Sunday, December 19, 2004

Tuesday December 14 1971 – evening. 

Eucla is a settlement just inside Western Australia, an oasis in a sea of shifting sands. Literally. It is close to those treacherous cliffs where the desert drops suddenly into the ocean. Eucla was once the original telegraph station and the remains of that building emerge and recede into sand drifts as years go by.

Look to the south and you can see the Southern Ocean, a brooding, grey mess of water that stretches away to forever or to Antarctica, whichever comes first.

Look to the north and you see nothing but dust. It's red.


After discovering the fuel tank leak, uncle went over to have a chat to the local mechanic. (Mechanics were easier to find than fresh water in some of these towns. Clearly, they were always needed.) He came back and drove the car to the mechanic’s hoist and left it with him overnight.

After an early dinner of probably cold meat, potato salad, sweet corn, bread, fruitcake and tea, cousin Danny and I went off on our usual reconnaissance. In most of the towns we stayed in, we were just looking around, checking out the town, nothing specific.

But in Eucla, we were looking for something specific: a half-naked girl. The half-naked girl we were looking for had a name: the Eucla Nymph.

The Eucla Nymph would not have been hard to recognise; she was about seventeen and wearing a kangaroo skin, if wearing is the right word.

The Eucla Nymph story was coincidentally just breaking in Australia when we were travelling through. We’d also been hearing reports on the car radio.

So here we were, two teenage cousins, 15 and 14, in the outback, running around looking for a half-naked girl. Life just doesn’t get any better than that. It just doesn’t.

Except if we found the girl.

Of course, we didn’t find the girl. Even at 14 and 15 we knew it was a stupid hoax put on by some idiot radio station. (Teenagers always see through things that suck in adults like that. Sometimes it is salutary for parents to realise their teenagers are smarter than parents realise. Danny and I were running around saying, ‘This is fun but it’s such bullshit, isn’t it?’ The girls we were after were not some idiot mythical radio station model publicity stunt but the real girls in the backyards of Australia - the ordinary, awkward, beautiful, thin, fat, tall, short, in-between, lost-for-words, talkative, blushing, blanching girls, the pursuit of whom was our life’s primary purpose.)

Hmm. Did we lose that somewhere along the way? Maybe we did.

And maybe we didn’t.

I had a good time in Eucla. All that shifting sand. And the Nymph.


On the radio in the caravan:

today I saw somebody
who looked just like you
she walked like you do
I thought it was you
as she turned the corner
I called out your name
I felt so ashamed
when it wasn't you
wasn't you

is it time for a nap yet? i think so

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