The Road to Turee Creek

Journal: 074

Turee Creek is where Katharine Susannah Prichard wrote Coonardoo in 1927. We won’t really take the road 130 kms of dirt track there, but I had to check my load anyway so thought I would pull up and take the photo just to give you an idea of what this country’s like. That signpost on the Great Northern Hwy is itself nearly 100 kms from the nearest town (Newman), which didn’t exist in KSP’s time, and 300 north of the next, Meekatharra, so Turee Creek is pretty remote.

This is all Martu country, the northern and western-most of the Western Desert peoples whose country extends east and south from here all the way to Ceduna on the south coast, on the other side of the Nullarbor in South Australia

If you remember back a couple more posts before the KSP autobiography, Daisy Bates‘ station at Ethel Creek (100 km NE of Newman) was in the heart of Martu country. She must have begun her studies of Aboriginal languages there, as when she arrived, a decade later, at Ooldea, west of Ceduna and 3,000 km from Ethel Creek, she found the people speaking a similar language. She (and husband Jack) came this way by buggy, 500 kms or so, in 1900, to get to the coast at Carnarvon, so she could catch a boat to Perth.

As did the Martu children, Mollie and Daisy, walking north thirty years later, 1,200 kms, to get home after being kidnapped by police working for the ‘Chief Protector’ (They probably hitched a lift with a camel train around here, but they’d already walked through hundreds of kilometres of this country, making about 20 km a day.)

I wrote more about the confluence of notable women in this remote area, years ago, in Ventured North by Train and Truck, and mentioned another, my favourite trekker/writer Robyn Davidson who, in crossing half the country by camel, from Alice Springs to Shark Bay in the 1970s, passed through just two communities, Docker River on the WA/NT border and Wiluna, crossing the Great Northern Hwy somewhere between this turnoff and Meekatharra.

As it happens, my next trip after taking the Turee Ck photo, last weekend, was up the coast to Karratha (see map below). And I had on my CD player Randolph Stow’s The Merry-Go-Round in the Sea (1965) which is a fictionalisation of his childhood on family properties in and around Geraldton. I’m sure I have a copy somewhere, so I’ll review it later (“soon”), but it is a stunning evocation of place and time (roughly 1935-55) and of course I passed through a lot of the places he describes, from the river flats at Greenough, south of Geraldton, with its horizontal trees to the Murchison River crossing 100 km north where the family picnicked waiting for the flooded river to carry away the old timber bridge (it’s higher now, and concrete).

This is Yamaji country (see ‘We were not here first‘), home to poet Charmaine Papertalk Green, John Kinsella, the location of Nene Gare’s The Fringe Dwellers), and where Alice Nannup whose biography I reviewed ended up, in state housing controlled by Gare’s husband. Stow, at the squattocracy end of Geraldton society, grows up not quite oblivious of the Comeaways and Nannups, but warned by his mother to stay clear of them, and his language is clearly reflective of how the adults around him spoke. Right at the end, he refers for the first time to ‘the Yamaji’, indicative maybe of a growing awareness.

The last book on this literary tour is Ernestine Hill‘s The Great Australian Loneliness (1940) which I still haven’t reviewed, and must. The journey which Hill chronicles begins at Shark Bay, and heads north. At Cossack (a port town since replaced by Karratha and Dampier) she discusses Aboriginal slavery in the pearling industry – a claim studiously ignored, despite the popularity of the book – then moves on up the coast, cadging a lift with Mary and Elizabeth Durack’s father up near the NT border. At one stage, hearing of the Rabbitproof Fence girls, maybe at the Marble Bar pub, she comes south to Jigalong to speak to them before resuming her journey.

My delivery was to the Burrup Peninsula (Murujuga) which contains 40,000 years of art history and which we, of course, use as an industrial site for the natural gas industry. I took a great photo at dawn with the methane flaming off in the background, but I pressed video and it’s beyond me to extract one frame. I was still unloading when a load came up, roadworking machinery from a few hundred kms south, on the road into Exmouth. I had that on in the afternoon and the following evening, Tues., I was home (and up to chapter 61 of Roots which I’m reading with Liz Dexter and Buried in Print).

I should mention one other book which I listened to somewhere in there, if only to see if Melanie/GTL will add it to her recommended bys. That is Faking It by Jennifer Crusie (sic). It’s a fun Rom-Com about an artist, Tilda, who has been brought up in a family of art forgers (and is plump and attractive). She teams up with Davy, a reformed con man, to steal back paintings her late father had her paint under an assumed name. There’s lots of complications as you might expect, but the most interesting is that she likes Davy but doesn’t like sex. Davy’s sense of entitlement is a bit wearing, but how she works through that provides a bit of meat to what is otherwise the usual substanceless nonsense.

.

Recent audiobooks 

Nikki Gemmell (F, Aus/NSW), The Book of Rapture (2009)
Erica Jong (F, USA), Fear of Flying (1973)
Alex Haley (M, USA), Roots (1976)
Jennifer Crusie (F, USA), Faking It (2002) – Rom.Com.
Randolph Stow (M, Aust/WA), The Merry-Go-Round in the Sea (1965)
Olivia Campbell (F, USA), Women in White Coats (2021) – NF
Jo Nesbo (M, Nor), The Snowman (2007) – Crime
Jennifer Crusie (F, USA), Faking It (2002) – Rom.Com.
Peter Temple (M, Aust/Vic), The Broken Shore (2005)
Philip K Dick (M, USA), Counter-Clock World (1967) – SF
Kate Grenville (F, Aust/NSW), The Idea of Perfection (2002)

Currently reading

Mudrooroo (M, Aus/WA), Tripping with Jenny

51 thoughts on “The Road to Turee Creek

  1. I think Faking It is a hoot. And I also really enjoyed The Idea of Perfection – possibly because the wife is a quilter. I did read Fear of Flying, but so many years ago I have no recollection of it at all.

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      • Thanks. I’ll read your review, but after I’ve done my reading, then I can see how much your review reshapes my opinion of the book.

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      • Neil, Melanie have you two met? Melanie, Neil is a Perth resident and an old friend of Mr Gums. Neil, Melanie is a blogger from the mid west (of the USA) and is by now an old friend of mine.

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      • Thanks, Bill, we haven’t been formally introduced. Bill uses the adjective “old” correctly in two senses – I have known Mr Gums for a long time (first met pre-uni), though I have known Sue for not much less, since I was a guest at their wedding. And I am also ancient, as in pensioner. I’m still working on the getting of wisdom.

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      • For a stretch in 2020 I was trying to read more books by folks in their pensioner years because I don’t think enough fiction focuses on them in a positive or even realistic way. While it wasn’t terribly realistic given the genre, I did enjoy The Thursday Murder Club.

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      • Melanie, inspired by Bill and Sue, I resolved to create my own blog eighteen months ago. I had a web site I’d coded in raw HTML, but this didn’t support comments, which are the lifeblood of any decent blog, so I jumped on board Word Press and created a site. But then I ran into a problem. I wanted my blog to include book reviews, board game reviews, feature my wife’s quilts, and support the occasional recreational maths article. I honestly couldn’t see anyone else being interested in such a broad stream of topics, so I wanted to create a group of blogs. At this point it became too hard, and I started to spend more time messing up other bloggers’ comments, which was more fun. So no blog!

        I’m not sure about reading books about the elderly. I guess in some way they prepare you for what is to come. I am not sure I want to know this. It might be better to steam ahead in blissful ignorance! Once upon a time the elderly were called “wise”. I don’t think this still applies, and I suspect future generations may curse us for our stupidity and inaction.

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      • It IS tough to decide how to approach a blog when you have multiple interests. I’ve followed some blogs that have a variety of themes in one space, most notably books and baking, books and tea, and books and superhero comics. In my experience, as long as the person keeps up a steady rotation of the interests, readers will come on board. They may skip some posts they are not interested in, but if you stay balanced, it can work.

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  2. The idea of perfection is about my favourite Grenville – and not only because I was a banker’s daughter, and because as an archivist my job is close to a museum curator’s in many ways, and because my spouse is an engineer!! I also think she captured a small rural town at a time of change that so many are/were going through so well.

    But, that’s beside the point. I enjoyed your journal Bill and your little tour through parts of WA I don’t know but would like to get to know. I didn’t realise The fringe dwellers was set there – or, let’s say, if I did I had forgotten. Probably because the coastal setting makes it more universally Australian that some of the more desert/inland set stories.

    I look forward to your review of Stow, which my reading group did and loved just a few years ago.

    Faking it sounds intriguing, with some plays on the title!

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    • I don’t enjoy picking on books that other people like – not that you’d guess it from what I write – and I thought I’d let The Idea of Perfection slide. I did look though to see if you or Lisa had reviews. (Lisa does have one post called something like “I meet Kate Grenville!”, so she may not be happy with me).

      I didn’t pick up the location of The Fringe Dwellers until I reviewed it a year or to ago, but once you know that’s where it’s set the way you picture the story in your mind falls into place – rail journeys on the Northern Line to Mullewa and Mt Magnet, Mr Comeaway working (or not) on the Geraldton wharves (where Stow spent a lot of his boyhood, and at much the same time, maybe a decade earlier), weatherboard and fibro state housing on the side of the hills, the older sister at the Geraldton hospital and so on.

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  3. Neil and Lisa, I thought of reviewing The Idea of Perfection, but it was a few books ago and I don’t have a hard copy (I have found it online though). For me it fell down as rural comedy because Grenville quite simply does not know rural NSW. It certainly does not bear comparison with Rosalie Ham’s (2 decades later) The Year of the Farmer. One glaring shortfall is Grenville’s all white population, I’ve passed through nearly every town in NSW and I don’t think there is one without an Aboriginal community.
    I acknowledge that I do not like the Secret River books, but I thought if I went back to this earlier work I might form a less biased opinion. Didn’t work.

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      • Somehow the rush involves leaving tomorrow (Sat) so here I am back home again till some time tomorrow morning (but he’s still paying “rush” rates, so that’s the main thing).

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    • Bill, I don’t mind if you have a contrary pont of view – I probably learn more from someone I disagree with than someone I agree with.

      I hadn’t thought much about the country town aspect, I was 9 when I left my last country town. My father was a banker, my mother was nothing like the banker’s wife in the story!

      You can see I cheat. I read books and offer micro-reviews from the sideline. Even my loquacious reviews in GoodReads rarely extend beyond three sentences. My potential website remains potential – reading requires much less energy than writing reviews, or is it that I’ve completely retired from technical writing?!

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  4. An eclectic list there, Bill. Ah, ‘The Broken Shore’. I like Peter Temple’s work, although I have not read it all. I’ve not been to Newman, but my sister lived there for few years (my brother-in-law worked there). They are now in Weipa.

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    • Peter Temple is/was a marvellous writer, especially for people who love Melbourne.
      If you’re in mining you get to go to a lot of exotic (remote) places. Me, I just duck in and out. Though I did do one Christmas in Newman, when Milly and my daughter, at that time a single mum, were working there.

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  5. I always enjoy these posts. Robyn Davidson sounds like a wonderful writer – I’m fascinated by people who go on long treks, and I just looked Tracks up and found that it’s available at my local library, so I’ll be reading it soon! The Great Australian Loneliness is such an evocative title – I look forward to reading your review when you get around to it.

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    • You’ll enjoy Tracks for sure, Davidson was a fiercely independent woman. It’s an odd thing though that The Great Australian Loneliness starts at Hamelin Pool WA (Shark Bay) and ends with a camel ride into Alice Springs and Tracks does the reverse, 20 something years later, but never mentions Ernestine Hill

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  6. I do enjoy these posts Bill, and you’ve provided so many back links for me to catch up with later as well (with a glass of wine in hand of course!) – delightful.

    Your map is so tantalising – all those unexplored (by me) roads and byways. I’d love to see more pics of your trips (I am one of the few who actually enjoys looking at the pics of other peoples holiday/roadtrip!) – will we ever tempt you to join instagram?

    And you remind me how East Coast-centric most of my reading has been to date (besides a few Winton’s and Drewe’s of course). I did try Jolley in my twenties but didn’t get on with her at all. A SMH biopiece by Romona Koval many years ago may have put me off completely. You and Sue may eventually convince me to try again though…

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    • Thank you Bron. That might be a reason to join Instagram, but I only occasionally stop to take photos, mostly I just enjoy the view out the office window. I’ve been on a couple of driving holidays in wildflower country north of Perth and would still like to photograph more of the old rail lines out of Geraldton, north towards Kalbarri (Ajana line), south through Walkaway (Midland line) and east (Northern line) to Mullewa, Yalgoo, Mt Magnet, Meekatharra and Wiluna – which last section one of the Rabbitproof fence girls used to get to her mother (and prompt re-arrest). Being so west-centric I can think of at least 3 other books where the Northern line is used – Merry-Go-Round in the Sea, The Fringe Dwellers and The Magnificent Life of Miss May Holman (Australia’s first woman Labor parliamentarian).

      I used to be such a Ramona Koval fan too, but she lost me when Books and Writers was given over to fawning interviews of mostly foreign writers. Try Jolley’s The Well or one of the more or less autobiographical ones (Sue named the trilogy a few weeks back, but I’ve forgotten again). Then there’s Kim Scott (must read!), Claire Coleman, Charmaine Papertalk Green (poet), John Kinsella, Elizabeth Tan – all my favourites!

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      • I’ve read 2 Scott’s now and I have 2 Coleman’s on my TBR.
        I read a bio about Stow a while back and his children’s book Midnite even longer ago, so maybe not doing as bad as I first thought!

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      • The well is a good suggestion Bill, and probably the go-to for starting with her, though I still love to recommend The Newspaper of Claremont Street.

        The trilogy is My father’s moon, Cabin fever and The George’s wife.

        I wonder whether Jolley appeals more to those of us who grew up on the modernist angst of writers of the early 20th century. She’s later, of course, but I think she inherited that sense of alienation from the generations before??

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  7. Enjoyed the Western Australian tour and the remote photo. I read Tracks years ago when it first came out. Read the Snowman when it came out and it scared the bejesus out of me. Not read another Nesbo book since. I also read Roots when it was first published. I have the Temple book on my shelves and keep meaning to get to it but other things get in the way. I always enjoy hearing about what you get up to and also read. 🐧🤠🌷

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    • I get through a bit of Scandanavian crime fiction via audiobooks. They’re generally more about the people, though some are bit bloodthirsty. Roots is ok, I ignored all the hype first time round. I hope you get to Temple one day, especially the ones set in Fitzroy (Melbourne).
      Glad you enjoy the journals, some of my recent posts have been a bit dry.

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  8. Enjoyed the Western Australian tour and the remote photo. I read Tracks years ago when it first came out. Read the Snowman when it came out and it scared the bejesus out of me. Not read another Nesbo book since. I also read Roots when it was first published. I have the Temple book on my shelves and keep meaning to get to it but other things get in the way. I always enjoy hearing about what you get up to and also read. 🐧🤠🌷

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  9. I will be interested in your take on Hill, I was smitten with her Matthew Fliinders My Love Must Wait, but her Great Aust. Loneliness just didn’t do it, at all. I have found driving the many locations found in many stories made the vast distances, not far at all.

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    • I have all the Ernestine Hill’s I think, even Water into Gold. I read (and re-read) TGAL for my degree and think it’s an excellent work. I have a (very poor) biography of her which I’ll lend you if I ever think it’s safe to return to Victoria, but hopefully next April. My Love Must Wait must wait but I’ll get to it eventually.

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  10. Great to hear what you’ve been up to and relate the geography to the literature, also thank you for the Roots shout-out, I can’t say I’m “enjoying” it as that would be weird, but it’s engaging and compulsive reading so far!

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    • You were indeed. And your wedding present was a chopping board with a slot to hold a knife and sheath. The chopping board was stolen a few years later, when our house was burgled. But we still have the knife and sheath, though they have been superceded by a knife block. No idea what we bought for your wedding present!

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      • Haha Neil … you must have thought that was a good idea because you gave us a Wiltshire knife in sheath (a sharpening sheath) and chopping board with a slot. Our chopping board still exists, and is still used among others, as it has a little tunnel around the edges to catch the meat juices. The Wilshire knife may still exist – but we ended up with a few (over the years) and gave some away not long ago because like you we now have a knife block. (Stolen in a burglary? Wow, what classy burglars!!)

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      • We had a high-rise as back neighbours. We suspect that perhaps one of the tenants was setting up, because the things that were stolen were household goods, apart from my best trousers, and my collection of round 50 cent pieces for the grandchildren. They weren’t all that classy – they didn’t steal any games 😂

        Ah yes, the chopping board with the runnel. I can picture it quite clearly. Definitely memorable!

        Yes Bill, it’s always entertaining to reminisce. And also a way of reassuring ourselves that we haven’t yet decayed into senescence.

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  11. What a great picture of the road/track/path. Amazing. Just not what I would have pictured.

    You didn’t care for The Idea of Perfection? It’s been a couple of decades since I read it, but I just adored it. Would have guessed that the love story would have won over your affections. Maybe it doesn’t translate well to audio? Maybe it lacked mango seeds alongside your Roots reading? 😉

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    • What I wonder did you picture? Most of Australia looks like this, just not the eastern and south western edges where everyone lives and thinks that to drive in this empty 90% is a great adventure (which it is, often). I write that, but I have a map above my desk with all the trips I’ve done highlighted and there’s still 50% that is too empty for me to have ventured into.

      No, I didn’t care for The Idea of Perfection. Grenville has no idea about country towns, and the absence of Indigenous people and the funny little Chinese butcher are both racist (in ways that I am sure Grenville would be careful to avoid now). Which love story do you mean? I think the seduction of Mrs Porcelline was very well done.

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