Rod Williams, Bush Poetry

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Vincent is gone now to his favourite dreaming place. Mick has gone as well!
The last time I saw Mick Rangiari was in Fitzroy at Frank Hardy's funeral Wake and Mick's tears at our meeting (after such a long time) have loaded me with guilt, encouraged my selfish ego, salted my blood and filled me with love, longing and regret!
I never saw Vincent again — after I left Wattie Creek in late 1970, but he was buried in “The Red Soil Ground” and I talk to him every day.

For a number of times (during the first major physical confrontation against Vesty's Beef and shipping Empire, Government and police) I was the only white bloke in the camp at Wattie Creek after Frank Hardy had published ‘The Unlucky Australians’.
It was 1970 and a small bunch of white men and women from ABSCHOL in Victoria headed by Rob Oke and David Twitt from Latrobe University and others of us from “Save the Gurundji Campaign” convened by Frank Hardy in Sydney went to the Northern Territory to stand side by side with the people to win back their land.
It was during this time that Vincent, in a trance–like state, came over to me by the fire and said, “The Birrindudu mob are comin', The Birrindudu mob are comin'” and then he slowly returned to his own camp!
I was about to experience (and there was absolute proof) that Vincent Lingiari was able to communicate over long distance (as he did during that week) with the Gurindji, west of Birrindudu station, hundreds of miles away – and there were no telephones, no electricity, no one in or out of Wattie Creek, no vehicles except the five ton Bedford that Paul Fox (on my second trip up from the south) had driven from Melbourne to Sydney where we loaded it with timber, building materials and fruit trees then both headed north with the truck.
I was driving it along the fence line as the Gurindji (headed by Donald Numiari — My skin father) were fencing off 10,000 acres of Vesty's land. Nidgee (Donald's son and my brother) eventually became boss of the truck.
But that week the truck was on the fence line for half each day and no one left the camp and no one came in. And no one at Birrindudu station had any idea of what was about to develop until the Saturday morning when (in frustration – I thought Vincent had gone mad) I drove in to Wave Hill settlement to see the welfare officer.
Sorry to frustrate you, but the complete story will be told in a book of life's stories, which I am beginning on Christmas day 2013. I'll also tell in detail of the fantastic celebrations in song and dance that followed, when The Birrindudu Mob finally arrived. The whole camp being involved.
I was still the only white fella there at that time and was taken to a sacred water–hole for 48 hours of songs, dances and initiations, where Vincent began every song — from the beginning of time – to the present day.
I wrote a poem around 1999 called ‘The Red Soil Ground’ – you will be able to read it by clicking here.

But now to my story – which is very short – as it needs no explaining, just a lot of your thought and your surrounding silence.
Let's not talk though of the hate, violence and racism of the day, I'd like to tell you of the love and patience of Vincent Lingiari and our nights of silence.


I'd sit by the fire outside the thatched–roof roundhouse — Ruby would be quiet and her little fires surrounding the camp would be now smouldering and the sounds of — “Cigarette Boy, Cigarette Boy” and “Go Back Canbra, Puckin' Cudea, Go back Canbra!!” — Were now stilled and waiting for the fires to be re–kindled on the morrow.

When most of the families were asleep on their swags on corn bags on the red dirt under their low humpies, quite often Vincent would come over and sit beside me by the fire. The billy was always close to boiling and we would have several cups of tea.
If there was something important (resulting from a tribal meeting) he would tell me, otherwise our words were few as there was no point in making shallow conversation. The company was the essence and that's why Vincent would come and sit with me.

One night he came over and nothing was said except one word by each of us, and that was our greeting of hello.
It must have been at least two hours (I knew by the position of the stars) that we sat together in total silence. That night still lives with me and the light burns brighter than even mad Ruby's fires.
That night I know that Vincent and his love and wisdom entered my being and part of him remains with me and guards my spirit and my life!

I have never in my whole life (with anyone else) experienced such a sense of calm and consciousness — so painless, so penetrating, so unified — than I experienced with Vincent by the fire at Wattie Creek, in the silence of that star filled night.
When he got up to leave he gently touched and held my hand, softly saying one word, “brother” – then he turned and walked back to his humpy to go to sleep.
And after I too am buried in “The Red Soil Ground” that bond will remain, until the end of all Dreamtime!

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