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Chrysalis Drama

The Birdsville Ode
A Poem about Tibooburra
To the Top End and Back 1996
1998 Ends Short



3 Sandwiches ... 2 Dinners and Some Frogs

There was a lot of noise from a motley crew that sunny August day
As car load by car load we assembled, one short and that was Ray
Then it's up in the air, on a bumpy flight to good old Bathurst town
For everyone knows, we cannot go, without taking that silly clown.

Then out we fly via Nyngan, to Cunnamulla and finally Charleville
The whole team in high spirits, even though Michael looks quite ill
At Charleville we greet old friends, and the folk we'll stay with tonight Then meet to plan tomorrow, first up we'll like everything real tight.

In the service Ray sings, Leanne plays and Michael strums a tune
While Steve reads a paraphrase which make some people fume
Sharon with her bags of secrets, tells everyone of God's creating
Then its away to the plane, you scurvy crew, Mount Isa is awaiting.

A head wind slows our little plane and we arrive with the setting sun
Your running late the pastor remarks, our service has just begun
So in we creep and silently wait through songs and a farewell joke
Till we finally take our turn at telling, of God's love for all these folk.

As Monday dawns, we pack the plane and head for old Burketown
But the clouds soon make it clear to us, were just not getting down
Then a voice on radio we hear, Sweers Island in the gulf is near
We'll land out there, have coffee, talk and wait till the coast is clear.

Soon it's in the plane and off we go heading back to Burketown school. These children laugh and clap and yell as "Gotcha" plays the fool. The Principal understands our message, and phones to Doomadgee I know you've been resisting but, these noisy Pirates you must see.

At Doomadgee we meet the man, I've chased throughout last week
And win his trust as the children learn, GOD Kingdom we must seek
Then to his nearby house for lunch, the food is tasty and welcome
Before we fly to Borroloola and meet up with Merv and Malcolm.

This first dinner served in silver foil of unsavory stew and mash
When eaten hot and shoveled down could cause a stomach rash
Leanne and Sharon being ladies, smartly slipped outside to eat
While the rest of us fought bravely we found eating quite a feat.

After eating all this gourmet food, we prepared to sleep for the night
Taking time to service the body, clean the teeth, and make everything right. The use of the men's toilet however would give even a saint quite a scare with lots of frogs jumping deep in the system "lift the seat if you dare."

With air slowly leaking from air beds, everybody sleeps close to the floor Much turning is heard through the night and the snoring is hard to ignore Then for breakfast its weeties and coffee plus a satchel of jam and the toast Merv busies himself making sandwiches, best in the land that's his boast.

Breakfast is over we head for the school, across a very wet football ground And set up beneath a canopy, on a plastic bubble sheet we have found Our Pirates play has lots of music and songs, with plenty of actions to boot The Treasure chest hides the "Minties" by the handful we share out the loot.

With the props finally packed in the bags then we're off on our aircraft safari We flight schedule our next destination, Hodgson Downs, School of Minyerri Now Mervs anxious we may lose our way, so he flies on and leaves us behind Without him leading the way he states, Hodgson Downs, is beyond us to find.

Mervs aircraft fades into the distance and Steve maneuvers the Piper around But when we arrive and circle the field, we can see Mervs not on the ground The moment we assemble the backdrop, we hear Merv's plane overhead By radio we learn they're not coming in, they have decided to fly on instead.

As usual the children love "Gotcha" as he picks up and drops everything Leanne explains that God loves them, their troubles to him they can bring The children sing us a Christian song, their language is strange to our ears But it's good to hear they know Jesus, lets pray he's retained all their years.

The teachers are happy we came, so we stop and talk for a while
Then comes a lunch that's fit for a king and that makes everyone smile There's meat pies and sauce by the plate-full, and lots of fruit for us all With so much food to be eaten, each one of us answered the call.

Once all this good food had been eaten, and we finally settled our hunger It's to the landcruiser and back to the plane, our next stop is Urapunga On arrival we fly round the air field then ever so gently touch down To find there's a dusty walk to the school located in the center of town.

Remember the sandwiches that Merv made, now they get into the fun These morsels he now offers to us after 5 hours in his plane, in the sun With much expressed flourish & flair, we postpone them till after our act To tell him we've already eaten, would be very much lacking in tact.

The children arrive and sit around us, some dressed in a uniform of red With Malcolm and Merv joining in, by the Pirates and Clown they are led Through action and noise and loud bidding, to the Auctioneer of our play To win a pirate ship, a motley crew, or the Kingdom of heaven today.

After the school we all walk to the store, and sit down to eat our ice creams Then Merv offers those sandwiches, we're not going to avoid them it seems We finally agree to take a batch with us, even though it's late in the day Maybe we'll be able to dispose of them once we get down Ngukarr way.

We're winging our way towards Ngukarr, that's where we'll stay tonight Our sore bodies are beginning to unwind, as the end of the day is in sight When all of a sudden a voice is heard, which wakes us up with a start "Pass a sandwich up to the front," in our opinion that's not very smart.

I neglected to tell you the makeup of these unimaginably tasty repasts The contents of which we imagine, has a flavour that lingers and lasts With layers of Margarine and camp pie, all smothered with tomato sauce For anyone with a weak stomach, they could be an unstoppable force.

With a deep sense of awe, we open the bag, and pass one across to Ray Without much ado he consumes it, to our complete and utter dismay Michael also decides to take a big bite of this stiff, dry and crusty bread But from the look on his face we decide, it's better to eat plaster instead.

Steve our very wise pilot, solves the problem with a strong steady hand Three sandwiches sucked out the window spreads sauce all over the land Like three majestic winged things, past Sharon's passenger window they flew To splatter on Merv's windscreen, he could be right behind us, for all we knew.

At Ngukarr we're first on the ground, so we quickly taxi right up to the gate On alighting our plane we receive quite a fright, a mess to seal all our fate There's Margarine spread on the fuselage and sauce all over the rear tail wing With rags and a squashed box of tissues, it's a race to clean the whole thing.

With all the gear, and food unpacked and both planes locked up real tight It's two trips in another Landcruiser, to the school where we're staying tonight A key opens our humble abode, it's a refrigerated storeroom to be precise It's not that our expectations are high, but a clean tidy floor would be nice.

With much loud trumpeting and fanfare, the school's master key we receive Upon opening the door to the kitchen, comes a smell you would not believe There's a suspicious pot in the far distant corner, half full of water and slime That's home to a batch of red sausages, that's been dead for a very long time.

But the low point of our stay here, is something to bring tears to the eyes Upon viewing the much praised toilets, we receive an unwanted surprise Our senses are destroyed by the conditions, that's all that I'm going to say We're locking the door with the padlock, then just simply walking away.

Back to that refrigeration storeroom, where we'll all sleep tonight on the floor We observe in a far distant corner, there's a covered up very mysterious door After shifting some tables and friges, the lost secrets are finally revealed There's a long forgotten toilet, upon which years of grime has congealed.

Using all the rags we can find, combined with every detergent that's on hand We wash and scowl the whole area, till everything shines and looks grand After that we can finally relax, and take a walk up the main street into town Or wait on the porch for the Census Rep, they promised will track us all down.

The last dinner that Merv is preparing, smells very different then ever before With the stew from those outdated packages and corn from his abundant store Sharon's not impressed with this mixture, and declares with a convincing voice This foods not in my diet, I'll have to cook noodles, Oh! what a wonderful choice.

The sleeping arrangements are rugged, we're spread out all over the floor We have Ray and his machine in one corner, and Merv set up by the door Sharon and Leanne will not behave, they keep disturbing all of the guys So when we finally fall into slumberland, you hear only our tiny wee sighs.

It's Wednesday at Kgukarr school, and we set up on the dry dust ground While Steve and Merv search everywhere, to see if some fuel can be found The children love all our props, especially the swords we use in the play To act like a band of buccaneers, with the message of salvation to relay.

From Creation to the Kingdom of Heaven, the Gospel message we now impart Then we pack all the props in the Landcruiser, and back to the Piper we dart Once we're packed Steve gives us the news, our next stop is not all that far With luck it's only one hour's flying time, to reach the children at Numbulwar.

At Numbulwar they're all very proud, there's a mural on nearly every school wall They take us beside lots of classrooms, to their biggest and largest class hall We assemble our gear at one end, and let Ray dress in a storeroom nearby But when " Gotcha" starts our program, his laughter makes a little girl cry.

It's great you came said a teacher, the Christian message is needed out here But with so many children packed into the hall, our message was lost I fear Unfortunately we have no more " Minties", so it's back to the airstrip we race Our next flight's to the children of the top end, Gove's the name of the place.

The view changes as Steve banks the plane and prepares for our approach This is the airfield at Nulumbouy, on other aircraft we must not encroach The bright red of the Bauxite greets us, as we race along this airstrip So this is "Gove", somebody says, we pray it'll be worth the long trip.

We taxi the Piper across the tarmac and by the workshop bring it to rest This airfields run by MAF folk, and their assistance is soon put to the test Our port wheel strut's gone and collapsed on us, it's in need of urgent repair They evacuate and Hydrogen fill it, while we assist as much as we dare.

They give us a wing full of free fuel, and a car to drive while we're here A nice house that keeps us together and allows us to wash all our gear We in turn bring our first message, on the sand at a place called Ski Beach To people of a different culture, but still people God's planning to reach.

It's a strange and eerie feeling, to be on this dark beach late at night To see lots of folk lay their blankets, by a large cross luminated by light The service is all very casual, and the dancing is something to behold While we sit very nervous on a blanket, we're on as soon as we're told.

Once again the Pirates perform, Gruel and Scrub row the Captain ashore We finish the play with a message, but it's just not enough they want more You've heard the expression "deep end" now Michael and I are thrown in To strum the Guitar and sing out of tune, till "Gotcha the Clown" can begin.

After that "Nasty Zac" climbs a tree, for the first time the clown takes a part Leanne narrates the whole story, about this man who changes his heart We finish and hand out the "Minties", then sit on the blanket, safe and sound To hear the Pastor say "Lets have more singing, so everybody gather around."

We stand around in a large circle, humming tunes we don't even know Till this night's meeting is finally ended, and we at last can pack up and go But our hasty retreat is our misfortune, no one told us, we hadn't a clue That down the beach they were cooking, Kangaroo in a sand Barbecue.

Next day dawns bright and sunny, so Ray and Michael swim for a while In Carpentaria's blue gulf waters, the home of the salt water Crocodile Then it's to the school after lunch, to take scripture for a session or two To the children, their class teachers, and some Americans to name a few.

Our very last session is done in a park, we set up by an electric light post It's supposed to be a youth drama night, organised for after tea by our host The night's become very windy, our screen base needs the support of a rock But by lifting some nearby specimens, two scorpions give all quite a shock.

It's Friday morning and we all rise early, have breakfast and get under way With so many schools on our schedule, we'll be amazed if it's not a long day We drop the car off at the airport, stow the gear and check out the plane Then off we go before sunrise, there's a very tight schedule to maintain.

We take time to look at the view, to see the forests and the ocean up here And the big beautiful rambling rivers, that will one day be exploited we fear We see the blue colour of the gulf waters, the white of the beaches nearby Even though we look as hard as we can, not even one croc did we spy.

We're heading for Elcho Island, it's the first school on our flight plan today After a short flight from the mainland, we circle and approach from the bay There's nobody there to meet us, there's no worry it's only a very short drive So I hustle a quick ride to the school, talk with Rose until the others arrive.

We're allotted a spot beneath a building, down one end beside the canteen Because of the wind that's picked up, we must use ropes to tie up the screen Leanne keeps telling us all to focus, and we struggle to get everything ready As Sharon arrives with a bump on her head, teary eyed and a little unsteady.

Our program's the same as before, we use "Gotcha" to excite all the kids Then we switch to the Pirate story, and have Sharon control all the bids When we reach the end of the play, all the characters are used to say Nobody can get to Heaven, except through Jesus cause "He is the Way."

As the show is now over we pack, the school children then sing us a song The music is still in our ears as we go, the local minister now tags along On the way to the airstrip we learn, there's more schools to fill up our day Their life is run at a different pace, they just don't understand we can't stay.

The plane's in the air in a hurry, with the course set for way down the track We'll be flying today over Arnham Land, to a settlement called Gapiwayak The children here are proud of their school, for no matter how far they roam To different parts of the country, they will always call Gapiwayak their home.

There's lots of laughing during this show, and they clap as we finish each part With the Pirates all in high spirits, the message comes straight from the heart As we pack all the props in the bags, the class democratically give us a vote We score full marks for each item, we're pleased but that's no reason to gloat.

This is certainly one hectic day, we find Robinson River is next on the queue But after seven hours of traveling, w're running late and are now overdue As soon as we land a cruiser arrives, to take us on a long bumpy ride to town School's out by the time we arrive, and there's not many children to be found.

As soon as the sound of the bell fills the air, all the children begin to file in Then with lots of laughter and noise, they sit patiently for the show to begin"Oh! No it's my undies" cries "Gotcha", as I use a hankie to wipe all my face Then it's back to the aircraft in a hurry, we must keep up this frantic pace.

We must keep moving along this way, there's no time to stay for a while All we can do is inquire how they are, and wish them good-by with a smile Once again it's up and away, there's the message of Gods love to deliver We figure it'll be about mid afternoon, before we reach Kiana by the river.

We finally see Kiana in the distance, it's late and schools, definitely out But our transports faithfully waiting, to carry our gear and show us about The school is an old railway carriage, raised up and placed on steel beams The whole place is decked with lights, their very happy we came it seems.

Once again they ring a school bell, this time the whole town comes along To see poor "Gotcha's" misfortune, and hear the whole team sing a song Even though Ray dresses like Superman, our little drama still comes alive Before we shove all the gear in the bags, and back to the airfield we drive.

Steve repeatedly cranks the motor, "it won't start" he exclaims with a sigh Our single engines got to be running, before we can get up in the air and fly As the exhaust gives a cough or two, we're away with the last rays of the sun And even though we don't know it yet, this nights excitement has just begun.

One last shot of the setting sun, before Michael turns on the interior light To play a serious game of Scumbags, that will go on and on with the flight This first leg is back to Mt Isa, to fill up our tanks and get something to eat Before the long flight into Lorgnette, and the beds in the Motel we greet.

Our landing is guided by the lights on the strip, then we taxi down the tarmac While the plane is checked we phone for a cab, then it's off to buy a Big Mac The whole town is crowded with people, it's impossible to maneuver around So it's place the order and obtain all the food, then hope a cab can be found.

After an hour we're back the food, it's hard to believe we've taken that long. We eat all our "tucka" with relish, but in our haste we got one order wrong While we were away they put fuel in the tanks, and checked the oil supply As soon as we've eaten we'll be up in the air, then we'll wave Mt Isa goodbye.

"It's time we were going' yells Steve, "clear prop" then he turns the key on But there's not a splutter nor a whimper, the battery has packed up and gone We all look around in silence, at this late hour everyone's gone we're alone Maybe we could rustle up some assistance, if only we could find us a phone.

There's some movement away in the distance, near the office and exit gate So I'm off like a rocket across the forecourt , to catch him before it's too late He's quite taken back as he hears my sad tale, I'll get my car is all he can say Then we'll try using his car battery, to start our engine and help get us away.

But this brilliant idea's not working, there's no power, we're getting nowhere So we phone from the Flying Doctor's plane, to get some assistance out here It's the Queensland road service we call, there's one person left in the store Once we agree to the fee he comes to the strip, to a job they've not had before.

With the engine running like clockwork, he then checks all the electronics out Then he and Steve have this conflab, while the rest of us are standing about "We've got the all clear" shouts Steve, "the alternators charging just great." We may still get some sleep tonight, even though we're now two hours late.

We're finally heading to Longreach and those beds into which we will creep When somewhere just short of Cloncurry, while most of us are fast asleep The lights on the dashboard start blinking, an event which gives us a shock When we think that this beautiful aircraft, could fall from the sky like a rock.

It's a very long way to Longreach, when your flying alone in a blackened sky With no lights, radio and no navigation, but with God's help we'll continue to fly By the flickering beam of the torch light, maps are checked during this flight We've got just one shot at the airfield, to power up those two ribbons of light.

Our prayers are answered the lights come on, It's the end of this long journey When six weary people alight from the plane, and lock everything up with the key In the dark we walk these lonely streets, for it's now two thirty in the morning We're out on our feet and exhausted, once in bed there'll be plenty of snoring.

It's Saturday and there's hours to spare, the plane must be all checked out So there's a trip to the HALL OF FAME, with time for a leisurely walkabout Then back to the plane across the railway tracks , before I return to buy lunch For "Curly" still has to charge the battery, and give it some power and punch.

Come Saturday afternoon we're flying high, with Wee Waa right in our sight We need to arrive before dinner, for we have a bush dance to put on tonight As we bank we see Elizabeth and Jason and people with whom we will stay After Ray has called the bush dance, and we come to the end of this day.

The bush dance is quite a success, once the line dancing has broken the ice We stumble along and mess about, with some routines that are very precise and with everyone willing to take part in the dance, it's great to join in the fun Or to just sit around and drink some coffee, now that this long week is done.

It's Sunday the last day of the Patrol, we're here for a Sunday school show Most of the team have the sniffles, and we're moving just a little bit slow We know Ray's voice is starting to fade, and Leanne's is well on the brink But we strive to leave a message, that will cause some people to think.

After the show we pack all the bags, leaving only what we need for today We started this Patrol with Sharon's story, now we should finish this way With a water pistol to shoot everybody, and cards for the children to hold Sharon describes GOD wonder of creation, as a story that has to be told.

We have almost finished our Patrol, our next flight will see Ray at Bathurst But these people won't let us depart, until they relieve our hunger and thirst There's just to much food on the table, we'll just have to leave some behind Then all that's left is to thank everybody, who have been so helpful and kind.

It's still a fair flight to Bathurst, so we pick a town where there's plenty of fuel But the Narrabri refueler's not happy, you'd think we were breaking some rule We fill our tanks then it's off again, to Bathurst where we'll have to leave Ray It's been a long week and we're all tuckered out, but we'd do it again we say.

There's only the flight over the mountains, and Sharons now got the joy stick If this plane begins to tumble, let's hope Steve takes the controls real quick We see a ring of smog on the horizon, as we approach down the right lane We're down a runway for the last time, this Patrols over, we're home again.

               – Denis Schipp



We went to Tibooburra one time,
While on patrol outback,
And we happened on this yarn one day,
Someplace along the track.
It's about a local legend,
Which I understand is true,
'Bout the time the town was flattened
As a rumble traveled through.

It was on a Tuesday evening,
And not much different from most,
When a group of city slickers
Came to stay, up from the coast.
Well, they booked into the motel,
Went for dinner in the pub,
And annoyed the local diners
With their riotous hubbub.

They complained about the service,
They complained about their drinks,
But they ate their meals with relish,
Paid their bill, and gave their thanks.
They returned then to their lodgings,
And settled for the night,
Peace and calm returned to town
Unknowing of their plight.

It first occurred about twelve thirty.
Folks were shaken from their beds.
Anyone who tried to stand or walk
Was toppled on their heads.
The buildings in the township
All began to crack and crumble
As it built to a crescendo,
The Tibooburra Rumble.

Authorities were mystified,
Hard pressed to find a cause.
but a study of the seismic shock,
And scientific laws,
The plotted epicenter
Was "The Granites Rocks" Motel
Room 10, bed number 4,
As near as they could tell.

Investigations later
Based on eyewitness reports,
Disaster reconstruction,
Expert theories, and thoughts,
Put down the whole phenomenon
To a very simple cause
Chrysalis Drama's Alan Larkin
Nicknamed "Chainsaw" cause he snores!

This poem is based on experiences of outback patrol fellowship in July 1995.

                – Alan Larkin

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