He’s not a bad bloke is our local copper because he did pay for my dinner that evening after we were out at Murphey’s Track on the wild goose chase for the Darwin cops. Of course we had the special chicken parama with the runny egg and melted cheese, it was pretty much all we ate at the pub because it was so darn good.
I kept my word to Nick, not just because he bought dinner, and said nothing about renaming Murphey’s Track to Nick’s Track but of course conversation around the bar as we ate did revolve a bit around our efforts of the day. As usual there was a few travellers in the bar and we made them feel welcome by inviting them to join with our conversations, then inviting them to join in a few games of pool.
I think I’ve mentioned before that Barry has a board on the wall where he welcomes travellers to put their business cards and such to say they’ve been through town? Well that’s just one of the welcoming things he does. It’s rare a traveller comes through, especially one the is hanging around for a meal or a few drinks, that they don’t get invited for a game of pool or two. No one cares if they are pot black champions or can’t pot a thing it’s just a fun game and some entertainment in a small outback town. You might actually be surprised how good such a thing is for business and how many people actually stay well after they’ve eaten just for the pool, drinks and a local to tell them stories.
Unless the pub is really pumping, which isn’t often, it’s hard not to notice when someone walks in from outside. When the pub only has half a dozen people in it and they are all playing pool and enjoying themselves a new person entering stands out like a sore thumb, but like I say we are a welcoming lot and we don’t turn anyone away if the pub is open.
That evening there was two back packers from America in, Charlie and his girlfriend Chantelle driving around the country in a beat up old VW Combi and looking exactly like the cliched backpackers. There was also a younger couple (when I say younger I mean 30 something), Bruce and Gwen touring the country and staying the night in the motel and a long haul truckie, Brett who came in most times he went through town. Although Brett was only in for a few drinks and a feed before he climbed into the sleeper and got some kip the other four were happy to play some pool and chat away the evening.
Things were going along swimmingly everyone was having a good time and the drinks were flowing, like most tourists they asked about us and the area and like dead set hillbilly country yokels we asked them about living in the ‘big smoke’. But it wasn’t until about 8pm when we were joined by ninth person that things changed quite a bit.
When the pub doors swung open we could all see the figure standing there, but due to the lights of the pub and the near darkness behind him it was hard to make out any details until he stepped inside, at which time there was a collective gasp from the backpackers.
Standing in the door way was a man who stood about six foot three in the old scale. From top to toe, he wore a dark brown leather broad brimmed hat, not quite a cowboy hat but not an unfamiliar site in the outback. The hat had what appeared to be a snake skin band sitting just above the brim and a jagged hole at the very top which was a wear hole created from the years it had been taken on and off the owners head.
He had an age and weather worn face, slight chubby with lamb chop side burns and the greying stubble of a three or four day growth which matched the ashen hair that could be seen from under the hat. With the shadow of the lights it was impossible to see the colour of his eyes, but they looked mean due to them being set back and dark and he barely blinked.
His red chequered flannelette shirt with gold and blue strips looked tight on his big and slightly overweight frame. His stomach hung slightly over his belt buckle but he wasn’t that overweight that he looked fat and his shirt looked like it hadn’t been washed in recent times. The top two buttons of the shirt were undone and open revealing the dark black and grey hairs of his chest, while the sleeves were rolled up tightly to his biceps revealing both forearm and upper arm tattoos.
Below his shirt was a similarly dirty pair of black denim jeans, greying with either age or dirt or both. They were held up by a fading brown leather belt and on the right hand side covering the seam that runs the entire length of the leg sat a leather sheath of about twenty centimetres. Although we couldn’t see what was inside the sheath the carved wooden handle that poked out the top nearly fifteen centimetres was a dead give away as to what hung on the strangers waist band. The only mystery was exactly what kind of blade it was.
Sticking out from the bottom of the denim jeans, were feet, surprise surprise! On those feet were a pair of quintessential brown Blundstone boots, equally showing signs of dirt and age. For those overseas Blundstone boots are leather work boots which for years have been made in Tasmania, there is many imitations but nothing comes close to the Blundy for wear and tear. They are tough and handle Aussie working conditions and the steel toed version are not the sort of thing you want to be kicked with.
“G’day Mick! Shut the bloody door will ya, you’ll let all the bugs in.” Barry said from behind the bar, “Want the usual?” he asked already pouring a cold beer into the glass from the beer taps.
So apart from the knife hanging on the belt, why the breath grabbing gasp from Charlie and Chantelle the American backpackers?
Previous Desert Rescue story here.