Monday, 6 May 2019


by Dave Wheeler
   The little town of Corryong, just on the Victorian side of the NSW/Victoria border, is a different world. One thing among many I noticed in my first 15 minutes in Corryong was a couple of kids walking along with a footy, bouncing it on the ground, Aussie Rules style. If it was in NSW there would be a greater chance of them juggling it or passing it to each another without the handball. But, the difference between Corryong and other places I’ve seen around Australia is more than the predominance of one footy code over others. And Corryong is a mere 220k’s from Canberra's Lanyon service station, or about 145kms as the crow flies. 
   But, I’m not a crow and it was a hard 220k's drive to Corryong via Tharwa and through the Namadgi and Kosciuszko national parks. I’m getting too far ahead of myself so I’ll start from the beginning.
    Okay, why did I decide to drive to Corryong?
     It was partly because I'd never been there before, even though I'd been close to it, and partly because I liked the look of the place as presented by Heather Hewitt’s ABC program "Back Roads”. What however, tipped the balance in favour of my going was the fact that our family had acquired a 1953 Light 15 Citroen and I wanted to find out the name of the original owner.
    It has had several owners since the original owner, and the only knowledge that was passed on to us in regard to the original owner was that he came from Corryong, the car was sold after his death and that he had owned a shop in Corryong.
     Before discussing the car or the original owner any further, I will say that I am by no means a car fanatic. Although I had a strong interest in cars as a boy it waned after I left my teens. I do however, find some particular makes of cars very pleasing to the eye, particularly the older classical machines, and the Light 15 Citroen and all the other Citroens with that same body shape (known collectively as Tractions) is a shape my brain has perceived to be beautiful for many years. I see the Traction design as a great work of art, but what is good and bad art is all of course subjective. All I know is that when I look at a Traction my brain manufactures "feel-good” chemistry and when I look at a modern car with all its plastic it does not.
   The Traction design was created in 1933 by the designers Andre Lefebvre and Flaminio Bertoni, and the car went on the market in 1934. Flaminio, or “Flamo" to his mates, was a sculptor prior to being a car designer, so it's presumed he played the major role in the artistic aspect of the design, and it would partly explain why so many people who have seen Tractions regard the design as beautiful.
   The designers however, also had to ensure the car was highly functional, and it surely was, being years ahead of its time. As I have said, in my opinion the final product is a real work of art, and there are many people around today who agree, which explains why there is still a strong demand for new Traction parts, which are sold in Europe by several companies.
        The Citroen Traction Avant in all its forms (known collectively as Tractions) was made from 1934 to 1957 and was years ahead of its time. It had a wide track and a low centre of gravity, front wheel drive, independent suspension on all four wheels, a crash-resistant unitary monocoque body and rack and pinion steering. It also performed very well on the track for its time. I can recall going to The Speedway in Sydney in the mid sixties and seeing one win a stock car race. 
    It had various changes during its years of production even though it retained the same design. Both 4 and 6 cylinder engines were available, with the 6 cylinder having a slightly longer wheelbase and slightly wider track. I owned a 4 cylinder Light 15 Traction when I lived in Auckland many years ago. 
    The youtube clip above shows a crash test on a Citroen Traction that took place in 1934. The test was performed to quieten critics who thought it would be fragile in an accident due to it not having a chassis.ën_Traction_Avant
    It was probably a series of events that drew me to Citroen Tractions, but who knows why something pleases the eye of one person and not another?
   In 1951, a year before my birth, my dad, the late Roy Wheeler, didn't have anywhere near enough money to buy a new car, so he treated himself to some fantasy and instead bought a paperback booklet entitled, "The Australian Motor Manual Annual 1951”, which displayed photos of every car that was available in Australia during that year, as well as their specifications. I still have that little booklet, and what caught my attention within it as a kid were the photos and descriptions of the two Citroen Traction models, the 4 and the 6, that were on the market at the time. The booklet also outlined the achievements of the 6 in competition, such as it being the effortless winner of the Bathurst 25 mile closed car race. This probably occurred as a result of it having superior handling to its competition because of its front wheel drive and low centre of gravity. I've copied the relevant pages of the booklet below.

     Of course I was conscious of the existence of Tractions prior to being able to read, but after I became old enough to read about the Tractions in my dad’s booklet, but was still a mere boy, I remember seeing a complete one that was going to be wrecked at Silk’s wrecking yard in the Canberra suburb of Lyneham, and I can also remember being frustrated by not being able to buy it.
      Another event which may have influenced me, when I was aged about 13, was the purchase of a Traction by the late Paul Lyneham, prior to him becoming a well-known ABC journo. At that time Paul was a young bloke living up the road from me. Although I was of course still a schoolboy living with my parents he was a young working man, but also living with a parent or parents.
     On the way to Dickson High in the mornings I would first call in on my mate, the late Geoff “Bluey” Cowan, so we could ride our bikes to school together. While doing so we would often gain pleasure by stopping outside the Lyneham’s house and watching Paul drive his Traction out of their driveway and on to wherever he worked at the time.
     If we were lucky we would also get a glimpse of Paul's younger sister on her way to school. She was even more pleasing to the eye than his Traction but a couple of years older than us and way out of our league.
     I can also recall at a later stage having a really good close look at a Light 15 Citroen Traction that was owned by a lad named Graham Patrick, who was 3 years ahead of me at Dickson High, while it was parked next to one of the Dickson playing fields. On that day Graham was due to play for Dickson High's 1st grade rugby team and I was due to play for Dickson High's under 15 rugby team. The first grade team got a lot of attention whereas nobody really gave a rat’s arse about our under 15 team other than we members and our coach, even though we were undefeated throughout the season. Still, we enjoyed ourselves.
   At that time I would have loved to have owned a Traction like Graham’s and to have been playing in the first 15, but that all took a while.
  Pictured above is the Dickson High 1st 15 rugby team of 1967, which includes Graham Patrick, the lad who owned a Citroen Light 15 I would liked to have owned. Missing from the photo is Tony Fitzgerald who was one of the best players in the team. He became a good mate of mine after we left school.

   Pictured above is our 1967 Dickson High under 15 rugby team which was undefeated throughout the whole season. We did not receive the same attention as the lads who played 1st grade for Dickson High. We definitely had no groupies and we were probably all virgins. The photos were copied from the Dickson High 1967 school magazine. 
      Actually, I didn’t purchase a Traction until I was 27 and living in Auckland, New Zealand, in early 1980, and the one I bought had been through the mill and cost me a lot of money to maintain. Yet I'm glad of the experience and I associate the memory of that car with some good times.
    I can recall sitting in my Traction in Auckland late one night with four young Polynesian girls who were singing very loudly and really enjoying themselves. We were parked on Karangahape Road outside a dance called "The Reefcomber," when a gang fight between Samoans and Cook Islanders started around us. The singing stopped and several people fell over my front mudguards during the brawl, but fortunately neither my mudguards nor any other part of my Traction were damaged.
    I can also remember another late night in Auckland when I was driving my Traction up the upper end of Queen Street, the main street of Auckland, when a large gang member stood in the middle of the road in front of me, hoping I would stop. As the area was packed with his gangster mates, all wearing their “colours,” it would have been very foolish for me to stop. I suppose they wanted to mug me or commit some other mindless act of violence.
    So, rather than be subjected to a gang beating, or worse, I did what all good Aussie boys would do in such a situation and put the old Traction into second gear and accelerated towards the idiot with my foot to the floor. The gangster sidestepped just in time and punched the passenger side front window as I went by, causing no damage to the window but hopefully damaging his fist.    
  Pictured above is me with the 1956 Citroen Light 15 I owned in 1980 and 1981 while living in Auckland.
   Pictured above near Tharwa is the Citroen Light 15 which is a member of my family. It was bought new by a resident of Corryong in 1954. When I say it was bought new by a Corryong resident in 1954 it was actually made in 1953 but bought in 1954. There has always been argument over whether a car that is made in one year and sold “new”the following year should be dated from the year of its manufacture or the year of its sale. 
    It was imported to Australia from where it was made in Slough, England, although the Citroen company is French. 
     That Citroen model in all its forms, known collectively as Tractions, was produced from 1934 to 1957. It's often seen in WW2 movies. It was particularly advanced for its time. 
      The above Citroen had had several owners before it came to my family. I don’t know the names of the people who bought it after the original owner died, but it was eventually restored, and restored well, by a Victorian named Brian Love, a very friendly sort of bloke who I was able to speak to on the phone and communicate with via email. Brian sold it to another nice-natured couple named Dave and Adele Cordy, who sold it to my family.  It was repainted by Brian in its original colour. 
    Okay, back to the present and onto discussing the Traction shown above. As I have said, the name of the original buyer of the car had been lost by the time it came to my family member, and the only information we had on it was that the original owner came from Corryong and that he owned a shop, probably a general store. If the name of the person who purchased the car new could be obtained the most important part of the car’s history would be known. And, as I have always liked detective work it gave me one more reason to go to Corryong.
    If I had my time over again I would have gone into detective work to earn a living, as I really enjoy the process. I’m not referring to investigating crim’s as a police detective. I couldn't stand working as a copper detective as I could not put up with police hierarchy. There are however, all sorts of other jobs around that require detective work, tracing missing persons, reuniting kids with biological parents and researching family history are just a few that come to mind. 
    So, I set off for Corryong on the 29/4/19, going through Tharwa and onto the Bobeyan Road through Namadgi Park. The bitumen stops before the Gudgenby Valley begins and I could feel all the corrugations as I climbed to over 1200 metres in places. I stopped when I went past Hospital Hill and climbed out onto a metal platform where I could gaze into the wilderness.
   Above is a photo of a large photo of the Gudgenby Valley which is displayed on the platform overlooking the said valley. Why didn’t I just take a photo of the valley myself? Well, I thought the photo would detail the landmarks, but they are hard to see. My mate got lost in that valley when we went to see some Aboriginal paintings at Yankee Hat. I wrote about his experience under the heading "Lost in Namadgi",  in "Tales of a Canberra Boy", which can be downloaded free of charge from this site.
Above is a photo of me looking out over the Gudgenby Valley. Unfortunately I missed much of the valley in my selfie and got mainly myself, which in another respect is probably a really good thing, as I have a lot in common with the Gudgenby Valley considering both it and I are made of atoms.
     After I turned off Bobeyan Road onto the Snowy Mountains Highway I turned off onto the road that took me through Kosciuszko National Park via Cabramurra and two dams, the Tumut Pond Reservoir and the Tooma Reservoir. It's a winding and narrow road and there's no way I would take it again if it was tourist season or if it had snowed, but fortunately I had beautiful weather and the traffic was light.
    When I drove over the previously mentioned dams I didn't like the distance between me and the deep sides of the dams as the drops were a long, long way down. When travelling over one of the dams I experienced involuntary visualisations of a German invasion involving the dropping of bouncing bombs, the sort that skims along the water before it smashes the wall, as shown in the film "The Dam Busters," which is based on fact and tells the story of how it was done by the English to the Germans during WW2. I must have been thinking that the Germans still want revenge.
     My involuntary visualisations eventually involved a German bouncing bomb actually smashing the dam wall when I was right in the middle of the dam, causing me to plummet over the steep side in my red Barina, accompanied by an avalanche of water and concrete, while I screamed hysterically and lost control of my bodily functions. To top it off I could see my driving glasses partially dislodge from my face, adding to my indignity.

   While in Kosciuszko National Park I took the above photo. Within it you will see to the left a pile of manure which came from a Brumby. It reminds me of politicians, only horse manure is useful. 
   I've given the word Brumby a capital B because wild Australian horses were apparently named after Sergeant James Brumby of the NSW Corps, who let his horses roam free before he departed for Van Diemen’s Land. There is much controversy in regard to whether the Kosciuszko Brumbies should be culled, eliminated or left alone. 
      Anyway, upon arrival in Corryong I parked my car in the main street, and directly in front of me was a lady who had several years on me watering some plants. She was a friendly lady named Robyn, and I had a good yarn to her. I asked her about the Citroen, and although she could not recall it she told me she would find out for me who owned it through a friend of hers when she came across him.
     I then decided I wanted a feed because it was about 1pm, and as I hadn't eaten that day my belly was starting to think my throat had been cut, so I slowly walked down the main street of Corryong. It wasn't busy, but it was by no means dead like many other country town shopping centres.
     I first went to the visitor information building adjoining the local park to ask about a caravan park where I could stay for the night. I was assisted by a very friendly lady who told me of my options and also supplied me with some pamphlets and a map, all free of charge. I then went to a nearby cafe and had a good feed as I sat outside and saw the two lads I previously mentioned bouncing a footy.
    After slowly walking back towards my car I noticed two old blokes sitting on a seat outside the local IGA, laughing and talking to other locals. After buying some tucker for myself at the IGA to take back to the caravan park I approached them, asking them how long they had lived in Corryong, as I thought they may know who owned the Citroen if they had been there for a long time. One of them, a bloke named Charlie, told me he’d been in Corryong for his whole 84 years, and that his cobber, Len, had been there for his whole 91 years.
     I told them they must have seen some big changes, and they confirmed that my understatement was correct. Len told me he could recall as a kid seeing teams of bullocks being driven through town.
   I had a good yarn to them as they were friendly blokes, and it was refreshing talking to people who are a generation older than me, because at my age I often find I’m the oldest bloke in the street. They also seemed to be very happy with their lives, yet it made me wonder how many of their mates from their childhood were still alive and how many of the latter were living in Corryong. I thought particularly about Len’s situation, because at 91 I doubt he would have any contact with any old Corryong schoolmates who still have a pulse. Even Charlie could not have been considered Len's peer during their youth, as the seven years difference between them at that stage of their lives would have been enormous. 
      I told Charlie and Len I was wanting to find the name of the original owner of a Light 15 Citroen, as I'd been told that the original owner had come from Corryong and had bought the car in 1954. I then showed them a photo of the Traction on my phone, and upon seeing it Charlie immediately said, “That was Billy Kidd’s car!” It was confirmed by Len. 
   I asked them if Billy owned a general store as I was told he did, and they said he'd owned a cafe called the "Crystal Cafe" and that he at one stage delivered fruit and vegies. They could not recall exactly when he died but they told me I could find out if I visited the local cemetery. 
    I thanked them for their help then headed for the cemetery. I first however, spoke with Robyn and told her I had found out the name of the original owner of the car. She then recalled quite clearly the car and told me that Billy kept it locked away and only brought it out on special occasions in his final years.
    When at the cemetery I found the plaque to Billy's grave or ashes, as shown below. Billy died in 1996 at the age of 83 according to his plaque. I got further information on the man from via my sister, who is a member, and at my request she communicated with Billy's nephew, John Herlihy. John has allowed me to post Billy's photo. Thanks John. If Billy was alive today he would turn 107 on the 2/8 2019.

Above is the plaque in the Corryong cemetery belonging to Billy Kidd, husband of Eira Kidd.
   Pictured above is Billy Kidd, who bought new the Citroen now owned by my family member in 1954. I’m not sure when the photo was taken but it was probably during the war. Maybe he was thinking about Citroens at the time.
   He was born William Henry Murray Kidd on the 2/8/1912 in Tallangatta Victoria and died on the 1st of April 1996 in Corryong. If he were alive today he would turn 107 on the 2/4/2019. He was the eldest of 12 children born to John Rodney Anderson Kidd and Alice Jane Kidd. Billy married in 1934 Eira Iona McDonough, who died in 1975 aged only 63. 
    Below is Billy's WW11 service record showing that he joined the RAAF in 1940 and was demobbed in May 1946. He attained the rank of corporal. His service number was 18681. I don’t know whether or not he served overseas or what he did in the RAAF. 
    Other documents say he lived at Hansen Street Corryong, and the censuses of 1963 to 1972 have his occupation listed as a mechanic and Eira’s that of a confectioner. When he died in 1996 his occupation was listed as a retired cafe proprietor.
   As I have said, the photo was posted by his nephew, John Herlihy, on the Herlihy family tree on Thanks again John.

    After visiting the cemetery I had a good feed and sound sleep in a cabin I rented at one of the local caravan parks.
       I drove back to the Berra the next day after first having another good look around Corryong and soaking up more of its positive atmosphere.
   I drove home via Cooma. It’s a good deal longer in distance than through the Bobeyan Road but probably much shorter in time, and it was not so hard on my car. I really enjoyed my drive and brief stay in Corryong, including my contact with the living and deceased locals.
     I will say that as someone who has only visited Corryong briefly I’m obviously not qualified to tell you much about the place, but I can tell you how it appeared to me based on first impressions. And in that respect I was very impressed.
    I hope Corryong doesn’t get any bigger because it seems to have the Goldilocks size of about 1,400 people. From what I observed it seems like a nice, clean and peaceful little town, the sort that would be a good place to bring up kids. With a population of that size, and it being off a main highway, it is also obviously devoid of the sort of traffic problems I have to suffer in the Berra.
   I had thought it was an alpine town, but I was to find that although it's close to the snowfields its elevation is only about 350 metres, a couple of hundred lower than the Berra, which would make its climate not as severe as I had anticipated.
     I would be surprised if there's no drug and crime problems in Corryong as it seems to be Australia wide, but if there is it's relatively small, as I saw no evidence of its presence. I was told a copper in charge of the region had done a good job of cleaning the place up.
   Actually, I'll go further and say that from the perspective of someone just passing through, Corryong seemed to project a peaceful atmosphere of the type which indicates that the chance of coming across violence would be slim, and there was also an absence in the atmosphere of despair and hopelessness, which is something that could not be said of many country towns around Australia.
     I was also to find that the people I spoke to were very friendly, and I am by nature a very cynical person who does not have a high overall opinion of our species.
    If I didn't have my family in the Berra I would consider moving to a place like Corryong, as the Berra has become far too big and hectic for my liking.
 While at the Corryong Cemetery I had a look at the grave of Jack Riley. There is strong circumstantial evidence to suggest he was the inspiration behind Banjo Patterson’s poem, "The Man From Snowy River.” My grandad told me he met the son of the man from Snowy River during WW1. He was serving at the same time as my grandad but in another battalion. I don’t know if he was Jack Riley's son or the son of someone else who claimed to be the inspiration behind the poem. 
Pictured above is me standing in Wheeler Street, Corryong. It was really nice of the citizens of Corryong to name a street after me. I was moved. 

UPDATE -3/10/19
I was pleased to be contacted in July by a lady named Rebecca Day, who is Billy Kidd’s granddaughter. Through the marvel of the net she had read this post. She was glad to hear of her grandad’s car, as she has good memories of travelling in it when she was a child. She also informed me that Billy had two Citroens and that he kept one, which has been passed down to her. She is currently having it fully restored.
  Although the Citroen that is now within my family and the subject of this post had been beautifully restored before it came our way, it has a large dent in the petrol tank which I have decided to repair. 
   So, a few days ago I set about removing the tank. I couldn’t have had better working conditions. The rear of the car was towards the front of my garage, facing the street and bathed in the northern sun.
    I first removed the wiring to the tank, the fuel line, the petrol cap and the straps and rubbers that hold the tank in position. According to my understanding the tank should have then dropped out of the car instantly, so I prepared a landing platform for it. It did not however, drop instantly out of the car. Although I had managed to loosen it, it slowly slid, with some help from me, only about 200 mls. 
  I tried to move it further by moving each side of the tank from underneath the car, but I wasn’t getting anywhere, so I decided to try to apply some force from above. 
  To explain, in the boot of Tractions, directly over the petrol tank, there is a rectangular lid which can be unscrewed. It reveals a rectangular hole which allows access to the fuel line and electrics. And as I’d undone the fuel line and electrics I decided to put my arm into the hole so I could attempt to persuade the tank to move from a different angle. 
   I was able to squeeze my forearm through the hole with some difficulty. I then decided to go a bit further and put my elbow through, which allowed me to apply a bit more force to the tank and to move it a bit more.
   I then decided to withdraw my arm, which was another matter entirely. Although a squeeze, getting my arm into where I had placed it was not too difficult. It would seem however, the human elbow is like a more subtle version of a barbed fish hook or spear. It's made to allow it to go into small places, but it is not so easy bringing it out if it was a tight squeeze getting it in.
   What was I to do? I was bent right over with my arse facing the street, as I demonstrate in the photo below. I felt very vulnerable. I said to myself, "What if someone walks past and wants to take advantage of me; what do I do? I’m absolutely helpless. I’ve got nothing against gay people and have mates that come under that category, but I’m not that way inclined and my arse is a virgin.”
   I then came to my senses by realising that it would have to be a very sick gay person who would have any interest in my 1952 vintage arse, and very few people who are that way inclined are that ill. Still, my elbow was hurting and I was very uncomfortable in the position I was in and I was anxious to get out of my situation as soon as possible. 
   I was able to get hold of Ben Tuita, a young bloke who comes around to my place regularly to use my gym. I asked him to get me the handle of my hydraulic jack to assist to lever the hole so it could give me a bit of space. We had no luck, and I realised we would have had to have torn the metal to increase the gap to any degree, and I did not want to do that.
   I then decided to use my grappling knowledge, and one thing that should be ingrained with grapplers is that when an opponent has you in a position in which you are unable to move if you oppose him directly, you should move your body wherever you are able to move your body, even if it seems unrelated to opposing your opponent’s direct hold on you. By doing so it enables you to get at your opponent’s hold from a slightly different angle, which can often get you out of trouble.
   I applied that tactic to my Slough opponent by moving my body as far from the position I was in as possible, which in turn allowed my arm to change its position, which in turn allowed me to withdraw my elbow and forearm, albeit with much difficulty and the acquisition of bruises and scraped skin.
   I eventually removed the tank by getting underneath the car and moving each side of the said tank a small distance downwards until it eventually came out.
    Had the car collapsed on me I would have found breathing very difficult, particularly if my chest was crushed. It would have ruined my day. 

The photo above shows the very vulnerable position I was in when I trapped my arm in the rectangular hole in the Citroen's boot.

by Dave Wheeler

   I once bought a book entitled “Do it yourself surgery.” I was initially very pleased with my purchase, but when I got it home I became very disappointed after I found out the appendix had been removed.
   Yeah, I know, it’s an old one, but I still chuckle to myself when I think of it. It also reminds me of a story I was told about 40 years ago about a bloke who was living on a property that ran off Smith’s Road, via Tharwa, who engaged in some “do-it-yourself" surgery.
   Before I get to that story I will tell you a bit about Smiths Road. If you travel just outside of Canberra to Tharwa, then follow the Naas Road towards Namadgi Park, the Smith’s Road turnoff is a few k's on the left. It's mainly unsealed and extends about 30kms from Tharwa before coming to a dead end. It runs parallel to the Murrumbidgee River but would average around 1.5 kms in distance from it. You can however, turn off and go through a pine plantation and some farmland to Angle Crossing and onto the Monaro Highway if you like, but the ford over the Murrumbidgee is impassable after continued heavy rain. The furthest part of Smiths Road from the Berra is in NSW.
The beginning of Smiths Road is shown above where it turns off Naas Road at the bottom end of the map.
       Smiths Road is a nice drive if, like me, you enjoy driving slowly, as it's winding and mostly unpaved. It's not hard to imagine travelling along the same road 100 or more years ago, assuming it was there 100 years ago, which it probably was. You'll find along the road several ruins of very old houses in the form of chimneys/fireplaces standing by themselves.
   I almost bought land at the end of Smiths Road about 15 years ago but decided against it when I found there was a push for it to be fully sealed. That would defeat the purpose of my buying it, as I would want to use it to escape there in the weekends, and a sealed road would encourage more humans to go there. That was the last thing I would want if I had a bush block.
    Yet, I can understand those Smiths Road residents who work in the Berra and who commute to work every day wanting it sealed. Those living at the NSW end would take a lot of time to get into the Berra and it would be hard on their vehicles.
  The above photo was taken towards the end of Smiths Road. After getting out of my car I urinated, drank some water, did some shadow boxing, a few push ups and some stretching, then some slow and deep breathing as I took in the fresh air. That made me feel really good, but I felt even better as I began doing nothing other than savour the silence, the sunshine, a pleasant breeze and birdsong. I would not have been dead for quids.  

   Why the joke about do-it-yourself-surgery makes me think of Smiths Road is because the story I was told about 40 years ago revolved around a bloke during the early 1950’s, then aged in his  twenties, who I will call “Blue,” who was living alongside Smiths Road by himself. He apparently came to the conclusion that his cock had got him into too much trouble during his life and that it was time he did something about it.
  Cocks, according to some, have minds of their own, and many blokes will tell you that quite often it’s a case of the tail wagging the dog and not vice versa. All Nature cares about is gene reproduction, and if a bloke misuses his old fella and it results in an unwanted pregnancy that is exactly what Nature requires, even if what occurs ruins the life of the cock’s supposed owner as well as others. Just ask Barnaby Joyce. I wrote another yarn about the latter process on this blog in the anecdote entitled, "She pushed herself onto me.” It's on the following link.
    Anyway, I was told that one afternoon Blue, while living out on Smiths Road, got really pissed. He then decided that to ensure his beef bayonet no longer caused him any problems he would castrate himself. His old fella may have been in charge when in the presence of young ladies, but on that day Blue, in his alcohol-induced stupor, was determined to show his mere appendage who really called the shots.
   Being a rural worker Blue was probably highly skilled when it came to the job of castrating sheep and cattle, but when it came to being on the other end of the blade he was to discover it was an entirely different ball game in more ways than one.
   So, apparently Blue went ahead with the procedure and removed his own cods, although he made a real mess of it. Dancing well, singing well or driving a car well while pissed is hard enough; performing a well-executed act of castration without anaesthesia on oneself while pissed is impossible.
    After Blue began bleeding like a stuck pig he decided that the task was beyond him and that he should go to hospital and let the professionals finish the job. I bet he wished he’d used a rubber ring; the type he would have used on lambs as an alternative to normal castration.
    I was told that as Blue did not have a car he walked from his house onto Smiths Road with the intention of contacting a neighbour or getting a lift from a passing motorist. But, unfortunately he lost too much blood in the process and his dead body was found on the side of Smiths Road, minus his testicles.
    Normally when I recount yarns I have been told I only do so when I know they are almost certainly true, but as far as Blue’s do-it-yourself-surgery is concerned I heard it from only two blokes at around the same time period and I have not seen either of them since then, which was around 40 years ago.
    I did however, take what they told me seriously and still do, because they were not bullshit artists and as such I do not believe they created the story. That however, does not mean that whoever told them the story did not create the story. And if the latter persons did not create the story someone else back in the line of transmission may have done so.
   Maybe the story was created by way of Chinese whispers. A relatively mundane event may have occurred on Smiths Road and it may have changed into something as dramatic as Blue’s story as it was retold.  Maybe it was a case of someone on Smiths Road dying or almost dying from a burst appendix and the story being embellished as it travelled from person-to-person. The castration story may be no more than a rural myth that ran its course.
     Then again, as I have pointed out in several of my posts, many people are more than happy to believe that JC walked on water over 2000 years ago, gave the blind sight, cast devils out of swine, fed the multitudes, etc, but are reluctant to accept the possibility stories such as the one I have repeated are true. That is the case even though Blue’s story is so much closer to the present and, unlike the JC stories, does not involve contravening the laws of physics.
    I am therefore saying I would not be at all surprised if the Blue story is entirely true. Young men do have problems controlling their cocks, and alcohol can cause them to do very stupid things. And if Blue did castrate himself he would definitely not have been the only bloke to have done so at that point in time nor would he be the only bloke to have died during the procedure. Apparently, in relative terms, self-castration is not unusual and is by no means restricted to blokes who want to become sheilas. See the following link.
   Maybe someone from the Tharwa area could set me right one way or the other on the Blue yarn. The only way the story could be verified or dismissed however, would be by asking someone who was at least a teenager in the early fifties and living within the area. Such a person would have to be at least 80, although there is a possibility the event occurred at a later time than I was told it occurred. 
    If it did occur there is also a possibility something was written up in the Berra Times about it, although I doubt they would have gone into very much detail, particularly during that period. When reporting that sort of death they usually state something like, “There were no suspicious circumstances.”  
    But, even if Blue did not exist and as such did not attempt to castrate himself, it made me think about the plight of lonely and disturbed young men who have made messes of their lives because of the misuse of their cocks, and who, in desperation, have made the mistake of attempting to seek refuge in the bottle. In doing so many have engaged in extreme and sometimes fatal forms of self-harm. Deliberately driving dangerously while pissed is a form of suicidal behaviour which is by no means uncommon, and not a lot different in some respects to self-castration.
   Unlike the drunken motorist who risks the lives of others, as well as his own, Blue was not a risk to anyone but himself.  
 The above photo is of the Smiths Road bushfire shed and community hall.  

    Above are a couple of chimneys that are situated towards the end of Smiths Road on the right as one drives into it. That is all that remains of the old house other than its outside dunny. When was this house built? Was it in the 19th century? When did people stop living in it? What events occurred around the fireplace? Did happy families live in the house, where they sung around the piano and had Christmas lunches with their relo’s? Did the fireplace ever witness violence and disharmony? Were babies born in the house and/or was there death and sorrow around the fireplace? 
   Did Blue castrate himself in that house? If so were his testes consumed by his kelpie who did not want to waste good protein? What other stories could those chimneys tell?  
  The old chimney above is on the left when driving along Smiths Road from Tharwa. 
    Again, when was this house built? Was it in the 19th century? When did people stop living in it? What events occurred around the fireplace? Did happy families live in the house, where they sung around the piano and had Christmas lunches with their relo’s? Did the fireplace ever witness violence and disharmony? Were babies born in the house and/or was there death and sorrow around the fireplace? 
   The photo above was taken from the other side of the chimney in the previous photo showing the view its owner would have had. As the chimney is right next to the road I doubt the road would have existed at the time the house was built. There was probably only an ungraded track leading past the house. Was the house made at the same time John Tennant the bushranger roamed the slopes of yonder mountain shown in the photograph? The said mountain, Mount Tennent, was named in Tennant’s honour even though in doing so they misspelt his name. 

UPDATE 10/4/19

   I was contacted via email by a lady yesterday who told me she had contacted her cousin’s father in law who is in his 80’s and had lived in the Tharwa area when he was young. He said there was truth in the latter self-castration story but got quite cranky about being asked about it and said that the dead should be left in peace, or words to that effect.
  She also emailed the Tharwa store asking the owner if he knew anything about the event but she said the store owner did not get back to her.
   I don’t know the lady who contacted me although she says she once met me. I’m just paraphrasing her email to me about the alleged incident and therefore not saying whether or not it is good circumstantial evidence to suggest that the event occurred. Apparently the old man who did not want to talk about the event is suffering from the early stages of dementia, although with dementia long term memories are usually the last to go.
    If any readers know anything about the alleged event let me know, as several readers have expressed an interest in getting more details and being able to find out if it really occurred or is just a myth.
UPDATE 25/4/19
  I was in two minds in regard to updating info on the latter story after I was contacted today by a bloke who told me he was told the story by a relo of his wife’s who is now deceased and that the story was exactly as I told it. He could not give me any details in regard to the real indentity of Blue or when it occurred, but I appreciate him taking the time to contact me.
    He however, told me he knew someone who would know the details but he is unsure if that person is still alive. He told me he will find out if he is and if he is he will contact him then contact me after talking to him.
    So far all we can say is that story has been around for a long time, but we are still a long way from determining whether it is a rural myth or based on fact.  

by Dale Willis
  I had a good mate while I went to North Ainslie Primary School named Dale “Dazzle” Willis, who has written the following anecdote. We finished North Ainslie Primary in 1964, and while most of our class went on to Dickson High, Dazzle was sent to Yanco Agricultural High School to continue his career as a ratbag.      
Yanco is located in the Riverina near Leeton. 
   Dazzle kept in contact with his old primary school mates whenever he came back to the Berra for holidays and most of us are still in contact with each other. 
   I remember Dazzle’s schoolmate, Arty, who holds Dazzle’s jumper in the anecdote he is about to tell, telling me what occurred at the time, and it was exactly as Dazzle describes.
   Dazzle gets many mentions in the book I wrote entitled, "Tales of a Canberra Boy."
Dave Wheeler
by Dale Willis
  From 1965-1970, my years at Yanco Agricultural High School, our train always stopped at Junee Railway Station. I even had meals in the refreshment rooms when school cadets paid my meal allowance.
   Back around 1969 I could swim a 50 metre pool underwater and I would train most days with swimming laps, so I was fairly fit. Well, as it happened I was on the way back to school having spent my holidays at home in the Berra when some railway worker and his mates demanded our tickets. The younger kid
s showed theirs but I refused. It got from bad (a single punch in between the carriages which got broken up) to worse. I was pursued and this fellow wanted to fight me at the Junee Station. Our train went through Bethungra, Old Junee then finally Junee Station. This guy was flipping his finger under my chin saying "Junee Cunt!" This happened several times. 
   Well, we got off at the Station and I got my mate Arty to hold my jumper. We went for it in the alley in the photograph. He threw the first punch which I blocked and then my first hard right cut his face above his nose and his hands flew up to his face. I gave him a left to the side of his face and then followed through with an uppercut that caused me to feel his floating ribs break. He was unconscious before he hit the asphalt. I wasn’t puffed and I put my nice tidy jumper on after I washed the blood off my hands. 
   I went back out onto the platform and the station master was yelling “Who did this?" I answered him several times and as he comprehended it was me the ambulance arrived. The guy started to regain consciousness then the police arrived. They asked his mates their story, which tallied with mine, so I was told to get back on the train by the police. They held up the Riverina Express, and it was just for me.

  The photo above is of the platform area of the beautiful old Junee Railway Station, the station where the incident of which I write occurred. As it opened in 1878 it could tell many stories. Other than events such as mine, it would have witnessed many young men take off to war, from the Boer War onwards, never to return.

  The closest photo, directly above, is of the laneway at the Junee Railway Station where I had a scrap with a railway worker while I was in 5th form (year 11) at Yanco Agricultural High School and on my way home to the Berra for school holidays.

   When I returned to the Berra for school holidays, from Yanco Agricultural High School, I kept in contact with my old mates from North Ainslie Primary and continued to make many more mates. The two photos above, from left to right in both photos, are Colin Bishop, Dub Wheeler and me. The photos were taken in 1965 while we were in 1st form of high school, or year 7 as it is now called. Two of us were carrying knives in the photos, which kids would not get away with today. We would have been aged 12 or 13.  

by Dave Wheeler
     Sometime in the mid to late 70’s I was at Commonwealth Park, on the shores of Lake Burley Griffin, on a hot summer Sunday. I think the event was called, “Sunday in the Park.” I would have been in my mid twenties at the time. 
   At that time of my life I was probably living with my mate, Brownie, (The late Owen Brown), in a house we rented at 17 Massey Street, Evatt, although Brownie was not with me at the time of which I write.
   "Sunday in the Park" was quite a wholesome event and mainly for the benefit of families, as are the sorts of functions that are held at that park today. Yet on that Sunday afternoon I, an unattached, abnormal, young misfit with two of my unattached mates of around the same age who were also by no means normal young men, attended one of those events. I suppose we had nothing better to do with ourselves, and we did have a good time. We enjoyed the band that was playing as well as the company of some pretty young girls we met while we were there.
  My mates who I went to the park with initially were Mario Gladwish and Trevor Crook, but while there we ran into another bloke we knew who I will call Larry. Larry, who was also about our age, was also by no means a normal young man. But he was a nice bloke, and I can say he was a nice bloke even though I never got to know him well, as I'm a good judge of character. Larry was also an excellent musician. I once heard him play a mean wailing sax at the Dickson Pub, and his playing gave me much pleasure and happiness at the time.
    Trevor Crook became a successful standup comedian and is still in the industry. Mario taught guitar for many years. I dont know what became of Larry.
  I enjoy listening to the sax and other brass, particularly if it involves trad jazz, blues or traditional rock and roll, and Larry played the sort of music I love and he played it well. Mario was/is also a brilliant musician, being an excellent guitarist and vocalist. I first met Larry through Mario. 

    The video clip above is of the late Fats Domino and his orchestra doing “Jambalaya." If that sort of song is experienced  close to the brass the feeling of the sound resonating through one's body can be euphoric. It is the sort of feeling I remember experiencing when I heard Larry blow his sax at the Dickson Pub many years ago, as well as when I had the privilege of hearing Fats and his orchestra at the Canberra Theatre, which I also heard many years ago.
   Pictured above is the Dickson Pub, which was where I last saw Larry blowing his saxophone. Although I don’t like pubs or alcohol nowadays, I did not like seeing the place bulldozed. It had a unique structure and it was a part of the life of a lot of lads and lasses of the Berra during their youth. I have very good memories of listening to good jazz at the Dicko. I know one ex Canberra boy, a bloke who was no stranger to crime and violence, who burst into tears when he found out the Dicko had been demolished.
   Larry, a fellow misfit, joined us as we were listening to the band  playing at Commonwealth Park and he also joined in our conversation with the attractive young ladies. After the band stopped playing Larry asked the girls if they would like to come back to his place with us. The girls declined the invitation and told us they had something else to do, which was not surprising. Even though they appeared to enjoy our off humour and off topics of conversation they possessed the minds of simple middle class Berra girls, whereas although the 4 of us had bodies that had dwelt in the Berra for lengthy periods our minds were on an entirely different planet.
   Anyway, we decided to go back to Larry’s place minus the sheilas, and upon arrival I was to discover Larry was still living with his mum, who greeted us as we walked in. She was a very friendly lady in her 50’s who made us all a cup of tea and provided us with a plate of bickies. We sat together, minus Larry’s mum, at a large table, and began talking about the usual things blokes of that age and our type talk about; until Larry started talking about Scientology! 
  He went on and on! He told us that his mate had got him into Scientology and it had dramatically improved his life. He also told us that prior to finding Scientology he had felt unwell. The Scientologists told him to begin eating properly, exercising and abstaining from piss, tobacco and dope. This he did, and after a while, lo and behold, he started feeling a lot better. Some of the best scams in history have been based on half truths. Obviously Larry would have felt better once he began looking after himself, but he attributed it all to Scientology. He hadn't given much thought to cause and effect. 
   On and on he went, trying to convert us to Scientology, until his mum, an obviously very empathic lady, who had moved into the next room to give us some privacy, could take it no longer. She came out of the adjoining room, walked up to Larry and said,“Larry, give it a rest! Your mates didn’t come here to listen to that drivel!”
    Larry got the message and we got back to discussing the things lads of that age and our type discuss.
   Other than Larry feeling better because he was looking after his body, Scientology probably gave his life some sort of meaning and direction, even though its foundation is based on absolute bullshit. I’m not sure of the Scientologist’s ultimate goal, but I’m told it involves something like getting rid of “engrams” in order to achieve some sort of eternal enlightenment. I suppose Larry's pursuit of the Scientology goal gave him a path to follow and something positive to look forward to, even though the whole thing was ridiculous.
   Our species became religious because it gave meaning to people and possibly promoted tribal unity. It must have also aided our species' ability to survive and engage in gene replication, because if it didn't the propensity for religiosity would not exist.
    Religion which has in its foundations a belief in the supernatural and offers eternal life may suit some, but not so those of us who cannot help wanting to see hard evidence before we are willing to believe in anything. But, humanity has the full spectrum when it comes to religiosity, ranging from non-believers like me to those who are afflicted with religious mania.
    I’m not sure where on the religiosity spectrum Larry was placed, but I know it was enough to have got him heavily into Scientology. Still, I haven’t seen him for 40 plus years and I wonder if he became disillusioned, as some do, and got back into the legal and illegal drugs he had been using. For all I know at this moment he could be mumbling incoherently to himself in Ainslie Village, or he may have topped himself many years ago. I hope not, because, as I have said, he was a very nice bloke and I sincerely hope that somehow he continued to have meaning and direction in his life and continued to keep himself in good health. Musicians however, are not renown for having good mental health, particularly very talented muso’s like Larry. Everything seems to have its price.
     On that note I will go back further in time and introduce the main subject of this yarn, a bloke I knew named Bob, who, like me, also demanded proof before he was willing to believe in anything, particularly anything revolving around the supernatural. I worked with Bob as a builder’s labourer in late 1972 or thereabouts on a building site in Wattle Street, on the Lyneham side of the road. We were building a block of flats.
   I always made a habit of trying to break the monotony of mindless work by engaging my workmates in conversation that went beyond the mundane. And as Bob, a true-blue Anglo Celtic Aussie in his mid to late 30’s, had at least 15 years on me, I thought I may be able to pick up some useful knowledge from him even though he had very little formal education. Other than receiving direct verbal knowledge from others based on what they got right in their lives, I was aware that it's possible to learn by being aware of the mistakes others make, and Bob did not try and hide the fact that he had made plenty of mistakes during his life.
    To get my workmates talking non-shallow talk I would usually bring very basic philosophy into our conversations and ask them questions which got them thinking. I would also sometimes give them hypotheticals, and as a result of that approach they often spilt their guts to me. 
    Bob revealed to me a lot about himself. He told me that at one stage of his life he’d been a hopeless alcoholic and that his wife had left him for that reason. That event of course made him feel worse than normal, and it was not long after his wife left him he looked at his life and saw it as pointless. He thought there was no light at the end of the tunnel other than the proverbial oncoming train. 
  Had he inherited the religiosity gene/s and/or been indoctrinated into a religion, he may have been able to see some point in life by following a religion, but Bob was an agnostic and a realist.
    He told me that in a period of sobriety, albeit sobriety in which he felt at rock bottom, he walked to the top of Mount Ainslie, and in act of desperation got down on his knees and prayed, despite the fact that he was an agnostic. 
   Although of course my memory will not allow me to quote verbatim the words Bob told me he used in his prayer or what he said to me in the conversation I had with him after he told me of his experience, what follows describes the gist of his prayer and our conversation with absolute accuracy. It is as follows, beginning with what Bob told me he asked God in his prayer:
     “God, if you exist please give me a sign! Please given me some direction in life! I can’t take it any more; just give me some inspiration! Guide me onto the path I should be taking! Give me a reason to live God! Please!”
    Bob told me that after the prayer he waited for something to happen. He said to me, I waited and I waited and I waited.” 
   "What happened"? I asked Bob.
   Bob replied, “Fuck all! It was a waste of fuckin time and I felt like a fuckin idiot talking to the trees and the sky. Nobody was listening to me and nobody gave a fuck!”     
   I asked him, "How did you feel after that Bob?" 
   Bob replied, “Not the best. What do you expect?”
   I asked him, “Have you come to the conclusion that either there is no god or if there is a god he couldnt give a rats arse about you and he has no intention of lending you a helping hand?" 
   Bob replied“Yeah, it’s all bullshit. I still can’t see any point to life, but the fact that I realise it’s up to me to make the most of what life throws at me means I can’t blame anyone for any bad decisions I make other than me. 
   I asked him, Bob, upon accepting that fact, did it make you more able to look after yourself than before you accepted that fact?
   Bob replied, “Yeah, I don't drink piss anymore and I eventually got onto another sheila who I’m living with.” 
   I asked him, “Are you happy Bob?"
   Bob replied, "As happy as I’ll ever be. You’ve just got to accept that life is about workin, growin old then dyin, and making the most of it all while we’re here
   I asked him, “Do you mean life's a combination of pain and pleasure and you’ve just got to accept the pain and savour the pleasure when it's available?
   Bob replied, “That’s exactly what I mean! I was thinking of topping myself for a while when I realised just how pointless life is. But I could never do that to my parents or brothers. Had I had no parents or brothers I may have done it, but as that was out of the question I just had to accept that I had to live through it all, and Im glad I didnt top myself because even if life is pointless its not too bad.
     I then asked, "So Bob, to sum it up for me do you think we should choose between suicide or accepting life’s pains and savouring its pleasures, and do you think that any other choice is irrational? And before you answer that, do you believe that if for whatever reason we decide to rule out topping ourselves, once we decide to stick around and in doing so accept lifes pains and savour its pleasures life is not too bad, even if it is pointless? 
Bob replied, "My fuckin oath!
I then asked, When you say life is pointless could we instead say that the objective of life is to maximise pleasure and to minimise pain, and in pursuing that goal our objective should be to take into account the anticipated quantity and intensity of pleasure and pain which accompanies each of our options?

Bob replied, You’re confusing me you bastard, but I think I know where you’re coming from.
I then asked, “How do you know God didn’t give you that message by refusing to give you any sort of answer or sign Bob, meaning he was giving you direction by not giving you direction?”
    Bob thought I was taking the piss and continuing to try to confuse him and he laughed heartily. He then replied, “Youd think with all his powers he could do a bit better than that. The bastard.”
    After accepting he was not going to get any outside help and that he was not going to top himself and that life consists of growing old, dying and making the most of it in the process, it would seem that Bob had adopted much of the philosophy of an ancient Greek named Epicurus, even though it’s highly unlikely he had ever heard of him.
   To go into greater detail, Bob, either consciously and/or non-consciously, had, like Epicurus, come to the conclusion that the objective of life is to maximise pleasure and minimise pain, and that to do so one must accept unavoidable pain and savour  pleasures when available.
     And because he had given up piss it would seem that Bob, like Epicurus, believed that one should not pursue pleasure blindly in ways that result in certain intense pleasures bringing on more pain than they're worth. In other words, he became conscious of the fact that to increase pleasure is to avoid pain, and certain intense pleasures can ultimately result in suffering pain of such an intensity and/or duration than they are not worth having, as would be the case if one has sex with a beautiful woman who kindly passes on to you her HIV positive status. Although that is an obviously extreme example, we are surrounded by many other pleasures we can choose to enjoy which are simply not worth enjoying because of the pain they also deliver.
    It was for the latter reasons Epicurus advocated savouring simple pleasures and a simple lifestyle, a lifestyle devoid of rich food and alcohol. The word “epicure," came about because of an ignorance of what true Epicureanism entailed.
   To reiterate, by being aware of all this Bob was able to savour life’s pleasures and accept without mental turbulence life’s pains, which obviously means that when he rid himself of his dependance on alcohol he was better able to accept and savour his here and now, which means he was more mindful (in the present) than he had been, even though he was not a practitioner of mindfulness per se.
    We are now talking about the non-religious aspects of Buddhism. "How wondrous this, how mysterious! I carry fuel, I draw water.
    Having said all this, Bob could not be described as a laughing Buddha. Like everyone he suffered pain and enjoyed varying degrees of pleasure, but on an overall basis he enjoyed his life and had ceased to have any desire to turn out his own lights.
    Okay, the reader will accuse me of putting words into Bob’s mouth he did not want to utter by my asking the leading questions I asked him, but based on what he told me in simple English, without any prompting from me, I’m convinced that he came to the same conclusions as many of the great philosophers and that my questions to him were there to assist him to express himself rather than to put words in his mouth. 
   Had Bob been more articulate he could have given lectures to the few people who would have listened to him, and in doing so saved them from an enormous amount of unnecessary pain and allowed them to enjoy far more pleasure than they would have otherwise enjoyed.
    On the same subject, I’ve said in other posts that in my youth I met many old WW1 and WW2 diggers who saw horrible sights and underwent horrific experiences. Some suffered for the remainder of their lives because of their wartime experiences, but others, rather than talk about what they experienced to counsellors or their families, (and in doing so get themselves upset by reliving their traumas), chose to live relatively enjoyable postwar lives, and they did so by way of a simple formula. 
     Other than not talk about what they experienced some were able, to a large degree, keep unasked for visions of what they experienced from flooding their conscious minds by simply keeping physically and mentally active. Try thinking negatives thoughts or reliving a past trauma if you are engaged in heavy physical exercise or work.
    I will place a caveat into this approach when it comes to dealing with trauma to the extent that a degree of rationality is required for it to be successful, and if a person is so traumatised and emotional he loses his rationality then obviously he will remain a slave to his emotions. All we can do is consciously strive for rationality, and if this is done one has a reasonable chance of keeping it most of the time. 
    Of course nobody is able to dodge pain entirely, but by accepting unavoidable pain and being occupied one is more mindful than one would otherwise be, and by being mindful one is also better able to savour life’s simple pleasures. Some old diggers who took such an approach continued to enjoy the simple pleasures life offered them for the remainder of their lives.
    How Epicurean! How Buddhist! How Bob-like they were!

by Dave Wheeler 

    I worked for the ACT RSPCA as Canberra’s only Inspector for 3 years, from early 1984 to early 1987 from memory. I've already written about one of my experiences during that time on this blog under the heading “The Flower Man,” which is on the following link.
   Not only was I the Inspector who had the job of policing the “ACT Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Ordinance,” which was almost useless legislation; even though with great effort I was able to get a few successful prosecutions, I was also the animal ambulance man who was required to rescue injured animals. Sometimes the latter task was satisfying, but when I had to deal with seriously injured animals and at times perform euthanasia on them it was not at all pleasant. 
   At other times I visited schools and other organisations to spread the word. I often had contact with the media and was interviewed several times by "Constable Kenny Koala.”      
    Thankfully the legislation we have today in the ACT for the prevention of cruelty to animals is far better than what I had to work with, although it is still inadequate. I would like to see it become draconian and the inspectors granted the same powers as their counterparts in NSW.
   I was also to a small degree a social worker, to the extent that although the RSPCA was all about animal welfare, quite often those who kept animals had great difficulty looking after themselves let alone their animals. And in order to look after the welfare of their animals we at times assisted the people who were supposed to be their keepers, usually by getting our full time vet to treat their animals free of charge, or by giving them practical assistance.
    Some of the latter had mental health problems and had acquired pets in an effort to gain the sort of companionship they needed. Some who did not necessarily have mental health problems had hit hard times and just needed a helping hand. 
   Others, the type I refer to as human garbage, treated animals as commodities to be used, abused and neglected. I was to find, sometime after I left the RSPCA and began work in an Admin position within the child protection section of the ACT Government, that many of the people I had come across while working for the RSPCA who had neglected and/or abused their animals were the same people my department dealt with, as they were also neglecting and/or abusing their kids.
    I have many stories revolving around the time I worked for the RSPCA, some of them not very pleasant. This is just one of the events that occurred while there which I remember vividly, as it tugged on my heartstrings. 
     We also had humorous events occur while I worked for the RSPCA. I can recall one particular incident which amused my workmate, John Carlton, although I didn’t laugh at the time as I was given a very good reason not to laugh. The event occurred when I went into a large cage we had which contained parrots that were too badly injured to be returned to the wild. I had gone in to change their water, thinking they may appreciate my efforts, but they did not. Within the cage was a galah and a cockatoo who worked as a team. The galah would go for your heels like a blue heeler and in doing so divert your attention, while the cockatoo would attempt to bite a part of your upper body while your head was turned.
    On the occasion of which I write the galah had my undivided attention as I looked down and tried to keep him from biting my Achilles' heel, which gave his cobber, the large white cockatoo, a chance to take a really hard bite into the end of my thumb. The cockys jaws, which are strong enough to crack open nuts, are enormously powerful. Natural selection has given them big curved beaks like the birds of prey, which enables their beaks to take that sort of muscular force without breaking.
    The pain I felt was instant and intense. As the blood flowed I thought he’d actually bitten off the end of my thumb, but fortunately he did not take off any bone. Im sure he would have done so had he bitten the thumb of a small kid. I of course lost my thumbnail as it had been instantly shattered.
    But, at a later stage I was able to have a laugh at John’s expense, although at the time there was a definite absence of laughter coming from John.  
     We had a resident sheep. I think we called him Ernie. I cant recall if he was a wether or a ram, but he was a big solid bloke. It had been decided that he had to be wormed, so John and I set about getting hold of him. We could not catch him in the open, so we herded him to behind a shed we had in our grounds. Directly behind the shed was a fence, which meant that Ernie was caught between the fence and the back of the shed. He was therefore enclosed in a passage about one metre in width going the length of the shed, with John and I standing at opposite ends of the passage, thereby trapping him and leaving him with nowhere to go. Or so we thought!
    John was aged about 43 at the time. He was a very fit and wiry sort of bloke and one of the best marathon runners for his age group in the Berra, but he was a smaller bloke than me. As a result when Ernie had to choose between trying to run over me to escape or run over John he chose John, and I'm very glad he did.
    Ernie charged at John and did not hold back. Im not sure of the technique he used, but whatever it was it worked. He was able to escape from us by upending John and running through him as if he was not there. I can remember seeing John in a horizontal position, although he was horizontal and in the air, at about waist height.
   John then crashed to the ground and hit his head in the process, which caused him to lose consciousness. He had to take the rest of the day off and we did not bother trying to worm Ernie on that day. 
      To begin to describe how I assisted the human and dog subjects of this anecdote, the year was 1985 or thereabouts. I would have been aged 32 or 33 if it was 1985. 
    I was in the ACT RSPCA Inspector’s van, not far from the RSPCA shelter at Weston, when I received a call on my wireless from Barbara, one of my workmates. She told me she had received a call from a bloke somewhere near Weston, not far from the shelter, and he was very upset. 
    Barbara, who was older than me and who had worked for the RSPCA for quite a few years, once told me that an RSPCA inspector they employed in the 60’s had a German girlfriend who he had met in Germany. Apparently she left Germany to be with him but once she got over here the inspector decided he did not want a serious relationship with her. The German girl became so upset she topped herself in the pine forest which was over the road from the RSPCAs Weston shelter. She supposedly used the inspector’s supply of Lethabarb, the drug that is used to euthanise animals. I've been told it is difficult to self-administer because it often produces unconsciousness before a person can get a lethal dose. Having not tried it on myself I can’t say.
    To paraphrase what Barbara told me on the wireless, the caller was an old age pensioner who was upset because his 17 year old kelpie was on the way out. He had not eaten or shat for 3 days and had just had a small anal prolapse. (Im referring to the kelpie not eating or shitting and prolapsing; not the old age pensioner). I was told the caller had no money for a vet and was in need of our assistance. 
    At that stage we had our own full time vet, and as such I knew I could take care of the kelpie by bringing him back to our shelter if it was appropriate to do so.
    I drove to the caller's address after Barbara had given it to me and I was met by a bloke aged about 70. He introduced himself as Bill. 
   Before he opened his mouth I could tell he was the archetypal Australian bushman of his era, and a very tough bloke who had lived a very hard life. He was the sort of Australian that no longer exists, which is a shame. I was to find he was a natural gentleman and a very nice bloke.
   He took me into his house and introduced me to his 17 year old male kelpie, named Andy, who was laying still on a blanket, as he was incapable of moving. Andy did not seem to be distressed or in pain and his prolapse did not seem severe, so I engaged Bill in conversation about other matters to ensure he had my trust and that he knew I would be able to do the right thing by Andy in the best possible way.
    I always made a habit of asking older people questions, as they are usually great sources of knowledge and more than willing to hand it over, and knowledge is a precious thing when it comes to surviving and ensuring one has a good quality of life in this sewer. I also usually find what old people have to say very interesting.
   Bill told me he’d been a shearer and had also worked outside the sheds on sheep stations with the assistance of Andy and many other working dogs before him. He told me that Andy had been an excellent working dog when he was younger. 
    He also told me he knew that dogs are not meant to live to the age of 17 and that he should be grateful for having had him that long, although his voice started to break as he was telling me, so I changed the subject.
    As he told me he had shorn all over NSW, QLD and Victoria I asked him what he knew about ‘Flash Jack from Gundagai,”the bloke in the famous song.
    He seemed to brighten up a bit and he told me that “Flash Jack" was way before his time, but he’d met some old blokes when he was young who claimed they knew him. He said that “Flash Jack” had worked mainly in the sheds beyond Hay. 
Flash Jack from Gundagai is being sung and played by the Bushwhackers.
      I also asked him if he knew, when he was younger, any old blokes who knew Jackie Howe, the famous champion shearer of the 1890’s who made famous the blue Jackie Howe singlet which so many Australian workers used right up until the high-vis gear was made compulsory. He again said that when he started shearing he knew several old blokes who had shorn with Jackie Howe, and they spoke very highly of him. He was their hero.
   Pictured above is the famous Jackie Howe, 1861-1920. To paraphrase “The Australian Dictionary of Biography,” he was an extraordinary physical specimen weighing 114 kgs with an enormous chest, biceps, thighs and hands. He could run 100 yards in 11 seconds. He was also a staunch unionist, and one of many unionists of previous generations who were partly responsible for the pay and conditions of todays workers. 
    I mentioned the 1891 shearers strike to Bill, knowing from other old shearers I’d spoken to that it is firmly embedded in their folklore, or at least the folklore of shearers Bill’s age and older. Bill, who was of course a union man, again said that when he was young, before the war, he had shorn with old blokes who were participants in that strike and they were held in high esteem for having done so.
    I wonder what Bill would think of the scabby Labor party of today which has kept in its policies a desire to retain the nastiest parts of Howard’s anti-worker IR legislation, such as needing permission to strike and prohibiting secondary boycotts.  
    We kept talking and he told me he’d never married or had kids, he’d fought in New Guinea on the Kokoda Track and that all he’d done after the war, right up until he’d got the old age pension, was shear and do farm work with his dogs. I could have talked to Bill all day. 
    Eventually the time came and I said to him, “Well Bill, what do you reckon? Andy’s had a good life, I think the time’s come.”
“You’re right,” he said, with a breaking voice.
    I then took out a form I carried which I had to get people to sign under such circumstances, which allowed me to take possession of their animal. As Bill signed the document, knowing he was saying goodbye forever to his closest mate, a mate who had given him unconditional love for 17 years, I could see his hand start to tremble. The tears flowed and he said to me, “Im sorry son, he's my best mate.” 
   Showing emotion in that way is not the done thing in the bush, as bushmen are meant to be too hard to be sentimental, but the depth of his feelings ensured his emotions could not be contained. 
   Although Bill was not dying himself, a part of him was, and I thought of the old Australian song, “ The dying stockman.”

The Dying Stockman, sung by Lionel Long
    What could I do for Bill except give him my sympathies as I gently took possession of his old mate? As I began carrying Andy out Bill did another thing Aussie bushmen are not supposed to do. He lent over and kissed Andy on his rugged old head. His breaking voice then said to me, “Thanks mate,” as he slowly closed his front door.
   I drove off and took poor old Andy back to the our shelter where he received from our vet, Steve, a gentle exit by way of a needle. He did not struggle. It was as if he knew his time had come.
   Pictured above is Bess, a working kelpie from Noonbarra Kelpies. They are a beautiful and tough breed but not suited for suburbia unless their owner is particularly active, as they have been selectively bred to have a biological need to work. The name kelpie came from Scotland and refers to a water spirit. It has been debated for years whether or not the dingo is a part of the kelpie makeup, but recently geneticists have determined that they do have a small amount of dingo ancestry. They were however, unable to say whether it was part of the breeds foundation or introduced in relatively recent times.

  Pictured above is Faye, one of my workmates at the RSPCA, and me. The photo was taken at the RSPCA refuge about the same time I took possession of Andy, Bill’s old kelpie, which was probably in 1985 or 1986.
    During the next week I thought about Bill and the fact that compared to his generation most of my generation of Australians have had relatively soft lives. And I became more conscious of how grateful Australians should be for him and others of his generation who put their lives on the line to save us from a Jap invasion in WW2. Had they not stopped the Jap’s in New Guinea I would hate to think of the sort of existence I would be living today, although it's unlikely I would have been born under such circumstances. 
   I say that because although my dad never saw action during WW2 he was in the army for part of it and stationed in Australia in anticipation of a Jap invasion. And had the Jap’s achieved a successful invasion theres a good chance he would have been killed, and as his death would have been prior to him meeting my mum obviously I would never have seen the light of day on that monumental occasion in 1952.
    WW2 was the only war Australia has been involved in which was morally and practically justifiable. Had the Jap’s taken over the most we could have hoped for would have been integration into their society and culture and as such to be living in massively overcrowded, noisy, polluted cities, continually bowing and singing the company song every morning. It would have been death without death’s quiet.
     I doubt however, the Jap’s would have accepted us as equals post invasion, and given their behaviour in China in the 30’s and during WW2, and given the way they treated our prisoners of war I believe it highly probable Australians would have been subjected to mass slaughter, and in the case of young Australian girls, mass rape. 
    I recently heard a so-called historian, Dr Mark Dapin, on a Radio National program, tell us that the belief that the Jap’s planned to invade Australia during the war is a myth. Absolute bullshit! Other than them printing Australian money for an intended eventual invasion the very fact that they invaded New Guinea and other islands north of us shows their intent. Why would they not invade us if possible given our mineral wealth and land area, particularly since they were in desperate need of energy sources? Obviously they did not have any detailed plans regarding how and when the invasion was going to occur, as they would have been biting off more than they could chew given that they had not conquered New Guinea or the islands, but their ultimate intention, if victorious, was obvious. Maybe Mark is married to a Jap and wants to make excuses for  their behaviour. I don’t know.
      Back to the subject. After a week I called in at Bill's house as I wanted to see if he was okay. A bloke who was about the same age as I was at the time answered the door. He told me he was Bill’s nephew and that Bill had been housesitting for him and his family while they were on holidays. He also told me that Bill had moved off after they had returned and that he had intended going back to the bush. 
   His nephew was not concerned about Bill’s welfare. He said  to me something like,“He’s a tough old bastard who’s experienced death all his life and he knows how to handle it.” 
   He also said that Bill had plenty of mates in the bush as well as plenty of relo’s who he saw regularly. He went on to say that Bill also had a circuit of mates who he had served with during the war and that he often stayed with them.
   That gladdened my heart, and I immediately thought of some of the words in Banjo Patterson’s “Clancy of the Overflow” after imagining Bill returning to the bush and being greeted by his mates.
And the bush hath friends to meet him, and their kindly voices greet him
In the murmur of the breezes and the river on its bars,
And he sees the vision splendid of the sunlit plains extended,
And at night the wond’rous glory of the everlasting stars.
   I then imagined Bill sitting on the bend of a river with a fire going, living like a pig in clover, as did the shearer described in the following old Australian folk song, “Four Little Johnny Cakes,” sung by Raymond Crooke. I like the song for the image it creates in my mind of a shearer sitting by the bank of a river with freshly cooked Johnny cakes, although I don’t like the parts of the song which describes how the shearer intended to procure his protein. 

 Four Little Johnny Cakes sung by Raymond Crooke.
By the banks of the Berembed Weir
   After publishing the latter post I was reminded of the time while working for the ACT RSPCA I was asked by a caller to meet him in a large field in the middle of Mckellar, a field which is now covered with houses. The caller told me that in that field there was a dingo living on a rabbit burrow with her litter of pups within it, and that he was concerned she would not be left in peace, and that even if she was she would have problems surviving.
  When I arrived at McKellar I saw the said dingo covering with her curled body the rabbit burrow where her pups lived. I could see feathers strewn around her, presumably from birds she had stalked and killed for tucker.
   Her coat seemed longer than that of a pure dingo, so I doubt she was pure, although she was not far off it. I could see someone had tried to keep her in suburbia, as she was wearing a collar, although it was a collar devoid of any identification.
   It would seem that whoever owned her was to find that dingoes are very difficult to keep in suburbia, and they had either dumped her or had not bothered looking for her after she took off, although I suspect she had probably been dumped because had she had a home to go to she would have returned to raise her pups rather than attempt to survive in a field surrounded by suburbs. We also did a thorough search for an owner and came up with nobody reporting a missing dingo.
    I could see the caller was right about her situation being precarious, so I set about getting her and her pups back to our shelter in Weston.
    As she was curled over the entrance of the burrow protecting her progeny she showed some defensive aggression towards me as I approached her, so I took from my van my catching pole, a pole with a retractable loop I used to control aggressive dogs when they needed my assistance and were reluctant to let me take them in, or when I just wanted to remove them from their predicament should they have been trapped. Using the pole was not a pleasant job as the dogs hated the process, but sometimes you have to be a bit cruel to be kind.
    I was able to put the loop over the dingo’s head, and she very reluctantly came back to the van with me. After she was secured inside the van I returned to her burrow with my spade and collected her pups. I was able to pick up a couple of them from the entrance and dig out the rest without causing any fatalities or injuries. I collected, from memory, something like 7 pups.
   Once the dingo had her pups returned to her I could see she felt great relief as they snuggled up to her, even though she possessed the poker face of a dingo. Their faces are relatively expressionless compared to domestic canines.
    I then took her to the shelter and handed her over to our staff, who immediately took care of her, giving her and her pups a large cage and kennel immediately behind where our vet practised.
     It did not take long for her to get used to her new environment and I bonded with her very quickly. She had a beautiful nature and seemed to be very happy in her new environment, where her pups were looked after and where she had ready access to water and tucker.
    After a while she was allowed to roam around the grounds of our shelter, as we had high fences and we knew she would not be motivated to wander because she would not want to abandon her pups.
    Being a twisted wretch I of course gave her the name “Azaria,” as it had not been that long since the Azaria Chamberlain incident at Uluru had occurred.
     Although she did have a beautiful nature, it should be remembered that although dingoes look like domestic dogs they are not domestic dogs, and they should not be expected to behave like domestic dogs at all times, and Azaria was no exception.
    One day while doing something near our chook shed I heard my workmate, Emma, yell out  with great volume and emotion,“AZARIA!” When I turned around I could see that Azaria, while she thought nobody was looking, had placed in her mouth our resident duck, which she would have liked to have shared with her pups. She dropped the duck immediately after she realised she had been sprung, and fortunately the duck was unharmed.
    I had been sceptical of Lindy Chamberlain’s story of a dingo at Uluru taking her baby until the duck incident, but after that I was able to see it from a different perspective. I was able to imagine our Azaria performing a similar act on an unguarded baby while nobody was watching. Meat is meat in the wild, and to a non-human animal in the wild humans are just another form of protein. 
    Actually, the history of our own species tells us that our ancestors would make a practice of using neighbouring tribes as a direct source of food. The convict, Alexander Pearce, felt that way when he took a break from his life at Macquarie Harbour and decided to go bushwalking with his mates, taking advantage of the fact that they were made of meat, and as such good tucker.
    As most Australians know, there are doubts to this day by some over what happened at Uluru regarding Azaria Chamberlain, even though Lindy Chamberlain has by way of a court of law been shown to have been not guilty of killing her child.
    Several years after the that event I did a JP course with a forensic scientist who worked for the AFP. I yarned to him during our lunch break, and asked him about the Chamberlain incident after he had told me he had been working in the NT during the time of the disappearance of baby Azaria.
     Even though he was not working on the Chamberlain case himself, some of his mates he worked alongside were, and he was able to discuss with them the intricacies of the case and examine whatever physical evidence they were able to acquire.
    I said to him, “What do you think? Did the dingo take the baby or was the baby murdered by Lindy Chamberlain?”
    His answer was something like, “The police stuffed it up from the start by not roping the place off immediately. And when they did send people down to forensically examine what was left of the evidence they were under-resourced and couldnt do a thorough job. So the answer to your question is I simply don’t know.”
   Getting back to the subject, time marched on and Azaria’s pups grew rapidly. Unfortunately a couple died, and after unsuccessful attempts were made to find a home for Azaria (I could not take her as I already had two dogs who would not have accepted her) she also died from unknown causes. But, her 5 or so remaining pups lived on, and they all found homes.
   One female pup went to my mates Jan and Julie Aamodt. And as Jan had not met Azaria before her death and did not know her name, and as he, like me, has a twisted sense of humour, he also named the pup they chose Azaria. 
    “Azaria the younger” went on to live a charmed life, mainly on acreage at Murrumbateman. She lived to the ripe old age of 17, the same age as Bill’s kelpie.
    Another pup, a male, went to the daughter of our president at the time, Anne Yonge. I can’t recall Anne’s daughter’s first name but I do recall her calling her pup Bunyip. And because Bunyip was sired by a non-dingo he apparently did not have a dingo nature and was trainable and adapted readily to a domestic life.
   The same could not be said of “Azaria the younger,” because although she had a charmed life she had many dingo traits and was a handful at times for Jan and Julie. I would not recommend anyone try and keep any dog with substantial dingo genetics in suburbia.
   ANOTHER EVENT that occurred while I was at the RSPCA began as I had just walked out the door and was about to get into my van to go to a job. I was confronted by a pompous bloke in his sixties who had a large cardboard box which he told me contained 6 pigeons. He said he liked to feed native birds and did not want any pigeons getting in on the act, so he trapped them and brought them to us, hoping we would euthanise them for him. As I am not a fan of speciesism I intended to politely give him a spray, telling him we were not in the pest extermination business. But, before I could open my mouth an older lady who had worked at the shelter for many years, who had heard what he said, burst through the door and took over. 
   I did not object as I knew exactly how her mind worked and I knew exactly what was going to happen, which made me begin chuckling to myself. She grabbed the box of pigeons from the bloke, saying, “It’s okay, we’ll take care of the pigeons,” then disappeared into a backroom with them.
    I decided to delay my trip for a few minutes and went back inside to get more of a laugh. Sure enough my older workmate poked her head out from a rear door and said to me,“Is he gone yet?” I told her he was gone then followed her into our grounds to watch her open the cardboard box and liberate the pigeons. That made my day, as I knew that being pigeons they would probably beat the pompous native bird feeder back to his house and would be waiting there for more tucker.    
      There was more fun. The idiot came back another four times over the next fortnight with what were probably the same pigeons. And on each occasion we took them from him and gave them their freedom as soon as he drove off.

by Dave Wheeler
   I hope I will not be seen as blowing my own trumpet or being falsely modest when I describe the two unfortunate events I came across on the morning of the 17/1/18, because although I did lend a hand my actions were by no means heroic. True heroes risk their lives to help others, whereas my actions on that day did not risk my life or limb at all, nor did the events involve a lot of work on my part. 
   Apart from my actions being far less praiseworthy than the actions of people who really risk their lives saving others, they are also far less praiseworthy than those who give many hours of their time working for charities without any financial reward. The latter are often ignored when civic awards are dispensed, whereas official awards are often bestowed upon those who hold high office and who do nothing more than what they are paid to do. I'm describing the events I came across to emphasise the fragility of our existences and how everything we take for granted can be taken from us in an instant.
    Although there will be people who know the people involved in the events I will mention I will not give out their names or describe where in Canberra the events occurred, as I wish to give those involved some privacy. 
    To begin to describe what occurred on the 17/1/18, the day started off well. I like to do a small amount of work occasionally to exercise my old brain and body, as does my surveyor cobber who is also a 1952 model and who also has no desire to work on a full time basis. 
   That morning we travelled from his place to the new Berra suburb of Moncrieff where we did about 2 hours of survey work on townhouses that are in the process of being built. We were working under ideal conditions. The sun was shining, it was not too hot, there was a gentle breeze blowing and I could also hear birdsong as there was no noisy machinery around us. I would not have been dead for quids!
    During our work an attractive young woman took some photos of what we were doing from outside the fence surrounding the building site. A sarcastic bloke working near us suggested she was perving on our partly decayed 1952 bodies. I thought that was very unkind. We all slowly decay until our biological machine comes to a stop. We then decay far more rapidly.
   Apparently we were working on or near the townhouse the attractive young lady and her husband are having built, and she is photographing it through its various stages of construction. 
    On the way back to my mate's house I found myself thinking how nice it would have been to have had a working life that consisted of workdays that were as brief and as pleasant as we had experienced that morning. Of course we could have very short working days if our species was not so greedy and did not want more and more useless gadgets. Technology was supposed to allow machinery to do most of the work for us but we’re still waiting for the days of leisure. Bertrand Russell called for a 4 hour day in the 1930’s!
   I’m wandering away from the subject. The point I was going to make was that after having experienced an almost perfect early morning the later part of that morning was going to be decidedly unpleasant as a result of my witnessing the results of two unfortunate events, one after the other, with one event being far more serious than the other.    
     Where am I now? Yes, after I returned to my mate's place I got into my car to drive home and in doing so first drove to a T intersection and turned right into the main road that goes through his suburb.  Before I did so I gave way to a largish truck on my right.
    I then heard its tyres squeal, and after looking to the left saw it swerve to attempt to avoid colliding with a parked ACT Government ute which had its emergency lights flashing. It would seem the driver of the truck was distracted for a moment before he realised where he was going. 
    It was too late! The truck hit the right rear of the ute with an almighty force and continued on. I could see the ute’s rear end go into the air then come down during the process. Had the truck hit the ute square-on it would have been much more serious and I doubt an occupant of the ute would have been able to walk away from it.
     It has been suggested to me that the driver of the truck may have been looking at his mobile phone instead of focussing on driving his truck. I have no proof of that having happened.
    I immediately parked my car and ran towards the parked ute to see if anyone was in it, because even though it was not a direct hit I thought it probable an occupant would have suffered injuries given the force of the impact. The driver of the truck by that stage however, had parked his truck and beaten me to the ute and was talking to its driver, apologising to him for what he had just done. The ute driver seemed okay.
    I also spoke to the ute driver, a pleasant bloke, and he told me his back and neck were sore, although he did not appear to be in severe pain. I gave him my name and contact details as a witness if he needed me, because sometimes when humans are exposed to physical trauma their bodies produce chemistry that prevents them from feeling the full effect of their injuries until several hours after they have occurred.
    Although I obviously felt sorry for the driver of the ute I also felt very sorry for the bloke who ran into it, as he was visibly upset about what had happened. I became aware that if I believed there was a god watching over us I would be saying to myself,“There but for the grace of God go I.” 
   We all have moments when we lose focus for a fraction of a second or longer. Most of the time nothing comes of it, but sometimes when something is in our way tragedy can occur. As I have said, had he hit the ute square-on it could have been fatal, and the truck driver, who like most people probably believes we have contra causal free will, would have had to have lived with what he had done for the rest of his life. 
Pictured above is the ACT Government ute that was hit while parked.
Pictured above is the truck that hit the previously shown ute.
THERE WAS A LOT MORE TO COME AFTER THAT! After I had removed the scattered glass caused by the accident off the road and left the scene I proceeded down the same road for what was probably less than a kilometre. I slowed because I could hear a loud crying and could see a young lady aged about 30 sitting in the gutter in the street attended by a couple who appeared to be in their mid 70’s. Although I was already in the process of stopping I was then waved down by the male part of the couple. He and his wife seemed to be somewhat traumatised and desperately wanting assistance. 
   After I parked my car off the road and went towards the young lady sitting in the gutter I expected to be confronted by an hysterical ice addict, and I was preparing for violence from some mad boyfriend who may have been in the background who had bashed her or who had been bashed by her. I have a history of coming across violence more often than I would like. 
    Although the young lady was not a druggie and she had no violent boyfriend in the background in retrospect I wish I only had to deal with hysterical and violent ice addicts on that day, because I was confronted by something much worse. It was an horrific site! I could see that the poor young lady sitting in the gutter had had her leg run over at the ankle joint, causing the base of her shinbone to protrude right out into the air above her foot, and her foot to virtually hang off her leg, seemingly secured only by her skin. 
    I did not want to move her off the road to put her in the shade and into the recovery position, which is the usual procedure for most injuries, as it would have obviously involved moving and thus bending what remained of her ankle joint. And other than her already being in terrible agony I did not want to increase the level of pain she was suffering nor did I want to do anything that would increase the chances of her having to have her foot amputated or of severing an artery. All I could do was shade her with my body and try and take the weight off her semi-detached foot by putting the joint of my arm behind her knee and pulling it upwards. The old bloke who was in the car that had run over her was by that stage giving her water.
    Given the agony she was in I admired the young lady for the control she had over herself, with her priority being the welfare of her two girls, who seemed to be aged around 4 and 7. They were on the nearby nature strip being looked after by the older lady who had been in the car that had run over their mum’s leg.
   The girls were obviously very upset, and when I heard the younger one cry out loud and say she didn’t want Mummy to die it pulled at my heartstrings to say the least. I tried to reassure her that Mummy would be okay, but I was supporting Mummy’s leg at the time, and as the little girl could see what had happened to her mum's foot I do not know how convincing I was.
    I may be wrong on the details in regard to what occurred as I did not witness the accident and it was of no interest to me at the time. It would seem however, that one of her girls had run out in front of the car and Mum had gone out to save her from being run over by pulling her out of the way. It would seem that the little girl was lightly hit by the car and uninjured, but Mum had had her leg run over in the process of saving her.
   The ambulance was rung, as was her husband and the police. I also tried to ring the young lady’s mum, although she was not answering. I left a message, and after her mum rang back I was able to put her onto her badly injured daughter.
    For a few minutes the car that had run over the young lady was parked in the middle of the left side of the road beside her, which meant that no car could get past due to there being a concrete median strip in the middle of the road. Meanwhile, I tried to continue to support her leg and stop approaching cars before they reached us so I could indicate to them that they should either go over the median strip to get around us or reverse their way out. I was also trying to keep the flies away from the blood that was coming from where the young lady’s bone was protruding. 
    Luckily I was wearing my high vis shirt, which was required at the building site we had been on. I had no wish to become another statistic.
    One terrible piece of womanhood who was trying to proceed down the street yelled out to me, “Can’t you get them to move their car?” I thought to myself, “Some poor bastard has to come home to that!” I did not want the car moved at that stage. I was glad it was there to protect us from being hit by the approaching cars. 
    After we had some more assistance to stop the approaching traffic I got the older bloke to move his car from the road, and I proceeded to assist in signalling to oncoming cars to stop and then very slowly proceed around the injured young lady as I simultaneously continued to apply upward force to behind her knee to take the pressure off her almost severed foot. 
  I don’t want to condemn the ACT Ambulance service or its paramedics in any way as they do an excellent job, but they seemed to take forever to arrive! I rang the ambulance service again to let them know how serious the injury was, just in case they misunderstood the initial call and did not realise what had occurred and had thus given a less serious case higher priority. The lady I spoke to at the ambulance service however, assured me they were fully aware of the seriousness of the injury and that the ambulance was on the way with its siren going.
    I reiterate, I am not having a go at the Ambo service, but I will say that there must be a shortage of ambulances and paramedics for them to have taken as long as they did to come. They were obviously on some other emergency or were a long way away, and if there are insufficient numbers of paramedics and ambulances then obviously someone is going to have to wait. They can only do what they can do.
  I began thinking about how the ACT Government spends our taxes on such things as trams we don’t need and other things that are non-vital, and at times useless. 
   (Why they did not choose rubber tyre trams is beyond me as they can be set up at a fraction of the cost and can run entirely on electricity. Either there were some palms greased or our local politicians are slightly retarded). 
   For example, although I agree with the concept of gay marriage it’s not up to our local government to celebrate it by spending our tax money on rainbow signs on buses and roundabouts. Amongst other things I would rather they put the money towards hiring more paramedics, buying more ambulances and installing air conditioning in schools to stop kids sweltering during our summers. (As kids don’t vote most governments could not give a rat’s arse about their welfare). 
     And why did they create a $300,000.00 pa job for Brendan Smyth, who is our “Commissioner for international engagement,”  when the ACT economy exports next to nothing? Other than the fact that virtually nobody is worth $300,000.00 pa, that money could have easily covered the costs of another two paramedics and another ambulance. 
    I worked for the ACT government for several years and I was to find many of the high level bureaucrats were a waste of space, oxygen and tax money. What some of them were and still are paid could pay for several paramedics, and paramedics actually work for a living and do a job that is an absolute necessity.
   The Lib’s were probably worse when they were in office. I remember them selling profit-making government assets and government-owned buildings and trying to reduce the pay and conditions of the lower level ACT public servants while they continued to reward useless toadying higher level fat-cats.
    The coppers arrived before the ambulance, and one pleasant young copper did a tag team with me and relieved me from my job of propping up the young lady’s leg. I was able to support her opposing shoulder after that as she had been forced to sit herself up on her elbow due to where she was and the nature of her injury. 
   When the paramedics eventually came they did an excellent job of attending to her. I saw them inject her with a powerful drug to relieve her pain and send her into unconsciousness, which must have been a great relief for her. 
  Pictured above are the paramedics and coppers attending to the badly injured young lady after she had been anaesthetised.
     As I have indicated, I admire the young lady for how she handled her situation. Most people would be hysterical under such circumstances, but she was mainly concerned with her kids and was able to turn her mind off her extreme pain when she needed to answer the questions the paramedics and coppers asked her. And she did so in a very clear and articulate manner while her foot hung off her leg. 
   Although I did not need the reminder, we are all flesh and blood and very vulnerable. I was not fully conscious of that in my youth, and when I think of how my mates and I as 17 year olds would ride motorbikes and drive old cars at very high speed we were very lucky we did not cause deaths or serious injury to innocent people and/or ourselves. Most of us should not have been allowed out without a keeper. 
    The coppers also did a very professional job while they were there, and two of them were thoughtful enough to ask me at different times if I thought I might need counselling after the event. Little did they know that if a counsellor tried to counsel me the counsellor would need counselling after the experience.  
    If anyone knows the poor young lady could you please let me know if they were able to save her foot?
UPDATE 19/1/18
  I was very pleased to get a phone call from the young lady tonight. She told me that they had saved her foot and that she was home with her husband and kids. She got my phone number from her mum’s phone from when I rang her mum at the time of the accident.
By Dave Wheeler
    As I’ve reminded the reader in previous posts, within Australian culture, or for that matter virtually any culture, you’re not supposed to talk about yourself too much, and if you do it's best to do so by way of putting yourself down. I have definitely done the latter in this essay/anecdote/rave, as it shows up some real flaws in my makeup, or at the very least the makeup I possessed as a young man, even though what was and was not me at the time is debatable. And if what I have just said makes no sense to you it may as we progress.
   It is also difficult to not talk about yourself if your personal experiences are intertwined with how you see things, particularly if you’re putting forward philosophical reasoning when the reasoning revolves around one’s personal experiences, which is what I will attempt to do. Actually, personal philosophies are created by combining acquired knowledge with personal experiences. 
   Putting that aside, some who read this essay may get a laugh at my expense, but it is mainly for the benefit of those who are interested in how the brain and mind may work and/or who are philosophically-inclined. 
    So, be warned; if you have no interest in philosophy or how the mind and brain works, or if you have a small attention span, I advise you to read a different anecdote or essay within this blog by simply scrolling down or hitting the “Home" button and making a choice. You could also close your computer and go shopping in Captains Flat.
   I would also like to say that if you are not familiar with aggressive Rationalist philosophy and have not made yourself consciously aware of the implications of our bodies (which of course includes our brains) being a part of the material universe, and as such subject to the forces of the universe that act upon them, much of what I have to say you may regard as insane. It may even seem insane to those who subscribe to religions that require followers to believe in the supernatural as that sort of insanity is mainstream and regarded as normal. 
     What I have to say relates to certain events I experienced within the walls of the since demolished YMCA in Civic, even though I rarely visited the place when it existed. 
    The first event at the Civic YMCA that involved my having an altered state-of-consciousness I regard as a fascinating but negative experience. I didn’t make an arse of myself on that occasion but I was very confused during and after the event as it seemed to defy logic.  
    My memory tells me the event may have occurred in 1971, but it probably occurred in or around mid 1970. On the night it occurred I had been at the Canberra Rex with my mates when one of them, a lad named Terry Gates, asked me if I could take him to the YMCA in Civic where his girlfriend was playing basketball so we could give her a lift home. Terry did not own a car. 
    I didn't know the girl very well, but I remember her as an attractive girl a couple of years younger than me, and my faded memory also tells me her name was Megan and that she went to Lyneham High. But, I’ve received a lot of blows to my 1952 vintage head, and because I was a forceps baby for all I know her name may have been Sheila, Cheryl or Beryl and she may have been a hairdresser from Queanbeyan.  
Update-January 2020. I recently found out my memory is correct and her name was Megan and she did go to Lyneham High. I was told this by a good mate of hers who is a good mate of mine. They still stay in contact with each other. Its easy to worry about dementia planting false memories in your brain as you age.  
   The Civic YMCA, which has since been bulldozed, was located at the corner of London Circuit and Constitution Avenue Civc, as shown above, where the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade building now stands. Imagine the CO2 that was produced when the current buildings were erected. 
   The above is a photo of the said Civic YMCA, which was taken in the 60’s. Thanks to Anne Cameron for finding it for me.
     Anyway, I agreed to give her a lift home, and when we arrived at the YMCA I told Terry I would wait in the car while he went in to get her. But, after going inside for a very short period of time Terry returned to me in a state of absolute fear and horror, as if he’d just seen a ghost. He said to me, "It’s packed with sheilas in there! There are no blokes in there at all! I can’t go in there by myself! You’ve got to come in with me!” 
    I said to myself, “What’s his problem? Surely he can handle a bunch of girls?Yet Terry was usually a very gutsy sort of lad, and he had never showed any signs of shyness or fear when it came to girls. His reaction was completely and utterly out of character. 
    So, I reluctantly got out of my car and began walking with Terry through the main entrance of the YMCA. I felt a bit smug at the time, thinking to myself that if I had a girlfriend I had to pick up from the YMCA I would not need a mate to walk into the place with me.
    It was however, a very different story when I was actually inside the Civic YMCA, even though I was in the company of another bloke. I felt a sort of fear I had never felt in my life. For some reason unbeknown to me the fear I felt was so strong I had an immediate urge to race outside. 
     I don’t think I felt fear that was of the same intensity I would feel if I was shoved into a cage with a Kodiak bear, but it would not have been that far off it. The difference however, was that if I was in a cage with a Kodiak bear I would know why I felt fear, as it would be totally warranted. Conversely, when I was within the walls of the Civic YMCA on that night, surrounded by laughing and boisterous teenage girls who were too busy playing basketball or conducting activities related to playing basketball to notice our presence, along with a sprinkling of middle-aged women who were organising the games, I had no idea why I was feeling any fear at all. 
     After taking a few more steps inside it was all too much. I could have gone on and endured it if it was a life and death situation, but if you’re suffering an intense form of pain of any sort you need a very good reason to not make it stop, and the obligation I had to support Terry by accompanying him was outweighed by the desire I had to get out of the place. 
   Poor Terry walked on by himself not knowing I had slipped out without telling him. I don’t know if the fear he felt was as intense as mine, but later on he told me that when he turned and saw I wasn’t there he was panic-stricken and didn’t know what to do with himself. That caused me a lot of amusement.
     What fascinates me is the question of why the situation gave me such fear. I was not trying to make a line for any of the girls, so my ego was not in any danger. There is no way it could be compared to the fear young men feel when they are about to ask a girl out, not knowing whether or not they'll get a knock-back. And why did Terry react in a similar way to me when it was so out of character for him? I had never before suffered from any form of anxiety, paranoia or had any sort of panic attack, nor have I since the event occurred. And I had been in very similar situations before the event I described occurred and I have been in similar situations after the event. It was only on that one occasion I felt such inexplicable fear. 
    So, was the state-of-mind I experienced at the YMCA on that one occasion simply the one and only time in my life I suffered a form of mental illness or was there more to it? 
     I told the story to a workmate several years ago, a lady whose name I cannot recall as I only worked with her briefly. I do however, remember her being a bit new-age and a committed feminist. She told me that Terry and I were probably subjected to a sort of girl-power women can produce when in large groups to protect themselves from males. She said it was by no means an unusual occurrence. 
    To augment what she was saying she reminded me of the fact that trees can communicate with surrounding trees chemically to protect themselves against herbivores or other things that are a threat to them, and she is correct about the trees as the process has been observed by many reputable scientists. See the following link.
    In regard to how the girls may have put up an anti-male shield she came up with two theories. She thought the girls may have created a magnetic field which produced fear in the male brain or they may have produced a collective smell that males could perceive non-consciously, and that the smell may have caused the male brain to feel fear without it being consciously aware of why it felt fear.
    It all sounded and still sounds too far-fetched for me and I’m very sceptical, because other than our having been no threat to the girls and there being zero evidence to support the smell or magnetic field theories, there is a simpler theory. To explain, although I don’t know the extent of Terry’s fear, I see the fear I suffered as more likely to have been created by my undeveloped teenage brain without any external catalyst of the kind my workmate described, even though I was not conscious of why I felt such fear and it was the only time in my life I have felt that sort of fear under those sorts of circumstances.
     I will however, place a caveat in my criticism of her theories by saying that although highly unlikely, and totally lacking in supporting scientific evidence, the magnetic field and smell theories are not theories that involve the transgression of the laws of physics. Therefore those theories and others like them are possibilities, albeit remote possibilities. 
    And, if we are to discuss human behaviour in general, when it comes to processes of a quantum nature occurring, such as entanglement, and how we may be affected by, or utilise those processes, our ignorance on the subject is unlimited. 

    The car in the above photo, which is my FC Holden station wagon, was the car I was driving when I picked the young lady up from the YMCA in Civic. The late Bluey Cowan is sitting on the bonnet and I am standing on the roof wearing a full leather coat that was worn by my grandad in the trenches during WW1. I don’t know where the photo was taken.
    The next two events I am about to describe that occurred in the Civic YMCA resulted in my making an arse of myself twice in one day. What occurred has all sorts of implications of a philosophical nature, particularly in relation to moral responsibility, since I am discussing free will. 
    Before continuing I will say that I have previously said on this blog on several occasions that our having contra causal free will is an illusion, and I have qualified what I have said with argument and a reference to the following link, which takes the reader to a very well-written and hard-hitting essay on the matter, even though there is nothing in the said essay that is new. I will not however, go there very much for the purpose of this essay, as I will be discussing free will, or our lack of free will, in relation to when our bodies move, by way of reflex, without our consciously “directing,” for want of a better word, them to move. 
   The year in which I made an arse of myself twice in one day at the same Civic YMCA was 1977 or 1978. During that period I was obsessed with Rationalist philosophy, which had also got me into philosophical Scepticism in its various forms as formulated by several ancient Greeks. And to give my brain relief from philosophy I had a slightly milder obsession with martial arts. I really enjoyed its practice and I enjoyed searching for the ultimate style, although I was aware that the word style was an inappropriate concept if one is looking for what works best. I have always been into Eclecticism.
     My pursuit of the best form of martial arts was not based on any desire I had to become the world’s best martial artist; it was the process I enjoyed, particularly since the choice of techniques and counters for varying situations are virtually endless, and working out the feasibility of choices based on the physics of the processes gave my brain great mental workouts and much ongoing pleasure.
     To give further background on why I made an arse of myself at the Civic YMCA in 1977 or 1978 I will go back to 1976. I had entered a martial arts tournament in that year at the Turner PCYC, as did my mate, Tony Quinn. The tournament was open to anyone and the rules allowed full contact to any part of one’s opponent’s body other than the head and balls. And any part of one’s own body could be used as the attacking weapon, as in fists, elbows, feet and knees. One could also however, score points by striking with any part of one’s body towards one’s opponent’s head, as long as the technique was pulled and no contact was made. 
   I did not do well in the tournament because my timing was slightly out and I made very light contact when kicking towards the head of a bloke I fought. I was quite rightly disqualified. My opponent, who went on to win, did not suffer any damage as I had pulled my kick, and I apologised to him after the event. 
    Tony Quinn did a lot better. He had three fights in his weight division and won all of them convincingly. But despite that fact, when the finalists were announced he was not one of them. 
     The late Bruce Vincent, who was the Berra’s best heavyweight boxer of his era, also entered the tournament, and like Tony and me he did so as an individual and not as a member of one of the established clubs. He lost on points in one bout and was disqualified in another. I believe however, that if his fights had have been judged fairly he would have won both of them. In my opinion he was robbed! The organisers seemed to resent outsiders doing well, although in my case my disqualification was entirely warranted. 
   When Tony approached the bloke who seemed to be the main organiser, a highly ranked instructor from Wollongong named Mehemet, (I’m not sure of the spelling of his name. He was an Anglo Celt despite his name sounding like it came from the Middle East), he was told he would not advance to the finals and that he would share an equal third place despite the fact that he had not lost a fight. Tony was given no explanation. 
    Although at the time I was conscious of the fact that Mehemet did not have contra causal free will I was frustrated at how the forces of the universe had acted upon his brain and mind, causing it to treat Tony unfairly, and it pissed me off. 
   Accepting reality by way of understanding and becoming consciously aware of the fact that we cannot control the forces of the universe that act upon our bodies, and therefore, to state the obvious, nor can those who own bodies that do us wrong control the forces that act upon their bodies, does not always result in the negative emotions that arise because of the actions of others and ourselves not existing. Emotions are real in that they are caused by real chemistry even if there are sometimes no logical explanations as to why the chemistry exists. 
   Sometimes however, when one’s emotions take over and one forgets that contra causal free will does not exist then one calms-down and suddenly remembers that it cannot exist, an immediate reduction or elimination of anger and frustration can occur.  The ability to utilise that knowledge varies from person-to-person, and it also depends on how long one has been consciously aware of our being at the mercy of the forces of the universe that act upon our bodies. Usually, the longer one is aware of that fact the closer that fact gets to becoming fully embedded into one’s conscious mind. 
    Intense stressors can also of course beget intense emotions, which can make it more difficult to be aware that one has no control of the forces within the universe that act upon one’s body.
   Although I was consciously aware of our not having contra causal free will before I hit my teens, that fact took many years to become fully embedded into my conscious mind.
     Should you have just become conscious of our not having contra causal free will I suggest you read the essay I have referred to on the previously shown link everyday at least twice a day. Once the fact becomes fully embedded into your brain and mind it will improve your quality of life to the extent that you will become more accepting of reality and as such better able to spend more of your time savouring the present rather than creating anger and regret by dwelling on the unwise and/or immoral actions of others and yourself. 
       Let’s now return to the Civic YMCA in 1977 or 1978. It was a year or two after the tournament at the Turner PCYC and I had entered into another tournament that was to be held at the said Civic YMCA. It had similar rules to the tournament at the Turner PCYC, although it differed to the extent that it allowed full contact to one’s opponent’s head, but with any part of the legs or feet only. This of course meant contact to one’s opponent’s head by way of striking with fists or elbows was forbidden.
  The tournament was open to all local clubs, be they kung fu, karate, kickboxers, etc. 
    In my search for the ultimate martial arts style I had practised several styles of martial arts and saw at the time some merit in Wing Chun, which I practised at the time to increase my overall knowledge and experience. I have since discarded most of what the WC style espouses. 
    Anyway, our Wing Chun club decided to enter the tournament at the Civic YMCA, so I was happy to be a part of it. 
    I had two fights during that tournament. I was to find that my first opponent was the previously mentioned instructor from Wollongong, Mr Mehemet. I was still a bit pissed off at the fact that the forces of the universe that acted upon the body of Mehemet did not allow Tony to advance to the finals in the tournament at the Turner PCYC, despite my realising that contra causal free will does not exist and that Mehemet had, in-effect, no real say in any “decision” he may have made about Tony. 
   I was also however, aware that the chemistry that creates emotions is real, even if we are not consciously aware of why they are created. 
    I therefore became aware that my feelings towards the situation resulted in my possessing a very aggressive state-of-mind at the time, and I was aware that the aggression would be utilised when I fought Mehemet. I did not however, have any desire to transgress the rules when I fought the man.
    When it came to the actual fight it did not last long. Mehemet put his head down and I “instinctively,” or by way of a “reflex" action, for want of better words, gave him an uppercut which caused him to lose consciousness and fall to the ground for a few seconds. 
    Now, even if we, for the sake of argument, assume we do have contra causal free will, whether I “chose” to give him an uppercut at the time can be a matter of philosophical debate. I say that because at the time I struck him it felt like someone else gave him the uppercut. I am saying that I did not consciously “choose,” again for want of a better word, to make contact with his head. My striking him in the head was a reflex action.
    If you insist on believing we have contra causal free will surely you do not believe that that goes beyond conscious “decisions” and also applies to “reflex” actions, such as occurs when one blinks when one suddenly becomes aware of something heading towards one’s eyes?  
    Nonetheless, I felt as weak as piss, as the rules specifically stated that there was to be no contact to the head in regard to striking with fists or elbows, and he was playing by the rules and I was not. Had the tournament allowed full contact to the head for all I know he may have knocked me unconscious. 
   I was again quite rightly disqualified, and I felt worse after the event when Mehemet placed the medal he had won around my neck. I felt like crawling under a rock until I gathered my thoughts and again became consciously aware of contra causal free will not existing, and that other than that when I gave him the uppercut it was not even a conscious “choice,” for want of a better word. It was an action that occurred by way of a non-conscious reflex. Still, it did not make me feel great about what had happened and I wished it had not occurred.
    So, I reiterate, for the purpose of this essay we can pretend contra causal free will does exist and that we can do what we consciously “choose” to do, because I am now writing about how by way of a reflex action I “lost control” of my will to the extent that I did not consciously choose to give the man an uppercut.
    If you still dismiss what I have to say about reflect actions I will first ask you to think of the times when, out of the corner of your eye, you have seen a stray football heading in your direction. Without consciously choosing to do so, within an instant you would have raised your arm protectively and/or ducked in order to avoid getting a whack to the head. You would not have consciously decided to take evasive or protective action; it would have been an instant action in which you reacted “instinctively” (again, for want of a better word) and non-consciously (by way of reflex) to the threat. 
    Think of the times you may have, while driving, out of the corner of your eye noticed a car coming through an intersection you had not noticed until the last minute. You may have, without consciously choosing to do so, moved your leg to apply the brakes and/or moved your arms to swerve to avoid a collision. 
    To be less dramatic, if someone flicks a towel towards your eyes you will blink without consciously choosing to blink. The decision to blink will in-effect be taken out of your control. 
    Neuroscientists tell us that such evasive and/or protective actions in emergency situations, which involve our having no conscious control over them, occur as a result of the work of one or both of our amygdalas. The amygdalas are two small almond shaped parts of the brain. Apparently the information we perceive with our senses goes via our amygdala or amygdalas prior to it going to our frontal cortexes in order for conscious decisions to be made.
    In situations where a threat to our bodies is not an issue the amygdala/s is/are not activated and the information can go straight through to the frontal cortex so we can consciously act upon it. The amygdala/s somehow have the ability to take over when there is an immediate threat to the physical wellbeing of our bodies that requires an instant response.
   It needs to happen under such circumstances. In emergencies when instant action is required to protect ourselves we don’t have time to consciously decide what to do with our bodies. If decisions in such situations were made consciously we would be run over by the next car we had not seen that was heading our way and almost upon us.
    It’s quite clear that our amygdala/s and/or another part/s of our brains can take over in defensive situations, which can include blinking and more, but can our amygdala/s also take over from our conscious minds (us) by it or them choosing to defend our bodies by way of it/them ordering our bodies to commit acts of violence upon someone or something that is threatening us? 
    We all know that sometimes the best form of defence is attack. And if our amygdala/s can make some of us commit acts of offensive violence for the purpose of defence, how long can it/they take over for?
    I’m not talking about when a boxer loses his temper and gives his game-plan away by his emotions clouding his judgement and him consciously choosing to attack his opponent wildly with poor technique instead of going about his fight in a cool and methodical way. That is not a reflex action. When that occurs a conscious but foolish “decision” has been made as a result of the boxer’s thought processes being sabotaged by heightened emotions (anger). When a boxer “loses his temper” he is sure to lose against an opponent who is equal or even one who is, to a degree, inferior.
    When however the amygdala/s take/s over and performs an act with the body without a conscious decision having been made, the conscious mind is emptied of thought and as such entirely focussed in the here-and-now, which ensures the body and mind work in perfect harmony, and as such with perfect coordination, to ensure the body is moved instantly in a manner that maximises the chances of it avoiding being damaged. The process may involve raising a defensive arm, ducking or running away. It may also however, at least for some people, involve perpetrating an act of physical violence for the purpose of defence. 
     Good mind-body awareness and subsequent good coordination and technique does not  occur when a boxer loses his temper. 
   Nor of course does it always occur if someone is consciously trying to execute a physical movement that requires good coordination when the body is not being threatened. When the body is not in danger and the amygdala/s is/are not activated, emptying one’s mind in order to acquire perfect mind-body harmony and coordination is not so easy.
     It seems obvious to me my amygdala/s took over when I gave Mehemet an uppercut, and that it/they took over because of it/them deducing my body was in danger and that my conscious mind could not be trusted to do the job.
    I of course cannot prove that my giving the bloke an uppercut was not a conscious choice, and I will be accused of rationalising in order for me to not take responsibility for my actions. But, I know for a fact that the reflex action of my body at that time was entirely involuntary. 
    I was not in the same situation I had been in on many occasions when sparring lightly with mates where there was no threat to my safety and I had total faith in my mates to the extent that I was sure they would not punch me with full force in the head. 
   Although Mehemet may have also had no intention of violating the rules at the time I did not know that. And I had had plenty of negative experiences when sparring with people I did not know who betrayed my trust and made excessive contact to my head when there had been an understanding that we were not to make excessive contact. My amygdala/s at the time I fought Mehemet were also aware of those facts, and it/they were not prepared to allow me to continue to fight within the rules.
    I’m absolutely sure there are many people who have been locked up for their lifetimes, or executed, because of the actions of their amygdala/s or whatever part of their brains took over from their conscious selves. Although that would be hard to prove in most circumstances I recently read of a father in the USA who as a reflex action shot his teenage daughter, who, as a joke, had hidden when her dad was coming home then jumped out in front of him to scare him. The shooting would have been a result of Dad’s amygdala/s taking over, and Dad, who feared there was a real burglar in the house, having ready access to his pistol. That sort of thing has happened with guns innumerable times.
   In the times of bows and arrows, spears, and spears and woomeras, which took time to load and shoot, or to throw, accidental killings would be far less likely to occur, as the amygdala/s usually don’t take over for very long. 
    I could however, see how a club could be swung in the direction of the wrong person by way of the club-carrier’s reflex reaction to situations that were similar to that of the dad who shot his daughter. I say that because on several occasions I (or my amygdala/s) took reflex swings at my mate, Brownie, when I lived with him for a couple of years. He would take great delight in jumping out in front of me to scare me when he had the opportunity, particularly if I came home late in the night, as he knew how I would react. He however, always anticipated my reactions and kept out of range. Had I had my finger on the trigger of a pistol prior to him scaring me it may have ended in tragedy.
    In attempting to explain how, when the mind is emptied, we acquire perfect harmony between the mind and body, think of the times when your mind has been empty and you have taken out your key and inserted it into a lock. When your mind was emptied and as such devoid of conscious thought you would have found the key went straight into the lock without you having to slow down your hand and consciously line up the key with the hole. If you try to consciously place a key in a hole you will find you have to slow right down to do so, and some people may have to move the key around the hole before it’s properly lined-up.
    BUT WAIT; THERE’S MORE! There was more bad behaviour on my part on that day at the  Civic YMCA, and I will now describe it and its implications. 
   My next fight was with a black belt from the Berra who was a practitioner of Zen Do Kai. I never knew him, but rightly or wrongly someone told me his name was Adrian. I’ll call him Adrian anyway. He seemed to be around my age. (I mean my age at the time. He was not in his 60’s. I would have been around the age of 25 at the time).
     Well, one thing can lead to another, and prior to the fight, by way of his body language and him mouthing the word “cunt” at me, we both knew there would be no rules when the fight was on. He probably felt the way he did because he had seen how my body had transgressed the rules when fighting Mehemet. He would not have realised that my amygdala/s was/were in control at the time, and he would have thought that it was me (my conscious self) who had consciously and deliberately transgressed the rules. He would have therefore thought I was not a very nice bloke and that I was also going to transgress the rules when I fought him. 
    I don’t blame him, as he had no way of knowing that I did not consciously choose to give Mehemet an uppercut. Adrian was probably a nice bloke outside of the environment we were in. I would have felt the same way as him had I been in his situation, and as I knew what he thought I of course also went into the fight with the objective of not fighting within the rules. And it was all because of my amygdala/s.
  Come on Wheeler, you’re rationalising! “It wasn’t me it was my amygdala/s!” Please! What a pathetic excuse! You chose to give Mehemet an uppercut. Just admit it. Adrian, when mouthing an expletive at you described you accurately.
   How would you know what I chose to do or not do 2? It’s okay for you to just sit inside my/our brain and criticise, but as I’ve told you before, I’m the one who makes the decisions for both of us when I’m capable of doing so, and if I was not consciously aware of giving the bloke an uppercut that is my reality. Next thing you’ll do is tell me the blinking reflex is a result of my making a conscious choice to blink when something suddenly heads in my direction. You’re very brave sitting inside me knowing you’re protected. If I had a chance I’d kick you in your/our arse so hard your/our nose would bleed.
   You’re gutless Wheeler! You’re threatening me because you know I can’t hurt you. And even if you didn’t consciously choose to hit Mehemet in the head, the order came from your brain, and unless you’re a Dualist you would realise that your brain is part of you.
If you were to claim your body by way of your amygdala/s assaulted someone in the street without you consciously ordering it to do so, do you think a magistrate would understand if it went to court?

  First of all 2, in regard to Dualism, nobody knows how or why we’re conscious. You know that. And I know there is no proof of there being a ghost in the biological machine, even if it is possible by way of some unknown laws of physics or some unseeable force coming from another dimension. But, if consciousness did arise from inanimate flesh and chemistry it means something was created from nothing. And how can something be created from nothing? 
And if consciousness did arise from inanimate matter in a way that is beyond our understanding, a different form of Dualism does exist, because consciousness is something that stands apart from the physical world even if it is created by it. I suppose it depends on how you want to use the English language.
So, when you refer to me as me, should you define my consciousness as me, I am not responsible for giving Mehemet an uppercut because I did not consciously choose to give Mehemet an uppercut. 
But, if you define “me” as all the atoms I am made of and leave the question of consciousness and the decisions made by my amygdala/s out of it, as well as the fact that we do not have contra causal free will, then yes, I, as in the atoms that make up my body,  was responsible for giving the man an uppercut, even if I did not consciously choose to do so, because the parts of my brain that caused the uppercut to occur are a part of my body. Although having said that, we are continually replacing our atoms, and the ones that formed me back in the 70’s are not the same atoms I possess today. 

As to attempting to explain to magistrates that we don’t have contra causal free will or that our amygdala/s were responsible for an act of violence, I would not fancy my chances. Although many are highly intelligent in some respects, the overwhelming majority of them are so conservative and inflexible their minds could only be described euphemistically as non-philosophical. I think however, more accurate terms would be primitive and simple.
If magistrates were truly conscious of our not having contra causal free will very few could carry out their duties, as they would be conscious of the fact that they needed to lock up dangerous people who were not responsible for their actions.

   You have a point there Wheeler.
   My left and right hands have just shaken with each other and I gave myself a lengthy hug and a pat with alternate hands on my left and right shoulders.
     Anyway, the fight with Adrian began by my standing still and him approaching me and trying to kick me in the balls. He made some contact but it had no effect because he missed his target. The fight was stopped temporarily and I was given a point because of him aiming his kick towards my cods. 
    Prior to the tournament I had been arguing for some time with another martial artist about the efficacy of defensive martial arts. He believed in the defensive approach not only for moral reasons; he believed that waiting for someone to attack gave one a practical advantage over an attacking opponent.
   In other words, for what he saw as moral as well as practical reasons, he was of the belief that one should not retreat from or approach a person who is threatening, and one should only attack as a form of defence once the person who is threatening has approached you and actually begun his attack.
   I could see the moral benefit of the approach, and it is the backbone of many pacifist styles. I could also however, see it was a dangerous tactic.   
    But, I foolishly decided to use the semi-pacifist tactic anyway, because the only way such opposing theories can be truly tested is by way of practical experiment with both of them against worthy opponents.  I thought it however, highly unlikely I would get a worthy opponent, which was probably why I was willing to experiment. It was on my part an arrogant and stupid way of thinking. 
    To demonstrate the theory behind why the passive approach is dangerous, if you open your hand and get someone to drop a pencil through it after you have counted to three you will be able to catch it, because you will know when it’s coming. If however, you open your hand and allow someone to drop the pencil at an unspecified time you will find it impossible to catch, because, obviously, you will not know when it’s coming. 
    The lesson from this exercise is that if you think you’re going to be attacked you should attack first or walk away, or at least stay out of range of your opponent so he does not have the advantage of getting in the first blow by way of the element of surprise, as demonstrated by the pencil-dropping exercise. 
    The only positive in taking the passive stance in the street is that you will not be charged for assault, because it would have been your opponent who made the first move. And, you can retain the moral high ground. I reiterate however, it gives a potential assailant a huge advantage, as it makes one very vulnerable to a king hit, (coward’s punch), if you are standing within striking range of the said potential assailant. 
     When the fight began again my arrogance had gone and I did not wait passively to be attacked. I instead attacked Adrian, and he retreated out of the marked square as I attacked him, which resulted in the fight starting again. I don’t know if I was awarded points because he had backed out of the area, but I probably was. 
   I found having the fight stopped very frustrating as I had been in full attack mode and was really enjoying myself, but knowing I had to get back into that state-of-mind again after the fight was stopped felt very unpleasant. 
   I am not saying that Adrian, by backing out of the area, was demonstrating that I was getting the better of him, because had we been fighting in a boxing ring or an octagon or a field he may have been able to retreat and come back at an angle and get the better of me. Expecting participants to confine a fight to within marked lines on a floor is ridiculous. 
    When the fight began again Adrian again retreated out of the area, but this time my amygdala/s cut in and took control of my body by making it continue the attack outside the specified area. It was again, as if someone else was controlling my body. I had gone in for the kill and had gone back to a euphoric but primitive state-of-mind that was very useful in another era but mainly anachronistic in this one.
   It resulted in my being physically restrained by the officials and others. I then observed myself giving Adrian the fingers before my conscious mind regained control of itself.

   My amygdala/s and I always give two fingers, as shown above in the photo of my hand and fingers giving the fingers to Tony Abbott’s image on the  22/11/17. (As I was behind my hand and facing Abbott’s image I am not giving the reader the peace sign). 
    I am giving Abbott’s image the fingers even though he had no say in what he became and as such is not truly responsible for what he is. My amygdala/s and I dislike the single middle finger Americans use, which has become very popular in Australia. What has happened to our culture? 
   Although the photo is of the hand and fingers I possess today it differs to the hand and fingers I possessed in the 70’s when I gave Adrian the fingers, and not only because they appear to have been ravaged by time. The hands and fingers I now possess are not the same hands and fingers I possessed in the 70’s because the atoms that formed them have been replaced several times between then and now. Also, in the photo above I have a bandaid on my ring finger. I did not have a bandaid on that finger when I gave the fingers to Adrian at the Civic YMCA in the 70’s. 
   Adrian’s corner then made a threat of some sort to me, and I offered to take him on outside; an offer he declined.
  Because I had needed restraint and because I had given my opponent the fingers I was immediately disqualified, which was fair enough. 
   I was not the only member of our club who made an arse of himself on that day, although I was the worst offender. When the organisers of that tournament organised another one our club was not invited.
   After that tournament I returned to my bedsitter in O’Connor, read and wrote some philosophy, and continued on with the life of a single, unattached and abnormal young man on his quest for devising a rationally-based philosophy on life. That I eventually achieved.
     Time moves on, and as previously explained, between when the tournament occurred in the 70’s and now most if not all of the atoms that made up my body have been replaced several times. 
    And, as a result of the forces of the universe that now act upon the atoms my current body is made of, my testosterone level is probably much lower than it was in the 70’s. 
    I also possess today far more empathy than I had when I was a young man, again because of how the forces of the universe have acted upon my body. 
    As a result of these happenings, and despite the fact that I have a very low opinion of our species, I now find the idea of inflicting damaging physical violence on others, other than when one is defending oneself or others, abhorrent. It makes me wonder how parents and the schoolteachers of my day could have dispensed corporal punishment so easily. 
   The whole system ran on the threat of physical violence and it continues to do so in one way or the other. And it is by no means just a male problem despite it not being fashionable to acknowledge the existence of female violence.
   Actually, I never liked seeing others suffer, but when I was younger I had a very different outlook when it came to two evenly-matched adults choosing to fight each other. Nowadays, although I enjoy watching the techniques employed in MMA, I do not like it when the fights do not end in submissions, which often means they end with one of the contestants suffering a pounding to the head. I find it particularly disturbing when the ref lets it go on for an unnecessarily long period to satisfy the blood lust of the crowd. That however, is to be expected within the form of capitalism we choose to live under. 
      Although many people watch MMA to enjoy the technique many watch it because their brains deliver to them a cheap sadistic thrill when they see a fighter getting bashed. And they are prepared to pay for that chemical hit.  
    The more primitive part of my brain makes me aware that I would in one respect enjoy participating in MMA if I had my youth return to me, but if I am ever able to drink from the fountain of youth and retain the brain I currently possess I would not box or practise MMA on a full contact basis, as my primitive drives are outweighed by the sense of empathy I have acquired over my lifetime as well as my desire to protect my own brain cells. 
   I'm saying I find the thought of deliberately trying to bash someone’s brain disturbing, even if one is up against an evenly matched and willing opponent who has the same objective. I would however, continue to practise the striking arts in a non-competitive way with mates, because the process gives me joy. I would also grapple recreationally and possibly competitively, as the objective when grappling is not to damage one’s opponent. 
    That does not mean I would like to see MMA banned. In the system we live under some frustrated young men feel a need to participate in that sort of thing, particularly if they can earn a living from it and have been suffering as a result of being unemployed and living under an impoverishing dole or undertaking work they find pathalogically boring. Our species did not evolve to live in this sewer, and some people are better adapted to it psychologically than others.  
   Today’s Australian ruling class has emulated the Romans, who were able to keep the masses quiet and vulnerable to exploitation by providing them with the basics and bloody entertainment by way of the Colosseum (bread and circuses)Today’s “circuses” are in the form of professional sport, preferably of the type where the spectator is aware that the participants may suffer serious injury or death or may fight with each other, or that violence may erupt between supporters of opposing individuals or teams as occurs in many soccer games.
    (When watching major games today we are inundated with advertisements that attempt to encourage viewers to participate in wholesome activities like gambling, drinking piss and eating junk food. Yet the club board members, who mostly have the morality of tiger snakes, for the sake of their PR insist their athletes behave like choirboys in their private lives).  
    A link that follows will take you to another far less philosophical and more amusing anecdote that revolves around another martial arts event that occurred in the Berra in the early 70’s. It is entitled Give me back my butterfly swords.” It also goes into the history of the martial arts within the ACT. 
   The photo that follows the link will give you a hint of what it’s about.
   Otherwise scroll down for more stories or hit the Home button up the top and take your pick.

by Nick McConchie 
  In 1975, Sydney detectives went to Queanbeyan to investigate the existence of an illegal casino allegedly operating from the Monaro Social Club at 62A Monaro Street. The investigating officers found no evidence that such a Casino existed and the investigation was discontinued.(Source: Canberra Times 21 March 1975) If the truth was known, the detectives looking for action probably quickly became bored with Queanbeyan and wanted to get out of there as quickly as possible. Perhaps they should have disguised themselves as normal citizens and bet a few bucks at the casino or visited one of the many pubs for a beer and a fight.
   The non-existent casino at 62A Monaro Crescent Queanbeyan may have been in the building on the viewer’s left, up some stairs from inside the alley, above a restaurant, as shown above.

   I’m not sure if the casino had a green door, but if you play the above embedded youtube song, entitled “Green Door” while reading this anecdote you can get an idea of the atmosphere at the time. 
   In any event, despite the meticulous attention afforded the Monaro Social Club by local law enforcement, the casino continued to operate for some time. It was during that period I worked as a public servant in a department in Woden. I always looked forward to pay nights as my workmates and I would often visit the non-existent casino in Queanbeyan. 
   We would generally catch a taxi there as Uber was not yet operating. We thought this to be sensible given that alcohol at the casino was unlimited and free to those who were gambling. Food in the form of toasted sandwiches was also gratis. There never seemed to be an issue with excessive consumption of alcohol, (my mate, Dave Clark, from my work, was asked by a croupier at the black jack table whether he was sleeping or playing), although obnoxious drunks were quickly dealt with by the bouncers, the majority of whom played rugby league for a local club. 
   Entry to the casino was readily gained by ringing the bell and being eyed by the doorman (usually a well-known rugby league player) through a peephole. As none of us looked like coppers we were always let in. From memory, the games on offer were roulette and blackjack, though there may have been others. The roulette table was a full size casino standard one, and the croupiers (dealers) were well-versed in their trade and highly professional. I do not know from where they hailed, though at least one of the girls was a full time Canberra public servant. 
  The casino was generally well patronised and the clientele included some fairly big spenders. We generally enjoyed our nights there and there was much borrowing and lending of money between members of our group. There were occasions when entire pay packets were lost and other times phenomenal winnings. One time however, we all lost and had to hitchhike back to Canberra. I use the word hitchhike in its finest sense because on that occasion no one was willing to stop for a rowdy group of drunks at 3am. 
    Resorting to shank’s pony, we finally arrived at the house of my mate, Ken Montgomery, who lived in Curtin, at around 5 or 6am. I am not sure if anyone slept, but we were all at work by 8am, still drunk, un-showered and presumably reeking of alcohol. Not sure how we survived the day. 
   As mentioned at the outset, this was a time when the Canberra Times and local TV media were keen to expose the casino, and there had been several articles written about the casino and the police denial of its existence. My mate, Fitz, who has featured in several stories on this site, was working at the time as a cameraman at Channel 7. He asked me if I would be willing to be interviewed on camera about the casino, for the evening news. 
   Not being one to shy away from the opportunity for glory, I readily agreed. At the allotted time, I arrived at Channel 7 and met the interviewer. Unfortunately his name escapes me. He was however, a very pleasant fellow. He informed me that due to the contentious issue to be discussed and the possibility of reprisals I would be filmed in side profile and in silhouette. 
   At the interview I was asked a series of questions about my experiences at the casino. I took the position that the casino was all good and should be legalised. However, with some clever editing, when the article was shown on the news that night it appeared that I was anti the casino. This however, is neither here nor there. 
  I was somewhat assured that by being shown in silhouette my identity could not be established by viewers. WRONG! At that time I was living with my parents. So, that evening we were sitting around the TV as a family watching the news when the interview came on. Naturally, I had not told my parents that I had been interviewed as I did not want to worry them. I also did not think that they needed to know that I frequented such places. The interview was prefaced with words along the lines of “Canberra resident exposes illegal casino in Queanbeyan,” then I appeared in side profile, in the shadows. I had not even started speaking when my mother, God bless her, said “That’s you”! There was no denying, it was clearly me, easily recognisable. 
  I forget most of what else was said, though I am quite sure that both my parents were less than impressed. I do however, recall my mother expressing concern that I might become a target. The next day at work a number of people asked me if that was me on television the previous night, so clearly all the silhouettes and side-profiling in the world were of little use that day. 
  I was never worried about any potential repercussions, though for a time I kept an eye out for pink Chevrolets with running boards! Nothing eventuated, and I enjoyed many more visits to the casino until it was eventually closed. 

 By Nick McConchie 

INTRODUCTION by Dave Wheeler
   While growing up in the Berra I met many coppers who I could only describe as really good blokes, particularly those I interacted with at the Turner Police Boys’ Club, which later became the Turner PCYC. And I remain grateful to the coppers who, during my teenage years, let my mates and me off with a warning for a particular incident we were involved in that could have put us in Shit Street. And I also of course remain grateful to the coppers who lock up paedophiles, non-independent politicians and other low-life when they have been careless and not covered their tracks properly.
    Having said what I have said, within every barrel of apples you will always get some bad ones, and some of the Canberra coppers of the sixties and early seventies were truly rotten. I cannot speak for other eras. 
   In this post my old mate, Nick McConchie, describes an event that occurred in or around 1971 in which some rotten coppers got what certain patrons of the Canberra Rex thought they deserved.
Read on and take in what Nick has to say about another time and another world.
Dave Wheeler

By Nick McConchie
  The Canberra Rex was a favoured drinking hole for many of Canberra’s youth back in the late 60’s and early 70’s. There were 3 main bars, the “Hitching Rail,” which was an all male domain until several women “hitched” themselves to the rail and demanded service, the “Jet Club,” which, from memory, was favoured by those that thought of themselves as trendy, and the “Mariners Tavern,” which was seen as an escape from the rowdiness and dangers that lurked in the Scottish Bar. 
  This story relates to events that occurred in the Scottish Bar one night during one of the aforementioned years. 
  Various groups of youths frequented the Scottish Bar. There were the Northside boys from the inner north suburbs such as Dickson, Downer, Hackett, Watson, and of course Ainslie, Turner, O’Connor and Lyneham. There were interlopers from Narrabundah, who most likely had been banned from the Travellana, which would have been a feat in itself. 
  There were the Canberra bikies, originally known as “Asylum Choir,” who eventually became a formal chapter of the “Hells Angels.” And of course there were many other groups of friends and drinkers.
  The Scottish bar was staffed by several “good blokes” and one or two bartenders and glass picker-uppers I regarded as obnoxious. I will not mention any of these by name. Alfie, you know who you are!
  The above photo, which was taken from “Tales of a Canberra Boy,” shows the land where the part of the Canberra Rex of which I write once stood. The photo was taken not long after the bar's destruction. All that remains is the rock wall, and that would probably be gone by now. If any readers have any photos of the bars I have mentioned, inside or out, please send them to Dave Wheeler so they can be added to this story. 
   On Friday and Saturday nights the Scottish bar was usually crowded with drinkers and designated drivers. Actually there were no designated drivers, such a thing being a fairly recent phenomenon. In those days very few people paid any attention to the amount of alcohol they consumed before driving. Being over the limit was not an issue, or certainly not a consideration for most. 
While people were convicted of “drink driving” offences, there were no RBT’s and one would normally have to be all over the road before drawing the attention of the police. And even then one would have to fall out of the car before being deemed too drunk to drive. 
  The photos below show some characters who were regulars at the Canberra Rex in the era of which I write. The photos were also used in the last anecdote I wrote for this blog due to there being a shortage of other suitable photos.
  The first photo, immediately below, from left to write shows Spud Murphy, the late Geoff “Fitz” Fitzgerald, Mick Gladwish and Nick McConchie (me). The photo was taken several years after the Rex days while the boys were visiting Spud in Van Diemen’s Land.
  The lowest photo shows the late Brent Bolas, Nick McConchie (me), Spud Murphy, Keith Dickerson and Max Duncan. That photo was taken in or around 1970.

   Nowadays of course, we live in a nanny state where just a couple of drinks could put you over the limit. Interestingly, years ago when the limit was .08 you would be considered sober with a reading of .07, but the same reading today would land you before the courts.
   Back to the Scottish Bar. Closing time in those days was 10pm. At around 9:50pm a staff member would flash the lights and call out “last drinks”. Fair enough, this was required by law and was quite acceptable. What was not acceptable however, was this: 
   At 10pm at least 2 uniformed police would always arrive and harass drinkers, telling them to finish their drinks and leave. If people had not finished and left the premises by about 10 past 10 they would draw the ire of the police officers, and some were known to be charged with “failing to quit licensed premises,” or at the least charged with the back-up offence of “Indecent language.” 
Indecent language was often used as an excuse to lock people up regardless of whether they swore or not.
  There were often confrontations between the police and patrons, including one day when a respected policeman and a lad hailing from Narrabundah way decided to settle their differences in a pugilistic fashion. They arranged to fight each other in the grounds of the Rex at a prearranged time. The fight ensued and from my somewhat hazy memory the outcome was reasonably even.
  I ran into this lad (now in his mid 60's, as am I ) several months ago at a local club, and we had a yarn about the old days. He told me that shortly after this fight he was arrested by said policeman for a trivial offence. He was brutally bashed in the cells by a number of police and charged with assaulting police and other offences. It resulted in him doing time at Goulburn Gaol. 
  Back to the Scottish Bar. One night 2 policemen were performing their usual patrol at around 10 pm. At several minutes past 10 the lights went out and it remained pitch black for what seemed like several minutes, though it was probably only 30 seconds or so. 
  To this day I do not know who was responsible, but in the ensuing seconds there were the clear sounds of punches being thrown and connecting, people falling over bar stools and an amount of shouting and cursing. This went on for a few seconds, and a short time later the lights came back on. 
   At the point the lights came on most patrons were innocently sitting at the tables or on the bar stools, and there were two heavily disheveled police officers nursing their heads and running around like blue-arsed flies
   Needless to say, it was not long before the bar was swarming with police. To the best of my knowledge the perpetrators of that violence were never identified.
   Over the years there have been several versions of this story, including that there were no punches, just beer thrown over the coppers. It is surprising the number of people who say they were there that night, some of whom may have been, others who may not have been. I know that I was there.
  The Scottish Bar remained a favourite haunt until the new Lakeside Hotel was opened at some point in the 70’s. At that point the Rex patrons migrated en masse to take up their positions in the Settler’s Bar and the other bar whose name I do not recall.
  I can recall being at the Canberra Rex on the night of which Nick writes, although I was not in the Scottish Bar at the time the coppers were assaulted and as such heard and saw nothing. But, turning the lights out on the coppers happened on more than one occasion, hence the confusion, although I believe the only time it involved the coppers being assaulted with the fists of patrons was on the night Nick was present. 
On at least one other occasion when the lights were turned out the coppers were drenched in beer as a result of the patrons who had planned the event/s throwing it over them. 
Dave Wheeler

by Dave Wheeler
  This anecdote is mainly about my old mate, Brownie, the late Owen Brown. It is to a lesser extent about a bloke who was employed by the ACT Police Force in 1971, who, in my opinion, brought his organisation into disrepute. It is also about the Apartheid system which once operated in South Africa. It is also about rugby. It is also about injustice. 
  In regard to Brownie, I could write a book about him. When I get together with my mates he is often the main topic of conversation, as we have a myriad of humorous stories regarding his sense of humour, his propensity for practical jokes and his adventures. Brownie was a highly ethical bloke, even though he had his own code of ethics which some may not have understood, and he was a dependable and loyal mate.
  During the year of which I mainly write, 1971, and the years that preceded and followed that year, Brownie and I got up to much that brings a smile to my face. I also had two insane years living with him in Evatt in the mid 70’s, and he features often in the book I wrote entitled, “Tales of a Canberra Boy.” 
  What I am writing about revolves around the 1971 Springboks tour, and what happened to Brownie when the Springboks played the ACT at Manuka Oval on the 21/7/1971.
  To the left of the photo above is my old mate, Trout, aka Ric Fitch, who is in the black teeshirt. It was taken at the Dickson Pub (which has since been demolished like many other unique and/or historical buildings in the Berra) circa 1973, at his buck’s party. He had just sculled a yard glass. The subject of this story, Brownie, is to the far right of the photo, in the light blue teeshirt, laughing and clapping. 
  After consulting with Trout I will add that the reason everyone was clapping and laughing was because Trout had vomited back into his yard glass during his first effort at trying to scull its content. And because he had a persistent nature he sculled it again, along with pieces of whatever tucker he’d been eating that had been regurgitated. He somehow managed to keep it down. 
   Just after the photo was taken a lady in her late fifties, who had been sitting at the table next to us, yelled at several of us in an angry, broad, high-pitched Australian accent. Her words were, “I know you young people like to enjoy yourselves, but that was disgusting!” She then left. I suppose she was right.
  The story begins at the very end of my 1969 school year, when I attended Dickson High and was in what is now called Year 11. I had turned 17 in September of that year and had bought myself a 1959 Ford Consul ute. 
  During a lunchtime several of us went to Brownie’s house, which was in Antill Street, Watson. Brownie’s parents were at work, so we carried-on in the unrestrained way lads of that age and our type carry-on. Life was one big joke and we were full of youthful exuberance and optimism.
  I can recall the contents of the sorts of conversations we would have as 17 year olds when we met as a group. It was mainly about creating laughter, which was usually achieved by recounting humorous and often anti-social events, taking the piss out of each other and telling each other about our very limited, and in some cases non-existent, sexual exploits. Had our conversations been recorded they would be regarded as loud, raucous and degenerate. They would have horrified our mums. 
  When, on the occasion of which I write, it was time to go back to school, I, with Brownie in the passenger’s seat, reversed my ute out of Brownie’s parent’s driveway. But, because of my inexperience I didn’t look properly, and I reversed into the tail end of a car that was driving past. As luck would have it the bloke driving the car was an off-duty copper, in uniform, driving his own car to or from work. 
  Brownie began laughing hysterically after he realised I had run into a cop, but the copper did not see any humour in what had occurred. After he got out of his car he told me I'd spoiled his driving record of 13 years without an accident. I could hear Brownie, and our mate, Ouncie, (John Outhwaite) laughing in the background after he muttered those words.
  There was virtually no damage done to my old ute, although I'd put a large dent in the rear side of the copper’s car, and his car appeared to be near-new. 
 The ACT Police had an accident squad at that time. They were called and were not too far away. When they arrived the copper I had pranged into of course knew them well, and they addressed each other by their first names.
  The accident squad coppers asked Brownie how fast he thought the off-duty cop’s car was travelling, and when he told them it was above the speed limit they said to him,”You’re a liar!” They then booked me for negligent driving, and because my tailpipe had come off I was also booked for having an insufficient silencer. They did not issue on-the-spot fines at that stage, so I went to court, pleaded guilty, paid the fines and forgot about the incident.
  Little did I know that that was not the last I would see of the copper I pranged into. Nor did I know that he would, from the way I believe things went, change sides and become a criminal while still working as a copper. Although having said that, I would be surprised if he had not committed criminal acts while working as a copper before I pranged into him. 
  As I am not identifying the said copper I will refer to him for the rest of this anecdote as “Quoll,” because I thought he looked like one, although I would say he had far less courage than a quoll. They are fearless and ferocious little marsupials if cornered. 
  I will now fast-forward to 1971, when the South African rugby team conducted its controversial tour of Australia and played the ACT at Manuka Oval. At that time Australia was divided, as was much of the rugby world, when it came to whether we should play rugby and other sports against South Africa, considering South Africa was run by a brutal racist regime and non-whites were excluded from selection when it came to representative sporting teams.
  Some, at the time, argued that sport and politics should not be mixed, and that if we engaged in sporting activity with South Africa we could convince them of the error of their ways, and that not engaging with them would have no effect on whether or not they retained Apartheid. 
  Others argued that by playing sport with them, having diplomatic relations with them, and trading with them, we were in-effect telling them we either condoned what they were doing or that we didn’t particularly care.
  Although I agreed that Apartheid was an evil regime that should not have existed, I could see glaring inconsistencies when it came to the suggestion that we should sever diplomatic relations with that country as well as impose on it trade and sporting bans. I say that because although the regime was immoral and brutal, it was not necessarily as bad as other totalitarian regimes and pseudo-democracies of that era that also shat on their poor and powerless, irrespective of their race. Yet we continued to trade with those other countries, play sport with them and retain diplomatic relations?
  Many of the countries of which I refer had no laws that prohibited child labour, and some turned a blind eye to child prostitution and sexual slavery. Some of them still do. And when it came to racist regimes, the Indonesians truly qualified for such a title. They treated the West Papuans appallingly and they continue to do so. And they are right on our doorstep!
   So, why was the protest movement focussing just on South Africa? Was it a matter of fashion? Whatever the reason, I found the inconsistency totally irrational. 
   I was of the belief at that time that we should be semi-isolationist and sever ties with most of the rest of the world and I have retained that belief.
  Others who agreed with me, to the extent that they could also see the inconsistencies, argued that even if we were being irrational by focussing just on South Africa, if Apartheid was abolished in that country by the West ostracising the place, it would still be a real positive. It would be a positive even if worse regimes in other countries continued unabated because some good would have come out of our efforts.
  History has shown that those who thought in the latter way were right, because it was mainly sporting bans, trade bans and the severing of diplomatic ties by most of the West that led to the abolition of Apartheid in South Africa. 
  Getting back to the subject, although I can’t speak for Brownie, when it came to my going to Manuka Oval to watch the Springboks play the ACT, I gave it some thought (but not enough) and decided to go so I could enjoy the game, the action on the sidelines and the company of my mates. 
  I thought at the time I could morally justify watching the Springboks play the ACT because I was aware of the inconsistencies I have just outlined. But, with the wisdom of hindsight and having given the matter further thought, I now believe I should not have paid money to see the Springboks play unless I was willing to protest and attempt to disrupt the game for the reasons I have already outlined, and that I did not do.
  So, here was Brownie and I at the game. We could see where the protesters were, so we went down amongst them and stood right next to the 7 foot high fence separating the crowd from the game. 
  Behind the fence there were around 600 coppers strung right around the ring of the oval at arms length from each other. There were also coppers inside the fence in front of the protesters, making sure they did not attempt to jump the fence to disrupt the game. There were smoke bombs being let off and rotten smells coming from several spots. Most of the time the protesters chanted, “Racists go home!”
  We were having a great time, as we were enjoying watching the rugby, and the sideshow between the protesters and the coppers at the same time. We witnessed several people being arrested and carried through a narrow gate while we were watching, although I could not see what they did to warrant being arrested. 
  While this was happening, I noticed, on our side of the fence, Quoll, the same copper who I had backed my car into in 1969, standing there, facing the protesters. We thought this a great joke, so we edged-up closer to him. I looked at him, gave him a little smile, and said,”Do you remember me mate?”
  I was baiting him to a small degree, but he had a lot more power than me at the time given that the place was swarming with hundreds of his colleagues, so there is no way I could have been seen to have been attempting to intimidate him in any way.
   The police were not armed at the time, although I am sure some in the senior ranks who were there would have had access to arms if needed. 
  His response to my question was, “Should I? And if you call me mate again I’ll arrest you!”
  Brownie began laughing at his reply, so he said to Brownie, “Do you think it’s funny?” 
  Brownie, when replying, got out the words, “Under the circumstances,” and at that Quoll had him arrested. Several coppers grabbed Brownie, lifted him up and carried him through the narrow gate and into a paddy wagon. 
   When I reflect on Quoll he was obviously shitting himself, and as such obviously in the wrong job. Why was he so stressed-out while in the presence of so many other coppers? What possible harm could we have done to him? Other than that, the protesters were mainly uni students and hippie types who were essentially harmless. It may have been a different story had they been a crowd of neo-nazis or members of the traditional left, such as wharfies or the BLF. 
  Quoll would not have lasted 5 minutes if he was employed privately as a bouncer in a nightclub given that bouncers have zero authority and are unarmed. Actually, I doubt he could have handled being a private security guard at a shopping mall for the same reason. I wonder how he went while working as a copper when he was by himself and had to confront violent people. I'm guessing he always carried with him a spare pair of reg grundies and daks, as he would have lost control of his bowels on such occasions.
  When I asked him if he remembered me he could have replied to my question with a few well chosen words instead of threatening to arrest me for calling him “mate,”given that he had no legal authority to do so. He could have also engaged me in conversation or simply ignored me. It’s not as if I was a threat to him in any way. And it’s not as if he was a young and inexperienced copper who had just been recruited. He must have been in his thirties.
  The following link will take you to footage of the said game in 1971, which includes arrests. I'm sorry I cannot embed it. The blurb before it states that 49 people were arrested at the game (Brownie would have been one of the 49) and that observers complained of rough police treatment and of the arrests being arbitrary and unreasonable. That was an understatement!
  The two links that follow the first link are descriptions and photos of the event from the Canberra Times.
  I took the photo above immediately after Brownie was arrested, which shows the coppers taking him away. It’s blurred because I was jostled by the crowd while trying to take the photo, and unfortunately Brownie is not visible within the photo. All that can be seen are the coppers who were carrying him towards the small gate in the fence at the time. 
  Brownie told me that after he was arrested and placed into the paddy wagon with a bunch of protesters the copper who was driving made their ride as uncomfortable as possible by deliberately and intermittently slamming on the brakes.
  The irony of it all was that Brownie was a rugby fanatic and had gone there to watch the game. He must have stuck out amongst the uni student protesters like a Jap on Anzac day! The poor bugger was arrested with a bunch of protesters and was guilty of nothing more than being the mate of a smart-arse, who also did nothing that warranted arrest. 
    Unlike me, Brownie as an adult continued to play rugby, and in the last years of his life he became the president of Canberra’s Easts rugby union club. The above photo is of Brownie’s Easts rugby team in 1976, several years after the event that led to his arrest. Brownie is in the front row 3rd from the left. Thanks to Trout for the photo.
   I went to the Civic Police station to see if I could get Brownie out without involving his parents, and I was told by the coppers at the reception to “Fuck off!”
  I’m not sure exactly what happened with Brownie after he was taken to the station, but I do remember being told that his mum, who I always liked, (partly because she was never backwards in coming forward, particularly in matters concerning her kids), after learning about what had led to her son’s arrest, confronted Quoll and reminded him of the fact that I had run into him outside their driveway.
A better shot of the arrest area. Thanks to Billy Southern for the use of the photo.
  Apparently he did not handle it well, as he must have realised it would not look good for him if the matter went to court. Other than that, I had taken down the name and contact details of a bloke who had witnessed what had happened, and he was willing to testify on Brownie’s behalf. 
  Brownie was eventually charged with having used indecent language. From memory they alleged that he had said, “All coppers are cunts,” or words to that effect that contained the words coppers and cunts.
  When a copper fabricates a charge he has committed a criminal offence, and as such has gone to the other side and joined the crim’s he is paid to control. When that occurs he has no right to moralise or pretend he is a pillar of the community. And because I was there when Brownie was arrested, and I clearly remember what Brownie said, (or did not say), I believe Quoll was a criminal. 
  A criminal is defined as a person who commits a crime. The definition, as such, includes people who commit crimes but are not charged or convicted for such crimes.
   Later on all charges against all protesters were dropped because of a legal technicality, although not before Brownie and I had seen a solicitor and made contact with the other witness, (who I got to know and still see occasionally). 
   My guess is that the real reason the charges were dropped was not one of a legal nature. I believe it highly likely that the whole thing was politically embarrassing for the government and that once the tour was over they thought it best to say as little as possible about it in the hope that it would all be forgotten. I also believe that a large number of coppers would have been exposed for charging people for offences they did not commit. 
   Quoll was very lucky the charges against Brownie were dropped. Had they not been dropped Quoll would probably have been exposed as a bullshit artist and a criminal when the matter was heard in court. And that would have been the best outcome he could have hoped for.
   If Brownie had been charged and convicted for having used the indecent language he did not use Quoll would not have known what hit him. A wronged Brownie was unstoppable. He would have ensured Quoll regretted the day he was born, and whatever Brownie decided to do to seek vengeance I would have been morally obliged to assist, considering I was the smart-arse who brought the whole thing on.
  I hope Quoll, for his sake, saw the error of his ways, quit the police force and got a job as a clerk, where the greatest risk would be having a filing cabinet fall on him, as he was clearly not suited for the job.
    It could be argued that fabricating evidence related to a relatively minor charge, which is what Quoll did with Brownie, pales into insignificance when it comes to bringing the AFP into disrepute when compared to the proven and/or alleged actions and comments of the ex AFP commissioner, Mick Keelty, in relation to the arrest of the Bali 9 and what he said before the trial of Schappelle Corby. 
     In relation to 1 of the Bali 9, Scott Rush, whose father asked the AFP to stop him leaving Australia to prevent him being arrested in Bali, (which they did not do), a youngish copper I met said, to me  “Keelty threw a hospital pass to every copper in Australia. What parent will ever trust a copper again?” And many Australians believe Keelty has blood on his hands in relation to the executions of Chan and Sukumaran. 
    When senior coppers and politicians talk about how they have no sympathy for drug smugglers and how they can justify cooperating with countries like Indonesia because they know they are saving lives by stopping drugs reaching the arms of addicts, they are insulting the intelligence of their audience. Corruption is a way of life in Indonesia, and drugs of a hard variety are always readily available as long as they are bought from certain people. Politicians and senior Australian coppers know that. Do the latter have any pride or self-respect or is that a rhetorical question?
    Now, although I have really given it to Quoll in this anecdote by publicly ridiculing the man, if he is still alive he will not suffer from what I have written nor will his reputation be tarnished, as I have not identified him. And I doubt anyone reading this yarn, other than the other witness to Brownie’s arrest, will know who he was or is. Had I retained a grudge against the man I could have identified him without risking being sued, because I can back up what I have written. 
    I do not carry a grudge against Quoll and I sincerely hope he has had a good life, because although he behaved very badly by fabricating a charge against my mate, 46 years have elapsed since the event took place. And as I have said in many anecdotes and essays I have written, I have no right to cast stones against anyone because of their bad behaviour given that we all do things we regret, and I have done many, many things in my youth I regret. 
    Other than that, I don’t believe we possess contra-causal free will. And if you don’t understand what I mean by that last statement you may want to read the essays on the following links. They say nothing new, but they’re hard-hitting and very well-written, and you may find them liberating.

by Nick McConchie

INTRODUCTION by Dave Wheeler
  This anecdote was written by my old mate, Nick McConchie. It tells of his narrow escape while visiting the Philippines in the early 90’s, with our mutual mate, the late Geoff “Fitz” Fitzgerald. I attended Dickson High with both Nick and Fitz. 
  When Australians travel to Asia they are warned of the draconian punishments most Asian countries have for persons found in possession of drugs or engaging in other behaviour that is dealt with far less harshly in Australia. Although most Australians realise the consequences of disobeying foreign laws, many, in their naivety, do not realise that they are taking a small risk by just visiting such countries without breaking their laws, as many tourists over the years have been set-up and have suffered many years in prison, and worse, for committing no crime at all. Most of Asia is rife with corruption, brought about by poverty and desperation, and to expect to be dealt with by honest police and to receive a fair trial in most Third World countries is like expecting the arrival of the tooth fairy. It is far easier for a middle class Australian to be moral than it is for people who battle every day just to get a feed. I spent a small amount of time in Thailand during my youth and had no problems, as has been the case with most tourists who have travelled to Asia, but you are far more likely to be in the wrong place at the wrong time in a Third World country than you are in Australia, as Nick will tell you. Why we have extradition treaties with countries that are so bent and why the Australian government does not openly criticise their legal systems for the corrupt farces they are, probably comes down to money, as in not wanting to disrupt trade. While there are live cattle to be exported (and tortured) and other commodities to be bought and sold, expect things to continue as they are. 
  In this introductory rant I have expressed my personal views, which are not necessarily the views of Nick McConchie.
Dave Wheeler
by Nick McConchie
   The behaviour of the relatively new Philippines President Duterte, in allowing or indeed encouraging law enforcement officials to shoot first when drugs are involved, reminded me of the dangers of that country. In particular, I recalled an incident when I was in Manila during the early 1990’s.
   I had travelled to The Philippines with my then wife and my 2 year old son. The purpose of the visit was to introduce my son to his grandmother and for my wife to catch up with her family. In order to alleviate potential boredom, I invited my friend Fitz to come along. Fitz features in other posts on this site.
  One afternoon in Manila, Fitz and I left the family in our hotel and ventured out for a few drinks. We went to several bars and sunk a few cold ones. As the afternoon turned into night, we continued to bar hop and eventually found ourselves in a quieter street, a little way from the bustling tourist area. Our reason for leaving the relative safety of the tourist strip has been muddied through the effluxion of time. None of that actually matters. What matters was that we were in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Somewhere in Manila.
    We were walking along the street, minding our own business, talking bullshit to each other while looking for somewhere we could quench our rapidly growing thirsts. A police vehicle stopped and two heavily armed policemen alighted and approached us. We were told that we were making too much noise and needed to accompany them. Not being in the business of arguing with armed Filipino police, we complied and climbed into their “ute”. Not much was said, and we assumed we were being taken to a police station – no such luck! After a short time, the driver turned into what appeared to be an empty car park. It was walled on three sides with an entrance on the fourth side. We were told to get out of the vehicle. As we did so, one of the policemen walked a short distance and stood there with his back to us. The other pointed his pistol at us. He said words to the effect, “My Sergeant needs money, how much you have”? 
  The photo above, taken in 1974, shows from left to right, Spud Murphy, the late Geoff ‘Fitz” Fitzgerald, Mick Gladwish and Nick McConchie, the author of this post. All of the above are ex Dickson High boys. The photo was also used in the essay, “ A Canberra boy reflects on his escapes,” because we do not have many photos of Fitz in his younger years. The photo was taken sometime in the mid seventies when the boys were in their mid twenties.
   At this point Fitz and I were a little concerned for our safety, though that fear was somewhat diminished by the alcohol that we had consumed. I cannot recall how much we offered in the first instance but it probably equated to $10.00 or so. We gave the money to the policeman who while still holding his gun, walked over to the sergeant. They mumbled a few words then the underling returned. “Not enough,” he said. We gave a little more. He again walked over to the sergeant and again returned saying “Not enough”. About the 3rd or 4th time we emptied our front pockets to show that that was all we had – about $60 between us. This time the Sergeant came back and said “OK”. 
  The underling, while waving his gun, then said, “You can escape now.” I did not know what Fitz was thinking at this point, as I had my own thoughts to contend with. My thoughts over the next 2 seconds ranged from – "If we run, then surely they will shoot us – justified as escaping prisoners. If we walk fast, we will be easier targets. If we don’t do anything, will they lock us up?” 
   We ran, zigzagging in some lame attempt to dodge any bullets that came our way. Normally, Fitz would have been a faster runner than me, but not that day.
  As we ran from the compound and turned into the street, I was relieved that there were no gunshots. In today’s Duterte environment, we could easily have been shot as suspected drug felons. I digress however. 
  We jumped onto the back of a Jeepney, (a public transport jeep with colourful if not kitsch decorations). We were not obviously being followed, much to our mutual relief. Coincidentally, the Jeepney was headed through one of the bar areas of Manila, so now, in much need of a drink, we alighted and headed into one of the many bars that lined the strip.
  Earlier in this piece, I mentioned that we had emptied our front pockets - fortunately we had more in other pockets. So, here we are, sitting in the bar, enjoying a beer or two, talking about our experience and how we were “gunna” bash the coppers and should have bashed the coppers and so on, when at the entrance to the bar, appeared one of the policemen that we should have bashed.
  He looked straight over at us but did nothing. He left a minute or two later. After several more beers and perhaps some whiskey, we deemed it safe and returned to our hotel.
  The next morning there was a knock on my hotel room door. I answered to a hotel employee, who held up a piece of paper and said “is this your licence? “ Indeed it was. He explained that he was hotel security and he knew what happened, and with his help we could sue the police for a large amount of money. I took my licence, which had obviously been given to him by one of the policemen, though I had no recollection of giving it to him in the first place, and politely declined his offer.
  Over the course of the next few hours, every hotel employee (I exaggerate), but a number of them, asked how long we were staying, when are we leaving? What airline and what time? Paranoia began to set in. At this point, what could we do? So Fitz and I crossed the road to an open air bar and had a few beers, while trying to decipher what it all meant (the meaning of life at that instant). We were there for a very short period of time, when a truck pulled up, and half a dozen policemen dismounted and came into the bar. They simply stood around, giving us perhaps furtive glances, whilst talking amongst themselves. They left quite soon after their arrival. Paranoia?, I do not know, but we were becoming quite uncomfortable with the situation.
  We were booked on a flight out the following night. Hotel staff were offering to arrange transport. What time you want? Where you go? And so it went on. We had visions of perhaps being robbed on the way to the airport or worse. It just seemed very peculiar to us. I was of course concerned for my wife and child, so around lunchtime that day, without checking out, we walked out and caught a cab to the airport. We arrived at the airport safely albeit some 12 hours before our flight. How did we alleviate the boredom? 
   The photo above shows the author of this post with a group of his mates in Kings Cross in 1970. They are from left to right, the late Brent Bolas, Nick McConchie, Spud Murphy, Keith Dickerson and Max Duncan. Max played an incredibly good blues harmonica and often accompanied Spud, who was on the voice and also played the blues harp.
– At the airport bar of course!


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