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“Dancing in the Outback…”

Growing up in Mexico, a country of extensive social interaction, where celebrations and boisterous festivities happen for the slightest excuse, turned out to be a total contrast to my married life in the Outback where my closest neighbors were 35 miles away and across the Roper River.

The COVID quarantines of 2020 remind me of the isolation I encountered so many years ago in the Outback. Years before social media and long before telephone service reached St. Vigeon’s Station, I could not even pursue E.T.’s message to “home phone.” I could only call loved ones in Mexico when we traveled to Darwin. Afterwards, I’d be sad that I could not talk to my family more frequently.

Before my wedding, family and friends tried to dissuade me from moving to Australia, warning me I was leaving a community where everyone knew each other and (for the most part) cared for one another. The move to Australia would put me in the isolated Outback – a man’s world.

“You love to dance and you won’t find dancing there,” a school chum alerted me.

But I was in love and about to be a bride, so dancing did not seem important at that point.

During those early months in Australia, my former sister-in-law, the baby of the family, visited us. Her delightful company made me realize how much I missed the active social life I’d led prior to my marriage.

Throughout her visit we busied ourselves with outdoor activities, especially boating on the Roper River for by then I was brave enough to manage the boat myself. One afternoon we went horseback riding. The horses pulled toward the billabong, perhaps eager for a drink of water.

Mounted on our horses near the billabong, we were chatting about our school days. At that moment a flock of birds, stacked three deep like jets about to land, flew in. Bony angles and wide wing spans gave them a prehistoric appearance. Upon landing, their spindly legs sprinted on the ground for a couple of meters, carrying their massive bony gray bodies until they managed to stop. Known as native companions, one of the world’s largest cranes, they are officially called brolgas.

In a serendipitous moment, we witnessed brolgas pick grass, toss it into the air, catch it with their beaks, and move into choreographed steps – stretching their wings, leaping into the air, and landing with a display of head-bobbing, wing-beating, strutting, flicking of legs, and at the end, bowing to their companions.

Dancing is important after all, I thought.

If only I’d had a phone, I would’ve called my school chum to describe the most incredible dance I’d ever seen – taking place at the edge of a billabong in the Outback!


Next installment: More Adventures at the Homestead

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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, they are old 35mm film in dismal condition. To make the series more appealing to the reader, I supplement with photographs that are similar to the experiences and locations I’ve described. I’m often dependent on pictures from the public domain, Visual Hunt, and Creative Commons. All photographs are used in an editorial or educational manner.

Photo credits:

“Brolga—Swinging In” by birdsaspoetry is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

“Brolga Greeting” by birdsaspoetry is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

“Horses to Water” by MTSOfan is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

My Life in Australia Blog – Installment 9 – brought to you by Tortuga Publishing, LLC


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