Wednesday, 27 October 2010

A Tall Tale from the Queensland Bush - Writer's Platform-Building Crusade entry

Today I'm Guest Blogger over at Jeffrey Beesler's World of the Scribe - a scary tale for Halloween...eeoowww...Read my story here here.'s my latest challenge. Over at Rach Writes she's cooked up her evil plot to get all of us who signed up for the Writer's Platform-Building Crusade to do whatever they like with the following guidelines:

Write something beginning with 'You may not know this about me...', include the words 'skeleton', 'umbrella' and 'kartoffelpuffer'. Hmm. Made me think for quite awhile. I always knew I was going to write a short short story, so here's what I came up with...I hope you enjoy it while learning something about the Australian bush in the pioneering/Colonial days.

A Tall Tale from the Queensland Bush

You may not know this about me but when I was a child I lived in the bush in a shack built of stringy-bark slabs with a rough timber floor. A big bark kitchen lean-to stood at one end of the house and it was larger than the house itself. Yep, mum liked to cook – damper, delicious cakes and biscuits, kangaroo.

There was bush all around us. No ranges in the distance. Our view consisted of a few stunted trees and spinifex. No undergrowth, no scrub. Just a few young she-oaks struggling for life above the dry creek bed. Civilisation was ninety miles away – some dusty little town whose name I forget.

My father was a Queensland drover, away with his cattle. My mother and her raggedy band of children were left here alone for months at a time.
We didn’t mind. We were nut-brown children running wild in the bush, as free as birds. Once school-of-the-air was over, we were free to roam.

One day my brother Clem and I were running back to the shack for lunch when Clem suddenly yelled: “Snake! Mum, a snake! Looks like a king brown!”
Mum dashed from the kitchen, grabbed my baby brother from the dirt and snatched her kartoffelpuffer off the tank stand.

“Where? Where?”

“In the wood-heap!” yelled my big brother. “You stay where you are, mum! I’ll get him! I’ve got your big umbrella to jab him with!”

Clem liked to act the man-of-the-house when Dad was off droving.

“Clem, no! You might get bitten!”

Clem scowled. Then he yelled:

“There it goes – quick, under the house! Go get him Mum!’

Mum was too slow. She was clutching the baby and trying to jiggle her kartoffelpuffer. Even our mangy dog was too late. Snakes are shifty things – poor Rover reached the crack in the slabs just as the snake’s tail disappeared – into our shack.

Mum made us all stand behind her while she watched for the snake. She dumped the squalling baby in my arms then got a dish of milk and set it down near the wall to tempt the snake. Time passed. No sign of it.

Sundown, and a thunderstorm was brewing. We could feel the electricity in the dry air. We couldn’t go into the house because Mum knew the snake was there, just waiting to come up through a crack in the rough slab floor. We set up in the kitchen.

The kitchen had only a dirt floor. Dad’d made a large table for the centre of the room. Mum brought us in and gave us some damper and treacle, and before it got dark, she snatched up some bedding from the house – terrified of the snake biting her. We slept on the kitchen table while Mum sat down beside us to watch all night.

She had her kartoffelpuffer ready on the old sideboard; she had her sewing basket and a ragged copy of the Ladies’ Home Journal from the pile Dad brought her each time he returned from droving. The dog sat at her feet, watching.

It must have been nearly midnight. Mum thought all of us were asleep but I lay there watching her sit so still, sewing and reading and patting the dog. Every so often she would glance around the floor and walls and whenever she heard a noise, she would reach for her kartoffelpuffer.

A thunderstorm hit the shack. The wind rushed through the cracks in the flimsy wall, nearly blowing out mum’s candle. The thunder rolled across the sky, shaking the dry earth, and the much-needed rain came down in torrents.

We never saw that snake again. Its skeleton will be lying somewhere out in the Queensland bush.
Aussie king brown (mulga snake) - venomous) OOOeeeeaaaaahhhh!

Please don't let snaky scare you. Jeez it does give you the creeps doesn't it?  Please don't run away. Leave a comment first, ha ha...then run for it eeoow..


images- (hut) (snake)


  1. Such a tragic end to the snake. Great prose, though!

  2. Melissa, Jessica, Jeffrey, thanks for stopping by..:)

  3. Fascinating story, and probably the best one I've read so far. Great job! Good luck in the challenge and I hope you do well!

  4. Mary Mary, thank you. High praise..:)

  5. Great description, love it!!! I have a few of my own snake stories, hmm might have to share them one day ;)


  6. L'Aussie! I have to tell 'ya, apart from dracula and vamps which freak me out, s--ke is another thing I'm scared of! In fact I have a PHOBIA with this creature! At The Farm I sprinkled sulphur all over to prevent them from coming in.

    When I first read your story I didn't know s--ke will feature in it, with picture thrown in! That just gave me the shivers..ghrrr..

    But in the spirit of The Crusade I read on (keeping my eyes off the pic, of course). A great story, quite a panic and struggle there...

  7. Great story! I love that you slept on the kitchen table!

    I used to have nightmares about snakes when we lived out near the sugar cane fields. Snakes were everywhere. And they were super scary!

  8. Great tale, It reminds me of one I must post some time.
    I hope I never have to face a king brown armed only with a kartoffelpuffer (what ever that is)

  9. Oh wow -- that was so wonderfully written. I have a deep-seated fear of snakes, and am now surreptitiously glancing around to make sure there's no king brown slithering by.

  10. Rachael, Grandpa, Rachel, Al, Emy: Sorry for freaking you out, but I think you all enjoyed it? Great..:)

    Oh, Grandpa, what can I think of next to scare you out there in the jungle - cannibals?

  11. I loved it. The description was perfect and such a tragic end. Can't wait to read some more!

  12. ha ha L'aussie mum sure loved her kartoffelpuffer.
    ugh I cant stand snakes add me to the creeped out list

  13. Lovely story L'Aussie. I don't think I could share my space with snakes....

  14. Ellie, Joanna, Jenny: thanks. Looks like we all share an aversion to one of God's creatures...ha..:)

  15. That was seriously good!

    Hey, I would have slept on the table too.

    All the best with the challenge :)

  16. Thanks Wendy. so nice to hear from you..:)

  17. ...written with a personable voice, as if reading the content from someone's journal. Keeps the mood intimate, the reading turning the pages...well done:)

  18. This gave me chills! Snakes under the house is definitely scary and you brought out the suspense really well.

    Great work!


  19. That was too cool - like you!
    Mr Monkey

  20. Wow, what a fantastic story! And creepy, too. I loved it!

    Thanks for stopping by my blog. So fun to be part of the Crusade. I look forward to getting to know you and you work more and more!

  21. Aw, poor snake! ;) Great story!


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