The Best Australian Bush Stories

By Jim Haynes | Go to book overview

SNAKES AND ALCOHOL

KENNETH COOK

‘THERE’S TWO THINGS THAT don’t mix,’ said Blackie slowly and pompously, ‘snakes and alcohol.’

It would never have occurred to me to mix them but I nodded solemnly. Nod solemnly is pretty well all you can do when you’re talking to a snake man because they never actually converse—they just tell you things about snakes.

Blackie was a travelling snake man. He travelled in a huge pantechnicon which had wooden covers on the sides. Whenever he found a paying audience—a school or a tourist centre—he would drop the wooden covers and reveal a glass-walled box the size of a large room. This was his snake house, inhabited by a hundred or so snakes ranging from the deadly taipans and browns to the harmless tree snakes.

Blackie was like all the snake men I’ve ever met, cadaverously thin, very dirty, extremely shabby and without a second name. I think he was called Blackie because of his fondness for black snakes, or perhaps because his eyes were jet black—he had the only eyes I’ve seen that were black. He looked as though his enormous pupils had supplanted his irises, but if you looked closely you could see the faint outline of the black pupils inside them. I tended to feel uncomfortable looking into those two round patches of black and the suffused and bloodshot eyes (all snake men have suffused and bloodshot eyes—I think it’s because snakes bite them so often).

I met Blackie just north of Mackay in Queensland where we were both camping on a little-known beach named Macka’s

-129-

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The Best Australian Bush Stories
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Acknowledgments ix
  • Introduction xi
  • Part 1- Delights of the Bush 1
  • ‘Mallee Morning’ 3
  • The Killer Koala 5
  • The Delights of the Bush 12
  • The Tallagandra Turkey 16
  • The Hotel in Maryborough 21
  • Down among the Wombats 26
  • The Drunken Kangaroo 29
  • ‘The Drover’s Lament’ 36
  • Part 2- Bush Justice 37
  • ‘The Six-Stitcher’ 39
  • Bush Justice 40
  • The Irqnbark Chip 44
  • Here Comes the Bride 50
  • His Bad Luck 62
  • Shooting Stars 70
  • Marks’s Cutter 78
  • ‘A Walgett Episode’ 87
  • Part 3- Dave in Love 89
  • ‘To Many Ladies’ 91
  • The Wrong Turning 92
  • Spicer’s Courtship 97
  • Dave in Love 102
  • Poor Joe 106
  • Strawberry - A Love Story 113
  • A Box of Dead Roses 118
  • Drifted Back 122
  • ‘The Free-Selector’s Daughter’ 125
  • Part 4- There’s a Patron Saint of Drunks 127
  • ‘Drunks’ 128
  • Snakes and Alcohol 129
  • There’s a Patron Saint of Drunks 139
  • The Evenin’ before Leavin’ Home 146
  • The Six O’Clock Swells 150
  • Where the Cooler Bars Grow 158
  • One Hundred Stubbies 162
  • ‘The Alcoholics’ Creed’ 172
  • Part 5- To the City 173
  • ‘simple Sister Goes to Sydney’ 175
  • The Waybacks Go to Sydney 177
  • A Zack to Central 191
  • The Downfall of Mulligan’s 198
  • To the City 203
  • Miner’s Holiday 211
  • ‘Westward HQ!’ 217
  • Part 6- Benefit of Clergy 219
  • ‘God and Poets’ 221
  • I Used to Read the Comics First 222
  • The Reign of Eugene Ham 229
  • Benefit of Clergy 241
  • A Sabbath Morn at Waddy 245
  • Bill’s Religion 251
  • Everyone Liked Father Connolly 254
  • First Confession 259
  • The Parson’s Blackboy 264
  • ‘The Parson and the Prelate’ 269
  • Part 7- The Conquering Bush 271
  • ‘spinifex’ 273
  • The First Bush Fire 275
  • The Drover’s Wife 280
  • Mallee 289
  • An Error in Administration 296
  • The Feud 299
  • The Conquering Bush 304
  • Rats 309
  • ‘The Wind That Buries the Dead’ 313
  • Part 8- The Night We Watched for Wallabies 315
  • ‘Picking Lemons’ 317
  • The Night We Watched for Wallabies 318
  • Crutching the Rams 322
  • Conversation in a Pantry 328
  • Possum Gully 335
  • Old Heinrich and the Lambing Ewe 343
  • ‘success’ 351
  • Part 9- The Lost Souls’ Hotel 353
  • ‘After Many Years’ 355
  • ‘Bring Your Fiddle, Joe’ 357
  • Going Blind 367
  • A Letter from Colleen 374
  • The Hagney Affair 381
  • The Lost Souls’ Hotel 391
  • ‘Question Not’ 402
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