Someone has strung a soft toy high in a tree on the wagon trail west of Springsure.
Someone has strung a soft toy high in a tree on the wagon trail west of Springsure. Nancy Bates

High and dry humour as travellers amuse themselves

OPINION: A hangdog look was probably on the big puppy's face even before someone strung him high in a tree on the wagon trail west of Springsure.

"There's a big toy hanging from a tree back there," I said in surprise as we churned a cloud of dust on the old wagon trail to the Barcoo.

Isabel needed to run on some rough unsealed roads before her first service in Cairns, so we plotted a path from Springsure to Tambo, turning north to Blackall to go on the dirt road to Jericho, across the Capricorn Hwy to navigate roads running to cattle stations around Lake Galilee.

On the wagon trail Tony turned Isabel around so we could examine the stuffed puppy closer.

We pondered the questions asked by the six men who served Kipling well and could answer only two: Where? Right there on the lonely, dusty road.

What? A metre-high stuffed toy puppy with droopy ears.

How? Not easily. Surely a crane would have been involved. No one could climb that tree.

When? Some time ago it would seem, given the faded colours and dusty coat. But there again, it wouldn't take long to look like that out in this country.

Who? Road gang? Electricity workers? Passing telecommunications techies? Bored cattle station hands sitting on 50hh stock horses?

Why? Some of the people who work and travel out in the wide open spaces of Australia get a little bored. With little in the way of entertainment opportunities they have to come up with creative ideas to amuse themselves and others.

Australia's long roads with light traffic lend themselves to quirky statements, especially on trees.

Shoe trees dangling sandals and hobnails and bra trees adorned with Triumphs and Hestias can be found on a few roads where boredom is a risk.

The hanged puppy was a little more eerie.

We gave him a final sympathetic look and resumed our dust cloud creation towards Tambo.

A little further down the trail a giant teddy bear hung from another tree.

He must have had a jaunty air when persons unknown hoisted him high and perched him on a swing seat attached to a branch.

One paw clasped a stubby but poor Teddy had long since collapsed at the waist.

His head sagged near his knees. Dead drunk or just dead?

The amusements turned artistic north of Jericho, where the apparently dry Lake Galilee seemed to materialise on our east according to dear Gabby Garmin and to the west according to Hema.

A tree on our left was adorned with barbed wire ball branches and a strange tree on our right was cleverly turned into a 2m high face, vaguely reminiscent of an aged, sad Banana in Pyjamas with a tangled living plant forming his woolly hair.

We scratched our own hair and ploughed on to Charters Towers.

Retired Chronicle editor Nancy Bates, who is travelling with husband Tony in Isabel the Global Warrior, is reporting from the trail of the Grey Nomads.

The Simpsons' character Sideshow Bob makes an appearance on a tree north of Jericho.
The Simpsons' character Sideshow Bob makes an appearance on a tree north of Jericho. Nancy Bates


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