Hi, I’m still hoping some of our friends will post their recollections of special and/or funny moments from our days on the Islands .. but for now here are 2 short ones.
The Red Sword on a remote island
Have you noticed one thing about practical jokes ..
.. they often misfire!
Andy lived alone on an isolated island off the Queensland coast. He held a pastoral lease for the island which was coming up for renewal. The conditions were very simple, yet one was to keep down any noxious weeds .. and at the moment, feral Prickly Pear were running amok.
The only way to kill them is via a bug called cactus blastus – but for now, when Jenny and I were visiting his island, it seemed a good idea to knock down from sight, any of the villains along the track to his Homestead.
My sister Maggie had just returned from Ethiopia, and brought me back a real North African sword. So I declared war on all Prickly Pears, went into a full on day dream, and charged into battle. Cutting, trusting, slicing Cactus limbs clean off, and imaging myself as an old world Viking, running berserk through Mongolian hordes.
Then I heard voices, peered out and saw two blokes walking up the track..so leapt out of in good Monty Python style, waved the sword and said
“none shall pass”
It seemed a harmless joke, and I thought they’d laugh .. but no no, their eyes popped wide open, jaws dropped..and one bloke, already walking backwards, began yelling..
“B b bug, bug, bugger, bugger you mate, bugger you”.
Then both turned and cleared off back down the track at a rate of knots, with one still yelling “Bugger you”
I was flabbergasted. It couldn’t have been that scary ?
Then I noticed my clothes. Uh oh. Prickly Pear have a rich red fruit, and my clothes were drenched with this red stain!
So from their side of things, these blokes had come ashore on an isolated island, with no idea what to expect. They’d then walked a km up a lonely dirt track – when bloody hell, out of the bush leaps someone, sword in hand and covered in blood!
When I got back down to the bay there was not a boat in sight.
I’d have liked to at least yell out and say “hey boys, it was only a practical joke”.. but if an answer came back, it would probably have been faint on the wind..
“B b bug, bugger you mate”.
One of the things we treasure in life, is characters, truly one off human beings. Life would be dull without them. Well the islands off the coast in North Qld Australia, were renowned for the characters who lived on them ..
One of these was Peter Berck.
Pete grew up in the States, and was in his first year at Uni, studying Law, when a simple student practical joke went horribly wrong. He, and some mates, were running a flagpole across a tennis court, when it hit an overhead power line. One young man died, one lost a leg, and Pete lost both his legs below the knees.
But he lost much more than that – including his girlfriend, and a Law Career.
Previous to this, his parents had emigrated to Australia and bought the lease on St Bees Island, near Mackay, Nth Qld. So Pete, with artificial legs came to Australia and tried to continue studying Law at Qld Uni. But the pain was too much, so he moved to St Bees, put his artificial legs in the cupboard, (and when his parents left), wrapped cut off car tyres below his knees, and lived there alone, perfectly happy.
He was a very astute bloke, often helping mariners via the radio with clear concise advice, and remarkably capable with all the chores he had to do single handed.
He was also very friendly, and had two good mates, Bert and John, who frequently sailed over with some friends for a weekend. They’d have a great ol time, even playing golf on the beach for which Pete had his own short clubs.
Anyway, one year Jen and I drifted in on our little Catamaran, shared some terrific times with Pete, then said fond goodbyes and hauled sail.
Now our cruising rules were that we didn’t have any rules .. fixed destinations or that sort of thing .. so when we had barely cleared the Homestead Bay of St Bees .. then saw a small lagoon we could get into on these big tides .. well we done did do that.
Jen straight off ran out a net, and caught a mud crab and big squid. So we stayed two days, but on coming out, saw a man on nearby Keswick Island frantically waving at us !
We sailed over, rowed ashore, and asked him what was happening ?
“I just really need someone to talk too.”
“Well, I am the Caretaker here, live all alone, and my hobby is catching sharks. I float a bait out on a big hook with a set line, which is linked to tin cans by my bed. Last night they went off, so I ran down to the beach in my pyjamas, and started hauling in a big one. I was winning, but just tossing the line on the sand by my feet – when suddenly it took off, I stepped back for a better purchase, put my foot in the rope, and agggh, it got me.”
Struth, can you imagine this scene ?
Here is a bloke, in the middle of nowhere, no one else for miles, in his pyjamas, being dragged out to sea at night by an angry shark !
It turned, came back at him, which gave some slack. He got the rope free, and by his account, walked on the water to shore.
“What did you do then ?”
“Well I went back to my cottage, filled the biggest glass I could find with Rum, skulled that straight, then wrote to the Philippines for a bride. I need a new hobby !”
We’d have liked to find out how he got on .. but next time we passed by, a friend, Bevan Mowen, was care-taking, and had no news of the shark fisherman ?