June 7, my birthday. Ten kilometers from our bush camp, we came to Black Bull Siding, an historic site on a mining railway turned tourist railway. There was a beautiful ramada covered by bougainvillea, harboring a wonderful outdoor wood cook stove and a cheerful barefoot proprietor and his dog. He was waiting for the weekly tourist train and was preparing scones and tea. He gave us our morning tea and biscuits (cookies) and let Claire pet his dog. We took pictures and continued with a downhill and tailwind to Normanton, where I had my birthday wish, a thrashing pub meal and XXXX Bitter.
Well and truly outback; Normanton Central Pub; XXXX Bitter and huge meat meals
Normanton, June 8. Began raining last night and has kept at it all day. There is talk of postponing the rodeo, biggest sports and social event of the year around these parts. People come from stations (ranches) for hundreds of kilometers around. We went to a pub for our second huge $7($3.70US) special in fascinating atmosphere at the Normanton Central Hotel (they have to have rooms in order to sell alcohol, mostly a sham). It is a low roofed tropical design building, wide porches with doors always open to the outside; a long curving bar with stools; gambling on “footie” dog and horse racing, TVs around the room with some other form of gambling, and the Aboriginal TV station playing on another; smoke and beer scents, and a bit of body odor, to which we no doubt contributed, and lots of noise.
Thursday is dole day here and the place is packed with Aboriginals. I hate to add to the stereotype, but it seems to be true. We noticed that by Saturday night all the money was gone, and so were most of the Aboriginals. But they sure know how to have a good time while the money lasts.
Fortunately the pubs also have a quiet dining room where we went this night; there we met Eddie Tyson. He invited himself to our table (we were happy to have him) and showed us a possible place to stop on the way to Mount Isa where he lives. He is Aboriginal, educated, well-spoken who works for a government housing agency. I asked him about the Reconciliation, a government initiative to help solve the race issues in Australia between whites of English descent and the original inhabitants of this island continent. He looked over his shoulder, scanned the room, and waited for the white waiter to get out of earshot, but it was the aboriginal family at a nearby table he was really looking out for. He spoke quietly, firmly, gently about a sensitive subject for him: “Others may not say what I do. I was brought up in a stable home, given an education and had many advantages most aboriginals don’t have. But I fear nothing will be done about our difficulties until we do it within ourselves. Our community has to…” Another aboriginal came into the room and he changed the subject.
He is in the position of so many successful Blacks, Hispanics and Native Americans in America, doing well, but seeing so many of his brothers struggling with alcohol and poverty, lack of hope. It will take a long time for all of his brothers to adapt to the white man’s world, and both Whites and Aboriginals need to understand that, and perhaps take a different track. Speaking of my opinions: I can’t help reporting on my observations, whether of Canadian politics, American culture or Australian race relations. I have no more expertise than having lived 56 years and developed a keen interest in the human race. Please don’t take my thoughts as preaching, just regular conversation between “blokes.”
We enjoyed a long evening of talking with Eddie, looking at pictures of his wife and child. He is quite cosmopolitan; his wife is Spanish and his child a very light mix. They travel to Spain and speak some Spanish (Castilian) in the home, and are obviously well educated, cultured. He has a good life, if he has to tread a fine line between the races. He has obviously not been soured on Whites, or he would not have befriended us so readily. Eddie made our rainy evening.