Monday, June 21, 2004

A day in the life

Monday the twenty first of June turned out to be a very interesting day.

I set out doing all the mundane things that I do every day, got the old forklift going and went and filled the camp generator with diesel, checked the water and oil and all the gauges, everything was fine so I turned the forklift round and headed back towards camp. As I drove up the road towards the south, a direction that I had not looked this morning, I could see smoke down towards the dresser mine, I dropped off the forklift, jumped in the Landcruiser and headed towards the smoke. I could see a vehicle parked in the scrub, worked out what track went close and carried on to investigate, followed the track about two miles, worked out how to get to the vehicle (followed their tracks) and parked alongside it.

Just a wee way away was an old prospector, I took him to be an Aboriginal, and he introduced himself as something Todd, out from the cover of some trees came a younger bloke, he introduced himself as George Todd, they said I suppose you are going to tell us we can not prospect here, I said not at all, after all this is your land. The old fellow laughed at this and said he was a half caste so it wasnt his land, I said it was my companies lease, and by rights they could prospect but should give me half of what they find, adding that I did not expect them to find anything because this land had been well picked over, and if they did I did not expect them to tell me about it.

We got to yarning (as you do in the middle of the bush) and I was telling them that just up a bit further a couple of blokes had taken forty ounces out about ten years ago, in fact it was a bloke called Todd who had been one of them, that was me said the old fellow. We talked some more and it turned out that the old bloke, who claimed to be close to eighty, was teaching his nephew, George, all about the prospecting game. George, who would have been in his early forties I guess, was in charge of loading the salt ships in Hedland and when there were no ships he had a few days off, and went all over the countryside prospecting with his uncle, mainly to be with the bush and his uncle more than finding the gold. He said he was looking for some dry blowing area that he had heard about was round this area, and did I have a map, I said I have one back at the camp and if they liked they could come back and we would have a cuppa and see if it was shown. We came back to the camp and had a cup of tea but never found the area he was talking of, I showed them where I had been told there was alluvial gold, and they set off to do a bit of detecting.

I carried on around the camp, doing a few odds and sods till about three, and then went and found where they were and had a bit of a yarn again, they had found one piece of gold, maybe about ten grams, in a gully but that was all, I sat talking to George for maybe a half an hour about town and how glorious it was in the bush this time of the year, then came back to my camp, it was a very interesting day and they were very interesting people.

It seems that the older bloke had been born on a station on the other side of the Shaw river, Abydos I think he said, but not actually in the station but in a cave, his father was an English bloke and he was related to the Todd that did the survey work for the overland telegraph, and for who the Todd river had been named that runs through Alice Springs (his wife was named Alice, and the town was names after her) and that he was taken away at about four years of age and sent down to Fremantle. There was a policy in those years that took half caste children away from tribal Aborigines, for what was thought at the time their own good, but that has been seen since to be a terrible thing, they call it the stolen generation and it still causes controversy here. He was away from his family for about ten years, then came back north and learnt to prospect from his father and elder brothers (one of whom was Georges father), I came back to the camp, did a few chores, panned a bit of gold and then took my normal position, in a chair facing westwards watching the sun go down and drinking, on this occasion, a Bourbon and coke that I mistakenly bought thinking it was Rum and coke, and by the way, today was the shortest day, but a very fruitful one. We also had a discussion on the name Blackfella, and they reckoned it was all right, they call themselves Blackfellas and us Whitefellas, and mentioned that by rights they are Yellafellas, being half caste or part Aboriginal, but it seems that the word Yellafella has gone out of usage and they now use Blackfella for everyone who is not a Whitefella, of course Chinamen and Malays are different again.

By the way, a picture of the old fellow is on the locals gallery on my photo page, the youngere bloke was reluctant to have his picture took.


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