Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The Dr Tabubil Files: Odd Fellas

My sister, the estimable Dr Tabubil, is spending ten weeks on a rural clinical rotation in Cloncurry, a small pastoral town in the Queensland Outback.  It's a fantastic place, and together we have collaborated on a series of guest posts  all about living and working in the Red Centre.  Enjoy!

Small towns have large shares of characters.
            Driving to the hospital one morning I drove past what is probably the oddest thing I have every seen. There was an old man in an Akubra walking a bull on a leash.  A pet bull.  The bull’s name is Toolabuc… and he’s registered as a dog in the shire of Cloncurry. He’s well trained. Every day he goes for walkies down the whole length of the town.  He was rescued from a future of hamburgers as a newborn calf.  He was hand-reared, and now weighs 770 kilograms.  And walks on a leash. He knows the way to the Post Office Hotel, where his owner will have a glass of rum (or five) before it’s time to turn around and go home.   His owner's watering hole is next door to the home of one of the GPs.  It’s not a happy relationship.
            There’s a man in town that everyone knows quite well. Apparently, he is filled with ideas on how to improve the town.  His plan, they say, is to turn Cloncurry into the Las Vegas of North West Queensland (imagine that!) He wants to start by turning the local motel/caravan park into a legalized brothel.  Not that rooms 10 and 11 don’t make up the unofficial town brothel anyway.  He is so dedicated to his cause that he ran for shire council to get his ideas approved.  He couldn’t understand why he only got two votes (one was his own).  
            “Everyone in town promised they’d vote for me!”  
            I think his dreams of legal prostitution in this tiny country town will have a wait a while he comforts himself with the key to Room 11… 
            Speaking of the caravan park, on one of my strolls down the town’s one main road (which is also the main road across the continent.  Yes, the town evolved around a little country road, and when the little country road got upgraded to a highway, the planners didn’t run a diversion, just plowed right on through) on a Sunday afternoon (and I can walk it in less than an hour, notwithstanding the windburn from passing road trains), I overheard the afternoon’s entertainment entertaining the Gray Nomads in the caravan park.  There was a rather insipid but enthusiastic man-and-woman duo singing popular American country songs interspersed with jokes a la Australiana:
            “I always like to ask travelers if they have nicknames for their wives.  I asked this one bloke from Alice.
            'Yeaaaah, he said.  "I call my missus Harvey Norman.'
            'Harvey Norman!' I says.  'What for?'
            'What for?' He says.  '12 months innerest free!'
            (Note: Harvey Norman is the name of a large national chain that sells furniture and electrical appliances.  We enjoy a very high level of humor out here.  I’d rather go and watch the under-twenties slow dancing in the pub.)
            I walked past the Oasis again yesterday night at Happy Hour.  There was a wizened old man playing mournful songs on his accordion while caravaners drank wine coolers and made small talk.  It was not inspiring.

(editor's note:  This sounds lovely!  A convivial evening in the country in the caravan park?  Can I come along too? What’s not inspiring about that?
            Reply from Dr Tabubil:  There is absolutely no way this is inspiring.  It was one of the LEAST inspiring things I have ever heard.  He was a sad old man, so tired out that the accordion almost hid him from view.  It was like he didn’t even have the energy to play a faster song. It was like the moment in the war movie  - the night before the big battle where everyone is sitting around a campfire looking depressed and a wounded solider plays on a mouth organ and the orchestra leaves him alone because you know everyone is going to die tomorrow and silence and a bad mouth-organ is sadder than music.  So please don’t try to make it inspiring, okay?
            Ed note: Okay.)

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