A perfect August Saturday afternoon in Mt. Isa, Australia.
Some friends and I sitting in the sunshine, on an elevated piece of ground watching rodeo events, listening to country music between events, and drinking beer.
The preparations for this event had been going on for months. Our little patch of turf was not far from a bar.
One of many scattered around the ground.
For two weeks in August the best of the best at riding things born to buck are treated like Royalty at the premier event on the Australian Rodeo calendar.
The winner will be considered the best in the world, at riding a horse determined not to be ridden.
Or riding something weighing about a tonne with 4 legs and 2 horns, also determined not to be ridden, and for good measure will try to run a horn through you, or trample you.
When you are thrown off, the only thing to separate you from these highly strung animals are a couple of guys dressed as clowns, who do their best to distract the animals attention while you make an escape.
After 3 days of competition the winner, will be the owner of a Big, Brand New Shiny Belt Buckle, a new Saddle, and about $20,000.
Which was a goodly sum back in the day.
If the winner was an Australian or New Zealander, he will be invited to compete as a full time professional on rodeo circuits in America and Canada.
Months out from the big event, to encourage some interest and build up some anticipation, the local paper would occasionally do an article on some of the big name animals that would be starring, as well as the big name riders.
The local radio and T.V stations would also get in on the act.
Animals, which had been given names like Chainsaw and Spinifex that had become part of popular culture across the rodeo circuit.
These were sure fire draw cards to make any rodeo event a success.
One day about 2 months out from the big event, a small 3 or 4 line news item appeared on about page 5 of the local paper.
“Kurdaitcha man from Alice Springs is reported to be making the 800 klm trip to Mt. Isa, to avenge the death of a tribal member.”
The Kurdaitcha man is a Shaman or magic man, in Aboriginal culture. Who kills by pointing a bone at his victim.
About 3 or 4 weeks later another report in the paper, this time a medium caption on page 3.
“An unconfirmed report the kurdaitcha man had been sighted near the state border South of Mt. Isa.
It could not be verified, because the kurdaitcha man wears feathers on his feet and leaves no footprints”.
Normally there were a couple of dozen aborigines permanently camped in the creek bed near the town.
Anytime there was a local rodeo, aborigines from the outlying stations would descend on the town and join the others in the creek bed.
Generally it led to violent disputes.
Alcohol and women mixing with members of different tribes or just aggression and settling of old scores.
For the police these were weekends of constantly trying to enforce their authority and keep some semblance of order.
With the World Championship Rodeo coming and the population of the town expected to near double, the police were facing a no win situation.
The likely hood of trying to maintain order with drunken white men, on one hand and warring aborigines on the other would be high.
Reinforcements had to be called in, and sometimes it would be an all in brawl with both groups fighting the Police.
Three weeks before the big event another reported sighting of the kurdaitcha man.
This time West of Mt. Isa, back over the border in the Northern Territory.
This media report it seemed, confirmed that the Kudaitcha man’s subject of interest was in the desert area Sth. East of Tennant Creek.
Again it could not be verified, because the Kudaitcha man leaves no footprints.
About a week before the event the local T.V station was doing interviews with the local mayor, the event organizers, police, and riders who had ridden Chainsaw and Spinifix.
With the usual nonsensical reporter questions like, “What are your chances of riding Chainsaw or some other beast, and hanging on for 8 seconds.” and other nonsensical speculative questions.
Panning the camera to give a view of the grounds, showing horse floats, cattle trucks, caravans and people busy feeding horses and cattle, and checking equipment.
With close up shots of animals with names like Chainsaw, and Spinifix.
The radio station had occupied itself with interviews of the local Mayor, event organizers as well as interviews with police, and riders who had ridden Chainsaw or Spinifix.
With the usual reporter questions like, “What are your chances of riding Chainsaw or some other beast, and hanging on for 8 seconds.” and other nonsensical speculative questions.
The Saturday before the big event the newspaper ran another report about the Kudaitcha man. This time he was to the south of the Mt.Isa… Again.
We could question how many pairs of feathered shoes he had, but for the next few days the radio station jumped on the story.
Featuring interviews with known experts on Aboriginal culture.
?Is it real, or just superstition?”
“How did they have information on all this secret aboriginal information,” and other “tell me more” reporter type questions.
The talk around town was now more about the Kudaitcha man, than Chainsaw or Spinifix.
The campsites near the river were becoming deserted and by the time Friday came around they was barely an aborigine in town.
The camp was totally deserted, Boyd’s snake pit bar was empty.
They had all left town to avoid the kudaitcha man.
Saturday morning and some bones were found, tied together and hanging from a branch of a shrub in a park at the top of town.
Generally the police had a quiet weekend, with just basic law enforcement dealing with some drunk white fellas and driving offences.
And, a streaker who jumped the fence and paraded up and down in front of the flatbed trailer which was being used as a stage for the judging of the Rodeo Queen.
It is said that the young ladies who were slow to turn away from the naked man prancing up and down in front of the trailer, lost whatever chance they had of becoming Queen.
The winner received a big, shiny, brand new belt buckle, and other goodies that Queens get. Like shopping vouchers for clothes.
And they didn’t have to ride Chainsaw or Spinifix.
A week or so later after Spinifex and Chainsaw had left town, the court cases had been settled, and people resumed their normal routines, another report in the newspaper.
This time about the body of an aborigine found in an area south of Mt. Isa.
“There was no visible signs he had been subjected to any violence. Police suspected he died of natural causes”.
Shortly after aborigines began appearing in town again.