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Western Walkabout: Turning 60

…The course was a delight. The rocks in the background were full of wallabies and frill necked lizards. Wild figs grew in the fertile pockets, also wild oranges and a vine called the bush banana…

When he was 63 Richard Harris ran with success in a 6km cross country and was presented with a medal by Yvonne Goolagong.

Watch out for more of Richard’s lively words on ensuing Mondays.

In the year 2000, when I was 63, I went to Alice Springs to run the 6km cross country in the Honda Masters Games. I came third in my age group and was presented with a medal by Yvonne Goolagong.

The course was a delight. The rocks in the background were full of wallabies and frill necked lizards. Wild figs grew in the fertile pockets, also wild oranges and a vine called the bush banana.

I went back over the course later with Iona, a caterpillar woman from the Pwerte Marnte Aboriginal Corporation, a Southern Arrernte Tribal group. She was a niece of the late Dr Charles Perkins and explained the uses of the plants to me.

Iona showed me how to gather the wild sugar from the underside of the river gum, how to find water, how to clear the sinuses of a baby after a cold night. It gets very cold at the Alice and this was worth knowing. You have to burn a fragrant bush and the smoke works as an inhalant.

Iona introduced me to Kelly, her cousin, who used to play football for West Perth. Kelly is a member of the stolen generation. He showed me how to throw a boomerang, into the wind at two o’clock. My boomerang came back strongly and nearly scalped him before getting lost in a tree.

We abandoned my role as hunter gatherer and they conscripted a desert man called Moses to show me how to dance the emu dance. I found this most satisfying. I enjoy cross country running – who wouldn’t when you can learn to read and feel the land this way.

At the games we were all given a free condom and told to act responsibly. A woman 91 was disqualified from the long distance walk – the judge said she was running. “We can’t have that,” the officials said. “If she breaks the record, it won’t count.”

Don’t you just love sports officials? They gave her a medal, anyway. Very Oz, the Alice.

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