An adventure story about two youths. One, a bloke from the bush – Kangaroo Creek is a real-life story of a larrikin Australian. Garry Chad tells of growing up in the bush, of close Aboriginal connections, of Army experience in peace, of active service in Vietnam with three different infantry battalions (1st, 6th and 4th Royal Australian Regiments) and serving alongside US 173rd Airborne Brigade, the ‘Big Red One’ division and the Kiwis. During his tours Chad was Wounded in Action. 

The other is Wang Chi Hoe from North Vietnam, who was also Wounded and Killed in Action.

This book is more than a story of a soldier’s life and it goes beyond the usual Vietnam Veterans’ experiences of mateship, hardship and war history. Sometimes humorous, sometimes brutal, always honest – this book tells it as it is. 

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ISBN:   978-1-921919-63-3
Format: Paperback
Number of pages: 297
Genre: Non Fiction

Cover - Clive Dalkins

Author: Garry Chad
Publisher: Zeus Publications
Date Published: 2013
Language: English


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~ 1 ~




THE Chad family lived on a 100,000-acre property ‘Kangaroo Creek’ in the Kimberly region of northern Western Australia. It was 25 miles from the town of Wyndham on the Forrest River and a large freshwater creek ran next to the homestead.

My dad, Tom, bought the station in 1939. He and Mum had both worked at Brewarrina in western New South Wales where they gained their knowledge of cattle farming. Dad’s brother, Reg, and my paternal grandparents lived at Dee Why on Sydney’s northern beaches. Tom was a grey-haired, solidly built man who stood six foot tall. Well-tanned with a square chin and square shoulders, he looked like he had been born in the saddle of a horse. His wife was Violet and they had a son called Chad (Garry); that’s me.

The homestead was set under a mixture of Leichhardt, she-oak and grey gum trees. It sported a silver corrugated iron roof with a red brick chimney, white weatherboard walls and a two-metre-wide verandah around the house. It was positioned so the summer breezes would float through the open windows and doors. The kitchen had a large Kookaburra brand cast iron wood fuel stove.

The Forrest River was 10 kilometres away to the north with adjoining grassy flats running up to the front cattle yards. Blood-red 200-metre-high escarpments looked over the river from the south, which brought a natural freshwater creek close to the homestead. The outbuildings included sheds for vehicles, tools, machinery and temporary accommodation for seasonal workers.

Ringers or station hands worked on the property doing calving, branding, drenching, dipping and mustering as required throughout the year to get cattle ready for market. Some ringers who worked on a temporary basis would get paid after a fortnight’s work, only to disappear and not return from town. Such unreliability meant they were usually sacked.

The nearby Aboriginal mission housed roughly 200 souls, but this figure was almost impossible to accurately measure owing to the number of walkabouts that saw families coming and going at all times of the year. There weren’t too many Aborigines living in the main town of Wyndham, and most of the outlying Aboriginal families worked and lived permanently on stations such as Victoria Downs as ringers and had done so for several generations of their family.

The relationship between black and white was generally good. Some whites were downright racist and I found that those who were wealthier and who owned businesses tended to look down on the Aboriginal population.

Tom always taught me to treat people as if you were them and not be swayed by their reputation. There is good and bad in every race of people – regardless of colour and creed – that inhabit this planet. Dad said to always show respect to others but if you get none in return, then give them none.

Life was great. I was learning more and more about life and people. There was plenty of work about, cattle prices were up and beef export to the USA from the Wyndham meat works was in full swing.

TOM, me and a full-blood Aborigine boy called Eddie from the nearby Ooomagarie Forrest River Mission had been mustering calves now for two days. We were 10 years old and attended the mission school together. We were good mates. After a dusty, dry day’s work we’d settled a herd of about 200 cows and calves near a freshwater billabong surrounded by large ghost gums and by the campfire had our fill of a beef stew pre-cooked by Violet.

Tom poured full mugs of black tea, adding sugar for us boys, and as the firelight flushed our faces he spoke of the days when he was with Eddie’s father, ‘Jimmy’ Burungra. Tom said the Aborigines, usually very shy people, have a unique art of reading signs and the future. Mental telepathy, he said it was called.

Years ago while on a cattle drive just south of there, with Jimmy and two white drovers, they found themselves late in the afternoon short of tucker. They decided to go different ways in pairs, searching for food and Tom shot a black scrub turkey.

‘And you know what,’ Tom said in such a way that we were totally mystified and entranced with interest, ‘the other pair brought back a six-foot, young, black and yellow crocodile over their shoulders.’

‘Eat this,’ they said laughingly and threw it on the ground near the campfire. Tom recounted what happened next. ‘Jimmy looked angrily at the two cattle hands and said, pointing to the dead crocodile, ‘That’s our totem – the saltwater crocodile. You should not eat crocodile. Bad luck will come.’ Tom looked at Eddie and me and built the tension adding, ‘Both the cattle hands stopped in their tracks and one said, ‘What will happen now, Jimmy?’ Jimmy hesitated. ‘There will be a big storm tomorrow. Strong winds and blowing rain.’ Tom stood, hitching his trousers, adding, ‘The next day was in October. The sky was clear, not a cloud in the sky, so I didn’t think much of it.’ We were all ears like an elephant and craned to hear what happened next.

‘That afternoon while working in the yards I looked towards our camp six miles away and saw a big black cloud rolling in towards it,’ Tom continued. ‘We rode back to the camp at a canter, but by the time we got there the storm had struck and all our tents were down and ripped to pieces. All our washing was gone. The spare horses had bolted. All our swags were wet. What a mess, it took us days to tidy up!’

The wind now drifted smoke into our faces making us squint, but we wanted Tom to tell us more, so he added, ‘What would you do with someone in your tribe if they did that? We would tie them up to a tree out in the storm, let the lightning strike about and the rain hit them.’ Tom was in full swing now and loved to relate stories around the campfire. ‘Another time when we camped out in our swags there were four of us. We woke up at sunrise and Jimmy pointed at us and said to look at where a snake track was pressed into the red sand. It had done a U-turn near where my head lay that night then turned towards the long spear grass.’

‘What’s that mean, Jimmy?’

‘It means that someone important will come and see us today,’ he replied.

‘And there we were, miles from anywhere, in the south-west corner of Kangaroo Creek station, when four hours later a convoy of three Land Rovers came down the track to our camp. As we stood there in the dust, the passenger-side door of the first vehicle opened and a well-dressed, distinguished-looking man wearing a wide brimmed hat appeared. He had a beaming, sun-tanned face and sported a large, drooping moustache tinged with grey. As he came toward us, he took off his hat, revealing grey, thinning hair. He greeted us as if he knew we were expecting him. I have no idea what he said after, ‘G’day’ or who he said he was, but the mayor of the Kimberley Region got out and he shook my hand warmly. I thought I recall the word ‘Commissioner’ and someone later said they were doing something about development roads. So I started to believe there may be something with the Aborigines and ‘telepathy’.’

Tom settled back down on a log and started to roll a smoke. He looked long into the fire and smiled as he continued. ‘But it didn’t finish there. Weeks later, Jimmy and I were fishing for barramundi. The last day before we came home was a good one; we caught two 20-pounders. But I woke that night about two o’clock to loud wailing. It was Jimmy. I looked at him sitting by the campfire, moaning loud, continuous hollow sounds. He was shivering with his head cupped in his hands, wailing louder and louder.’

‘What’s up, Jimmy?’ I said approaching him, wondering what in the hell was happening. He was covered in sweat from head to toe, and put his head back, gasping a large sigh. ‘The big white spirit pulled me out of my tent by my hand,’ he replied.

He then stood up and danced about, shuffling his feet in the sand, wailing as he went. Like a tune to a slow march. This went on for about 10 minutes before he sat down beside me. I asked ‘What did it mean, what’s the matter?’ He looked at me with wide, scared eyes. ‘My father is dead. My father died.’ ‘Okay, I believe in you. I’ll make you a cuppa tea, mate.’ At sunrise we drove back and were greeted by Violet at the homestead. She was wiping her hands on her apron but her normal smiling face was lined with sorrow.

‘Tom, Jimmy. I have got some bad news for you.’

‘What? What is it Violet?’ Jimmy asked, still sitting in the Land Rover, almost as if he didn’t want to get out of the vehicle.

‘I’m sorry, Jimmy, but your dad died last night. I got a call from the mission about 2 am.’

Eddie and I looked at each other, dumbstruck, not wanting or even able to say a word. It was indeed a religious moment. Tom brought us back to reality in his stentorian voice.

‘So, boys, you can make up your own decision, but I myself believe they have something that white folk haven’t got.’ He stood and looked around the camp. ‘Well, time to hit the sack, let’s get to bed.’


WE arrived back at the station. Tom, Eddie and I had a great breakfast, cooked by Violet on the kitchen wood stove – a huge feed of fried eggs, bacon, fried bread and a hot cuppa. We ate heartily but without a moment lost after the meal, we headed to the vehicle. We quickly drove out of the sight of the homestead and headed along the eastern boundary, Half Moon Creek, to check the stock.

Half Moon Creek was shaped in a semi-circle like a half moon. It was about 200 metres long and provided good fresh water for the cattle and brood mares. The cattle were mostly white-faced Angus-half-Herefords. They all looked okay, chewing their cud and lying in the shade of the ghost gums. Eddie was looking off to his right and pointed at a dead steer half floating in the water that had been bitten nearly in half.

‘Look, Mister Chad, look.’

‘That’s only what crocs do,’ sneered Tom.

‘It’s worth about 60 quid (120 dollars). Bugger it. The crocs grab ‘em by the snout and drag them in, and drown the struggling beast.’

‘I’ll have to kill that croc now,’ he said. Eddie looked worried. It’s the White Man’s way Eddie; the croc will kill some more cattle, and horses.’ Eddie nodded reluctantly.

  Tom stopped the vehicle. ‘Help me boys.’ We pulled out a steel cable about as thick as your little finger from the back, an axe, pliers and tie wire. Tom said we would build a trap and snare to catch the killer croc. We started about building the trap. It was hard work, cutting deadfall to put in a V-shaped fence about 1.5 metres high. The idea was to lure the croc to the bait from the water, and then guide him with the corral fence under a thick, overhanging branch that supported a wire noose.

‘He must have come into Half Moon Creek months ago during the floods,’ said Eddie. ‘Yeah,’ I replied. Tom was satisfied with the trap and now set the snare.

‘Now we get the bait.’ Eddie said without a blink, ‘a wild pig?’

‘Good boy, Eddie,’ Tom replied.

‘Mr Chad, the crocs lay in the long grass next to the tracks that run alongside the creeks. When a herd of pigs trot along the track,’ excited now, Eddie went on, ‘they hit the pigs with a quick strike of their powerful tail. The pigs are knocked into the water. Then the croc slides in and grabs a swimming pig.’

‘That so, Eddie? I asked.

‘Yeah, crocs’ favourite tucker is wild pig, Mr Chad,’ Tom nodded, smiling.


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