Strawberries in the Desert

Story telling from Australia

Beating heart of Broken Hill

I drive out to the desert most days, park the car on a patch of dirt and set off towards a line of hills. In late afternoon the coming night lurks behind those hills, shadows lengthening as the sun slides lower. There’s a weight and shape to the silence out here. On still days you can feel the air give way as you step through it, gravity pressing close. I’m glad I have Maggie for company.

She saw them first, two emus grazing on the track. Her hackles rose and I reached for my phone to photograph them. The elusive creatures high stepped away, with me following, and in the end I gave up. ‘Let’s go Maggie,’ I said, turning back towards the car. That’s when I discovered they were juveniles. Maggie was creeping up on the full-grown adult male, ten metres behind me and twice my size, her belly pressed to the ground like a cat.

The adult male charged, slamming his heavy feet down in a determined bid to crush the threat. Maggie bolted. My elderly arthritic dingo was suddenly running for her life. How long did it last? Four seconds? Five? They covered an impossible distance, seconds lengthening like shadows as Maggie skidded in the sand. She turned a tight corner and cowered behind my legs. The emu kept coming. My arms lifted, my mouth opened and I unleashed a wall of sound that shocked me as much as it did the emu, a primeval mix of fear and anger that reverberated through the landscape, bouncing off the rocks and pushing the beast away. The emus fled.

Silence returned to the empty desert, broken only by the panting of an elderly dingo and the thudding of my surprised heart.

2 comments on “Beating heart of Broken Hill

  1. Pamela
    March 28, 2013

    never have liked emus close up.nice to look at in the distance,we have a few wild ones around here though they must have been bought here at some stage as they are not native to this part.the nut farmers find them a problem as they eat the nuts from the trees,.you are welcome to visit anytime you are in this part of the world, Pam


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This entry was posted on March 27, 2013 by and tagged , , , .

I'm a writer based in Australia with a passion for gardening, remote places and people with a story to tell.

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