Bumper Sticker Territory

Eat the peanuts out of my shit.

That’s what the bumper sticker on the ute next to us says.

It’s just…so…specific.

Eat. The. Peanuts. Out. Of. My. Shit.

But then, Territorians love a bumper sticker. It’s our second favourite thing after personalised number plates. In a place where you can drive any car you like as long as it’s diesel, bumper stickers are the means de jour to express personality, eccentricity and anger on the open road.

For example:

I float and I vote = Marginally Political Fisho.

Game fishing is going out with the boys on Her Birthday = Slightly Funny, Mostly Sexist Fisho.

Bundaberg Rum – I like to drink.

Jack lives here – I REALLY like to drink.

Magic Happens = I own a pair of fairy wings.

Fuck off we’re full = Racist. And punctuationist.

It gets confusing when Magic Happens is on a car with a number plate that says SKANKUP, but hey, each to their own.

Another sterling bumper sticker, made even better by the Bundy and Coke can left in the tray of the ute.

Another sterling Territory bumper sticker, made even better by the pre-mix can left in the ute tray.

Mr Tea and I are venturing into Darwin’s Rural Area, and it’s bumper sticker heaven. Where the Hell is Noonamah? screams one Pajero. And then a Hilux speeds by: The Lord Said Unto the Shepherd…Piss off, this is Cattle Country.

The noticeboard at Coolalinga Shops has turkey chicks and quad bikes for sale; someone’s also lost their pet python. $50 reward.

Toto? I don’t think we’re in Nightcliff anymore.

We’ve been home a week and Mr Tea has resumed his favourite interest: looking for boats on Gumtree. He’s managed to find two kayaks for $300 in Bees Creek.

It’s a bargain, so we’ve made the 40 minute trek out to a rural block near the Elizabeth River. After all those months of hankering for rain like a smack addict, it’s finally raining. It’s pouring. The old man is snoring.

We get to Bees Creek and the drive way is a waterfall. A sign proclaims that trespassers will be shot on sight, survivors will be shot again. A rooster and two peacocks are taking cover under the verandah. They nestle under a buffalo skull with horns and a small cross-stitch of a cheerful glass of bubbly that says “Get me a drink!” Three cocker spaniels jump around, while Dave from Bees Creek, owner of the bargain kayaks, greets us and grabs a raincoat for himself and one for Mr Tea.

I’m not a dog person, but I’ve always had a soft spot for cocker spaniels. There’s something about those long ears and pleading eyes.

“We used to have five”, says Dave. “But see that creek down there? They like to chase birds, don’t they? Wound up at the river for a drink and SNAP.”

Yep, this is the rural area. Your pet dog isn’t hit by a neighbour’s car, it’s taken by a crocodile at the bottom of your garden.

Dave leads us out to the shed, and my thong blows out straight away in the rain so I walk barefoot, past a collection of Brahmin cattle, a demountable and some old railway sleepers.

Dave is glad we came today; he has pistol club tomorrow.

The kayaks are in good nick. Dave is a painter and got them from a guy who couldn’t pay up.

“Bloke reckoned they’re worth $500.” He shakes his head.

Mr Tea is drenched in his borrowed Bunnings raincoat but he can barely contain his excitement.

The boat empire continues.

It’s on the way home, $300 lighter and two kayaks heavier, that I spy Mr Eat the Peanuts out of My Shit of earlier bumper sticker fame. He’s driving aggressively, taking over from the left, true to form.

I gawp for awhile. If nice Dave from Bees Creek with his peacock and cocker spaniels is one end of the rural area spectrum, this is the other.

And with that, I’m home. Sri Lanka is over. This is the Northern Territory.

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A story that starts with too many boats and winds up in a “police sting”

There's nothing quite like the smell of two stroke in the morning.

There’s nothing quite like the smell of two stroke in the morning.

(OR: DARRYL KERRIGAN, EAT YOUR HEART OUT)*

The Northern Territory has the highest rate of boat ownership in the country. Boat ownership here is a marker that you are Territory Tough; it’s a signifier of freedom and a ticket to the inner sanctum. Because in the Territory, boating means fishing. And fishing isn’t just a way of life, it’s THE way of life.

Mr Tea isn’t the blokiest of Territory men (thank God), and he’s not a bleeding gums, crazy eyes fisherman either. But he’s certainly pulling his weight when it comes to the boat ownership stakes.

Somehow, we seem to have become a five boat family. This is troubling given the fact that Mr Tea and I don’t have children. Between the garage and the Darwin Sailing Club, we have a couple of tinnies, a kayak, a 25ft yacht and an inflatable dinghy to service said yacht. When Mr Tea isn’t fiddling around with one of these, planning a trip or going on a trip, he’s busy haunting Gum Tree and boatsales.com.au. Let it be said, he has a problem.

The yacht really was the gateway drug, taking us from tinny owners to empire builders. And when Mr Tea first flagged buying one, I was supportive. I (like you, no doubt) imagined that on the yacht, I would instantly become thinner. I would swan around in a plunging one-piece. I’d sport white linen and a tan, and we’d drink nothing but champagne and strawberries, just like a menthol cigarette ad from 1987.

Unfortunately, the reality was less menthol cigarette and more profound sea sickness, occasional moments of oceanic beauty (look! A dugong!) and shitting in a bucket.

But I digress.

Because, just as Abraham begat Isaac; and Isaac begat Jacob, the yacht begat more boats. Because once you have a yacht, you need a tender to get from the yacht to the beach. And that’s how we wound up with 40 kilos of an inflatable Zodiac in the shed.

And then Mr Tea and I went to visit the yacht one evening. Ostensibly to retrieve some sails, but I actually think Mr Tea just wanted to pat it. At any rate, we got there, only to find that an enterprising criminal had climbed into the boat park and removed our motor with bolt cutters.

Mr Tea was gutted. So to console himself, he went on Gum Tree and bought another (smaller) tinny and a trailer.

“The perfect car topper,” he told me. “And I can use the motor on the yacht. This is a bargain. A real bargain.”

He promptly dropped the rest of the insurance money, and then some, on trailer registration and a service for our new replacement motor.

So then there were five.

Sure, I had a boat addict for a partner and I thought Bunnings should probably stop selling bolt cutters, but apart from that I was pretty zen about the whole thing. I’d embraced our new life as a five boat family. I accepted there was no room in the shed for any of my possessions. And I had let the stolen two stroke Yamaha go. God speed, long shaft motor.

And that was when Mr Tea found it on Gum Tree.

He immediately sent off an enquiry, and sure enough, someone called “Nathan” sent us a few photos of our stolen motor.

Mr Tea is a law-abiding sort of bloke, and was a bit flummoxed by this.

“Are they really that stupid? They’d just rip off a motor and sell it online? In a place the size of Darwin?”

I assured him that there were many, many people in the Territory who were exactly that stupid.

But then we also started to freak ourselves out a bit. Maybe this was bigger than stupid. Maybe this was a boat motor smuggling ring, some kind of offshore bikie side project. Luckily, I had been watching The Bill and Water Rats on and off for years and was alert to such dangers.

So we went down to the Darwin Police Station. After repeating our story to about three different officers, we finally were assigned a pair of crack crime hounds to get on the case. Let’s call them Steve and Darren.

Mr Tea repeated his story.

Darren scratched his nose. “Hmmm. So what are you going to do about it?”

At that stage, I almost giggled. We’re at the police station, I said. What are YOU going to do about it?

Steve had the courtesy to shrug his shoulders in a way that said touché.

Darren and Steve consulted with their boss for another hour, and then the plan was in place. We would go to Stuart Park and inspect the motor and double check that it was ours. Constables Steve and Darren would tail us and as soon as we gave them the nod, they would bust this two stroke motor stealing, drug smuggling, sex trafficking bikie ring wide open.

Mr Tea immediately banned me from the police sting operation.

“Babe”, he said. “There’s no need for both of us to get caught up in this. We don’t know what will happen in there. It could get dangerous. I want you to go home. I’ll call you as soon as it’s over.”

I protested and put up a fight on feminist grounds, but really, I’m a coward at heart and I was tired of hanging out in the police station. Plus I had some important lying down to do.

So I agreed to stay clear, though nervous about leaving my love to face the inevitable bikie shoot out alone. I went home and gripped my phone for about an hour until Mr Tea called me back.

Turns out it was a bit less dire than we had imagined. No bikies or guns. No, our motor was in the hands of a couple of drugged out, skinny 19 year olds who wanted to make a quick 500 bucks. They claimed to have “bought it off a guy at One Mile”.

Our fearless constables Steve and Darren went in, retrieved the motor, delivered some wrist slapping and went back to the office for doughnuts.

Well, that’s great, I said to Mr Tea.

A win for us. Take that, petty crime.

The next day, Mr Tea made some space in the shed again for the motor, and started to rig up a hanging space for the new tinny between the 4WD and the kayak.  And true to form, he went back on Gum Tree.

He turned to me from the IPad.

“How would you feel about a stand-up paddleboard?”

*With apologies to anyone who hasn’t watched The Castle. And with sympathy to all the other long suffering significant others who have to get the Torana out to get to the Commodore. Or the tinny to get to the kayak.