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Sunday, August 8, 2010

Croc Shows & Shooting Roos: Random Encounters in Wynnum, Australia

Story and photos by Carola C. Reuben, Earthy Reporter

Wayne Crotty speaks matter-of-factly about shooting kangaroos and conducting barroom trials in St. George in Queensland’s bush. Wayne was born 63 years ago in St. George, where his mother, who was being “bashed” by his father, gave him up for adoption to another woman on the post office stairs. Since then, the population of St. George has mushroomed to 3,800.

“I was a bush kid,“ said Wayne, currently a Brisbane area resident (see photo). He grew up among aborigines and the missionaries who were hell bent on saving their souls. Also, there were the solitary “coppers” (police) sent to his neck of the bush, who were sometimes shot to death by bushmen, then tossed in the river. After all, there were no other police to protect the lone coppers from bushmen.

To make a living, Wayne shot “roos” ( kangaroos ), meat for export to Germany. He also played trumpet in a band, and for entertainment, he would drink beer in the pub, where a “kangaroo court” might sentence a fellow drinker who stole $20 from a bar top. As Wayne told it, he once watched as “the court” meted out a sentence of 25 lashes with a shoelace on the penis.

When Wayne appeared at my friends’ Wynnum home, he struck me as a colorful character; I could not resist engaging him in a  conversation. Now a furniture craftsman, he came to deliver a desk made from Tasmanian oak to my friends, Manuel Benito Sainz, and his wife, Glenda.

Manuel and Glenda were moved from the U.S. ( North Carolina ) to Australia by Manuel’s company, Syngenta. Manuel, a microbiologist, was known as Benny when he was my close friend in junior high and high school at the American school in Sao Paulo, Brazil. He and his wife have enjoyed living for 2.5 years in Wynnum, Queensland, half a block from a bay (see photo below) and a short walk from a mangrove forest.

In that suburb of Brisbane, populated mostly by whites ( 11,719, according to the 2006 census), I would walk past the yellows of sponge-like flowers and the brilliant red of poinsettias in neat yards filled with the green of palm trees, fir trees, eucalyptus and jacaranda trees.

Getting lost was great fun in that multi-colored town (see photo). Somewhere near Perry's Fruit Barn, an aborigine college student helped me find my way. With his Aussie accent, he told me he found a cheap rental in Wynnum, about $1,200 per month. “Cheap enough for a college student ?” I asked. But then he said he makes $21 (Australian dollars ) an hour bagging groceries; it seems that menial jobs fetch a living wage in Australia.

Another time, a man walking at a quick pace went out of his way to point me in the right direction. I thanked him, and he declared, “You ( the U.S. ) took care of us during World War II, so now we should take care of you.”

Then there was Leigh, a retired lawyer, born in nearby Toowoomba, whose son is a lawyer he described as “a rogue.” He is “either going to become prime minister or go to jail,” Leigh affirmed.

Meanwhile at the Wynnum Library Book Chat Group, Noreen might be chatting about a book she just read, “Landfall” by Neville Shute. A British naval officer was having a relationship with a barmaid. The class difference between the two “is not up to scratch,“ but she hastened to add, “it is all very proper.” One lesson gleaned from the book was “you don’t gossip before the barmaid because she is a woman and has big ears.”

Keith also indulges his love of books at weekly meetings of the book chat group. Apparently, the “book supermarket,” Borders, is his idea of paradise.

The closest Borders is far away from Wynnum, but “no worries.“ If you seek excitement, just drive 40 minutes to the Village of Tamborine. The Bearded Tavern Country Lodge appears like a mirage among the foliage beneath a mountain. There, you might watch “Nick’s Cranky & Nasty Reptile & Croc Show, " or, better yet, a race of poisonous cane toads. “Face your Fear,” goads a sign announcing the shows, appropriate entertainment in a country crawling with Earth’s most poisonous creatures.
Copyright, 2010, Carola C. Reuben, Earthy Reporter


  1. You never cease to amaze me. You live your dreams! Keep these blogs coming,as I look forward to them. A whole other world!!! So interesting.
    All is well, not to worry.
    Take care.

  2. Amazing insight into young Muslim adults. It will be interesting to see how the ever changing world with the Internet etc. will change their lives in the coming years.