The Northern Territory revels in its frontier image. There’s pride in the population make up, in the demographic break down of characters and chancers, bounders and bogans, misfits and miscreants. The newspaper is filled with stories of these people. They name their children Zyleem and Sequetia. They find brown snakes in the toilet and crocodiles in the backyard pool. There are bikini clad girls dancing on crocodile traps and people having sex while they fill up at the service station. There are dildos thrown at engagement parties that cause hospitalisation. And if that wasn’t enough, there are still those special few who stick fireworks in unmentionable places (see my favourite NT News story of all time: “Why I stuck a Cracker up my Clacker”).
When I arrived in WA, I was disappointed to see that the Broome Advertiser had none of these hijinks. But just when I thought the Kimberley wasn’t nearly as renegade as the Territory, my friend Alice and I drove a paddy wagon all the way from Broome to Fitzroy Crossing.
We were at work when the cops first rang us up.
“Any of you girls going to the Rodeo?”
They were short staffed and needed a car taken over. Would we like to drive a police troopie to Fitzroy Crossing?
Why, yes. Yes, we would.
When Alice picked up our new ride, the on-desk constable reluctantly handed her the keys. And warned her against using the siren. Waterboarding may have been implied.
“DON’T you even THINK about it. We’ll know if you did, and there will be trouble.”
And so it begins. Alice and I get into the cop car, all denim mini skirts and cowboy boots, and start driving through Broome. From my new vantage point, I see a mate’s husband driving down Hammersley Street. He looks over and does a double take.
We stop at Woollies first, and clamber out to get rodeo supplies – some wine, some meat for the BBQ. The car park goes silent.
As we head out of town along the Great Northern Highway, I pump the music up loud. We’re revelling in our new role as lady cops on a mission. I’m not sure what we’ll do if someone flags us down to solve an actual crime. We sing along to Creedence Clearwater, then The Travelling Wilburys. We get the finger from a couple of cars, a friendly wave from others. No one overtakes us.
Then Alice pulls off at the Willare Road House turn off and suddenly I hear woo-oooo woo-oo woo. I think it’s in the music; we’re listening to Daft Punk.
But I don’t remember that sound in the song. Tourists jolt up at picnic tables; everyone stops and stands to attention. What the fuck?
It takes me a second to realise. Alice has driven the car over some corrugations and it’s set off the siren.
What? Oh my God. We are gonna be in so much trouble.
There’s a button labelled CANCEL in the middle of the dashboard, and I punch it. The siren stops. Alice and I look at each other and laugh manically. And then tumble out of the car and grab a cheese and ham toastie from the roadhouse bain marie.
The tourists are confused.
Finally we get to Fitzroy Crossing three or four hours later. We meet our friends and drive to the campsite, start to put up some tents. The police are there quick as a flash. Four of them, it’s quite the welcome party.
“We’ll take it from here, girls.”
Alice offers to drive the car to the station but the lady copper says, “Oh no, no, no, that’s fine. We got it.”
One of the men takes his hat off, wipes his forehead, shakes his head.
“I can’t believe the boss let you do this.”
I can’t either.
Later that night we go to the Fitzroy Crossing Rodeo hoping to catch a cowboy, but all I get is some mid strength beer and a lot of Shania Twain.
Didn’t hear boo about the siren.