bit more. I was starving and they had plenty of tucker. We had little language between us, but they were lovely, gentle people happy to stick around and help me out.They taught me how to set up a fire with ironwood so it didn’t go out quickly, and how to track native ani- mals and gather bush tucker to add to my rations.The three men were Tom Ingkakngerre called Big Foot Tom, Jerry,Tim Akwulparenye and Tom’s wife Rosie.They travelled the country in traditional patterns looking after the sacred sites in the time-honoured way. Later, I found out that they occa- sionally came around to the Aboriginal camp at the Loves Creek outstation at Atnarpa. Peter Uwyerra and his wife Maggie, who lived permanently at Atnarpa with their big mob of goats, were the old people’s point of contact.They would be on their way to the store at Claraville, where they traded dingo scalps for rations. But for the rest of the year they would roam the country right out into the Simpson Desert.These were ceremony men and rainmakers for the area. Later when the rain had come and the water holes had a bit of water, they headed off east. I was very sad and scared to see them go. But they assured me that a horseman was coming and not much later, Harry Bloomfield appeared, leading a quiet old horse for me. I was back at the homestead the next day.They were well known around Loves Creek but I hadn’t known them before. Perhaps old Mr Bloomfield, or more likely some of the Aboriginal staff, had sent a message for them to check up on me. For them, I must have presented as a pretty pitiful sight – a young boy alone in the bush without even a fire and obviously with no idea about how to survive, hiding under an old trough. A couple more days and the dingoes would have had me.These old men and women were the last caretakers and songmen for that part of country and out into the Simpson Desert. Strehlow writes of talking to them in the early thirties. For the rest of the time I was at Loves Creek, they caught up with me at ceremony time. I was taught more bush skills, how to care for the land, the dreaming songs and all the sacred sites in the area. I became an initiated man during this time and was adopted into the tribe. ThenexttimeIhadtogooutto care for the wells and soaks, I at least knew what to expect. I could keep a fire going. I could track and hunt enough to supplement rations with goanna, rabbit or something else that might turn up. I knew some more of the local bush tucker and where to find it. I had some ability to survive alone in the bush. Alone on the soaks is the story of Alec Kruger’s life, written over a number of years with the assistance of Gerard Waterford. Storytelling as an aid to wellbeing was the motivation for the process – a process that gently elicited Alec’s story of over eighty years of experience, dawning knowledge, acceptance and the will to keep on fighting. Alec Kruger was a stolen child. From his early years he knew the cold and harsh realities of institu- tions. He spent years in the Territory and Queensland, droving and roaming, forever seeking his place and a sense of belonging. These important things came for him with his own family and with the emergence of groups such as the Central Australian Stolen Generations and Families Aboriginal Corporation. Alone on the soaks by Alec Kruger and Gerard Waterford was published this year by IAD Press, rrp $29.95. 52 goodreading ı NOVEMBER 2007 BOOKBITE We had little language between us, but they were lovely, gentle people happy to stick around and help me out. They taught me how to set up a fire with ironwood so it didn’t go out quickly, and how to track native animals and gather bush tucker to add to my rations.
December January 2008