Edward Hooper at the Renner Springs Roadhouse (some photos are best written)
A snapshot: 11pm in front of the roadhouse. An Edward Hooper painted window scene: figures drink beer at the pub, talk, and move about slowly in the yellow light. Outside under the ramada in the warm moonlit air: a ringer on a barstool, in a white sheet, bends under the clippers of a roadhouse barber, his broad brimmed hat on the floor. A truckie teaches darts to a Shela, gestures with his beer; two more truckies play pool nearby and talk quietly. A motor hums somewhere quietly, the windmill out by the spring is still in the warm night, a cockatoo screams, flies and settles noisily back to his roost. The air is moist, scented. The light is white over the haircut scene, yellow at the fringes, it pools on the red gravel. It is a Saturday Evening Post painting by Norman Rockwell, the stage setting an Our Town tableau. It could be the American West in the 1950’s, it is outback Australia today, and for many more to come we hope.
July 8. Camped at a roadside rest with caravaners and backpackers. The caravaners gave us cold beers, so appreciated after a long in the middle of long days. They loaned us a bird book and we filled in our bird list a bit. Backpackers, two mixed couples and two girls traveling together around a campfire nearby, invited us over. One couple: Aussie boy, bald and built, she from Ireland, thin white and dark eyes. All were very impressed with us oldsters: “Couldn’t ever do…” what we are doing. Most of them smoked.
Very friendly open young people, refreshing. It must be the lifestyle or the ones drawn to it. Again a group younger than half our average ages (46)impressed at our physical prowess. We’re not impressed. A little sad that they never think they could do what we do. At 22 feeling old?
July 9. Daily Waters Roadhouse. 131k day and hungry hungry hungry! Good place to land; we had the beef and barra (local wild fish) and beer. Busy pub, ringers just in from muster (roundup), and tourists mixing, a wonderful atmosphere. Ate with Bruce, a country boy communications expert repairman and Chris a city boy from Melbourne on holiday. Bruce hunts, grows pigs (gets them from wild sows he shoots) as well as fixes sophisticated satellite phone systems. Enjoyed talking about country stuff; gave him a recipe for sugar cured (Virginia) ham.
“Kill them all, I say.” and “…show respect for a thing like that.”
Early in the evening talked with a man from Victoria who offered strong opinions on the Aboriginals. “I hate the bloody buggers. Kill them all, I say. Worthless bastards.” Some people are not afraid to express their opinions on sensitive subjects here. However, Bruce had a much more considered view. “I’m no Abo lover, you understand, but it’s not so simple. I can see them trying in the remote settlements, but there are some, mostly teenagers around the towns, are so far gone you might as well shoot them and start all over.” He remembers fondly an experience while servicing phones in a remote settlement. “I saw some bare breasted women, all painted up, wailing, very upset. They all gathered up and walked through town crying and making a fuss, the men following quietly behind. I reckon it was a funeral. Told me later an old man had died and they were sending him off proper. Before, some men had gone all over the village sweeping with tree limbs, sweeping his soul out into the bush so he could be free. It was quite a thing. Beautiful. I stopped my truck and waited till they’d all gone. Show respect for a thing like that”