Please scroll down and read the author notes below before reading this chapter for a detailed background to the story. This book (2) is after we, the Nyamal tribe got evicted from our desert home of more than 40,000 years and were moving to the town of Port Hedland.
A NEW HOME
The harsh, dry, grass and spinifex, on the sides of the road, turned into the lush green of front lawns. Having spent the last few years in a cave, followed by the desert, I had forgotten how beautiful lawns and gardens could be.
Michelle, waking up after sleeping on my knee, in the back of Mum-Doris’ car during the trip, was amazed as she stared, wide-eyed at the passing scenery. She had never been out of the desert in her two years of life and this was all foreign to her. Looking back now, almost forty years later, I guess I’d been wide-eyed as well, and I spent my first fourteen years in and around houses.
On the other hand… Mum-Doris, a Nyamal woman, had been living in and around the town since her parents moved there to work for a cattle station (Giant farm) owner, twenty years before. She’d been given a university education by the owner and had been working since graduating from university.
“The first thing we need to do is get you two cleaned up,” Mum-Doris said, as we entered her house for the first time. “Then we’ll go to the barber and get you a haircut, Walu.”
I hadn’t been paying attention to what she’d said as I looked around her house. White tiles gleamed at me from the floor and the perfectly painted pink walls were not how I remembered my old house, in Melbourne, to be. The walls in that one were rarely painted and certainly not perfect when they were. Torn linoleum lay strewn on the floor, where this one had tiles.
“Walu, did you hear what I said?”
Um, no, sorry Mum-Doris.”
“You need to take a bath and then we’ll go to the barber and get your hair cut.”
“Why do I need a haircut?”
“Because it’s long and scraggly. You look like a feral,” she said, laughing.
“Can you please just call me mum, it sounds less formal? And where is the bag of clothes, and the shoes I gave you when I picked you up?”
“I threw them away, under the car, before you started driving. I don’t want to wear clothes or shoes. I don’t like them.”
“I’m sorry, but you can’t run around, barefooted and with just a loincloth in a town. That’s fine for the desert, but not in civilization.”
Sheesh! All those rules stayed behind when I left home.
“Yes, mum,” I answered.
She scrubbed Michelle clean and when she’d finished, I climbed into the shower. I’d forgotten how nice a hot shower felt after bathing in billabongs for years. But I didn’t like the sensation of being behind the closed door. That simply brought back too many memories of being imprisoned in my bedroom as a kid.
After reluctantly donning the pair of blue jeans, shirt, socks, undies, and shoes, that mum had borrowed from a neighbor for me to wear, we got back into her car and drove to the barber. While traveling along, both Michelle and I fidgeted with the uncomfortable and unfamiliar garments.
These shirt sleeves, pant legs, and shoes have to go. My armpits feel like they are secured in a vice and my feet feel like they have been cemented into steel cans.
Apart from the police who dragged us out of the desert, the barber was the first white face I’d seen in over five years. Whilst he was a friendly, jovial character, I didn’t like him or his profession. Sitting in the chair, in his shop, brought back strong and bitter memories of the old man dramatically chopping my hair when I was a kid. I hated it. But I had to please my new mother, so I sat nervously, but quietly.
Looking much older than I remembered, I sat and watched in the mirror as my long locks disappeared to the floor. My face looked tiny and resembled a lentil.
Mum paid the man and thanked him. “You are most welcome,” he said, “please come again.”
Yeah, no problem, mate, I’ll be back in another nineteen years.
Mum, a medical receptionist, with a nursing degree, took Michelle and I back to the house and went off to work, leaving us to explore our new surroundings.
As we were looking in a kitchen drawer, I spotted a pair of scissors, and with a smile, proceeded to cut the sleeves of the shirt mum had borrowed. Then the pant legs were removed and the shoes conveniently lost. Michelle took off her dress and shoes and threw them out of the door.
We ventured out to the huge backyard to see what, if any, excitement we could find. The short, almost manicured lawn, like the inside of the house, held no resemblance to the old house in Melbourne, with its long untidy look.
There were flowers, a vegetable garden, and several types of trees, including fruit trees. Around one corner of the house was a chicken pen, next to which was a fishpond with a variety of colorful inhabitants. There was also a screeching cockatoo in a cage under the cover of the eaves.
“Jaja (food),” Michelle said, as she reached her tiny hand into the fish pond. “Bajalgu (Eat).”
Mum told me, before she left for work, “that there is plenty of food in the fridge and cupboards and to cook whatever we wanted.” There was only one problem… I had no idea how to use a stove, oven, or even a pot or pan.
“It’s okay, little one, I’ll light a fire and cook us a delicious meal,” I told Michelle.
“Chicken or fish?”
“Chicken,” she replied.
After collecting firewood from a vacant paddock across the road, and placing it in the center of the lawn, under a shady tree, I hunted and caught a chicken from the coop.
That was the easiest hunt I’ve ever had… I wish they would all go so smoothly.
Once the flames had died down and the coals were just right, I cooked our dinner. With our stomachs full and feeling contented, we drifted off to sleep in the shade.
“I can see you two are going to be a handful,” mum said, holding a bunch of feathers and standing by the now extinguished fire. Please don’t burn my lawn, which took years to get looking this nice, and stop eating my pets.
Pets? Fish and chickens are food, not pets… dogs are pets.
And what have you done to the clothes I gave you. They were from the same man as the ones you threw away when I picked you up… he’ll be as naked as you two.”
“I didn’t like the sleeves or legs, and I hate shoes,” I said.
“You really are a feral… so that’s what I’ll call you, as a nickname… Feral,” mum said, smiling.
“What’s a feral?”
“Someone or something that escapes a domestic life and conquers life in the wild. One who can’t be tamed or controlled. A survivor.”
“Cool… I like that! Walu Feral… that rocks!” I said, with excitement.
“Now, come inside, please. I want to talk to you about your new brothers, they’ll be back from their holiday tomorrow, with your new step-father.”
Brothers? Step-father… nobody said anything about a step-father.
NYAMAL: The Australian aboriginal tribe who found me in the cave, adopted me and saved my life.
Walu: My tribal name. But, mum mostly called me Feral.
Uncle Ronny: Nyamal tribal chief.
Michelle: Little girl who I had become a surrogate father to after her mother died.
Mum-Doris (Mum): A Nyamal woman who lived in Port Hedland. She adopted me at 17yo after the Nyamal tribe was forced from the land into the town.
Helen-Rose: My Nyamal girlfriend, who was taken to a different location when they forced us off our land.
John: Mum’s husband. My new foster father
Rodney: Doris and John’s eldest son. My foster brother.
Damian: Middle foster brother.
Philip: Youngest foster brother.
Sally: One of mum’s five chihuahuas. I called them rat-dogs because they look like big-eyed rats.
Author Notes: Background to the story from book one of my autobiography, “The One They Call Feral”…
In 1975, Ricky (me), a fourteen-year-old Caucasian boy from suburban Melbourne, escapes years of childhood abuse and hitch-hikes over four-thousand kilometers, to the town of Marble Bar, in the far Northwest of Western Australia.
With a morbid fear of aboriginal people, after being told by his abusive, racist, father that they are cannibals, he is found living in a cave, alone, by remnant members of the Nyamal tribe, a small group, still living a nomadic existence.
They forcefully remove him from the cave and take him into the desert where he is raised in their ancient ways for five years.
Whilst there, he undergoes many sacred trials and rituals, along with learning the Nyamal dialect and customs, to become an official, initiated, Nyamal man at nineteen-years-old.
Written in flashbacks and based on fact, with some enhancements and name changes, the book contains many dangerous, exciting, frightening, romantic and sometimes comical adventures out in the harsh Australian desert. Striving to become a man, Ricky stumbles his way, spear in hand, clad in a loincloth, from one coming-of-age trial to the next under the watchful guidance of Uncle Ronny, the tribal Chief, and the other tribal elders.
He learns to hunt, read signs of nature in order to find the best places to gather food and where to find and collect fresh water from beneath the scorching desert sand.
The first in a trilogy, “The one they call Feral,” also contains several, rarely heard, 67,000-year-old Dreamtime stories and ancient tribal practices and language.
© 2019 Walu Feral
© 2019, Walu Feral. All rights reserved.