After I’d gone to get Alice to help me kill an inland taipan, she grabbed a long stick leaning against the wall of her house. We returned to my house with the snake-killing mission in mind. She took my son and placed him in the playpen in the living room and asked if she could put her son there too. She told Reynita, her five-year-old daughter, to watch the boys while we went outside.
In the yard, she took a handful of dirt and told me to do the same. She rubbed it on her face and arms and explained the Rainbow Serpent would be friendlier toward us if he could detect the aroma of the earth on us. She studied the dry dirt in the yard for clues to follow the taipan. Alice handed me two large rocks to carry.
“When my people approach waterhole, we sing to Rainbow Serpent. Let him know we come so no ill fall upon us.” With that, Alice started singing in her Aboriginal language.
I didn’t think we’d approach a waterhole. The billabong was too far away and it was the Dry season, but I figured Alice was being extra cautious. She moved toward the fence and walked through the gate to pick up the track on the other side. Now we were walking in ankle-high grass. I was nervous and imagining horrible scenarios with the taipan lurking in the undergrowth, waiting to strike at our legs. Wasn’t that the reason Alice was singing? If not to notify the Rainbow Serpent of our pending arrival at a waterhole, at least to warn the taipan to get away?
And then my worst nightmare. The snake was curled up on a rock a few feet from where Alice stood. She reached with her stick to hold the snake’s head down against the rock where it was sunning itself. Before I could hand her a rock to kill the snake, she grabbed it right behind its head.
“Mrs.,” as she called me, “this no taipan. Harmless guy this one.”
Still holding it by the neck, she started swinging the snake over her head, like a cowboy with a lasso, and flung it away.
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This series of My Life in the Outback is based on recollections of my life in Australia many years ago. My own photographs of Australia are not only limited, but they are also old 35mm film in dismal condition. To make the series more appealing to the reader, I supplement with photographs similar to the experiences and locations I’ve described. I’m often dependent on pictures from the public domain and Creative Commons. All photographs are used in an editorial or educational manner.
*Names of people have been changed to protect their identity since this is not a memoir, but merely my recollections of Australia.
All photos are used in an editorial or educational manner.
Rainbow Serpent – Pinterest
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