Finding Girrawandi

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  • Published 20091201
  • ISBN: 9781921520860
  • Extent: 264 pp
  • Paperback (234 x 153mm)

WHEN HE EMERGED from the rainforest after he, his brothers and father had set out eight months before, Simon O’Conner seemed half man, half beast. His skin was browned by the sun and dirt and shiny with horse fat, his head was covered in a cap of emu feathers, his feet encased in rotting moccasins made from badly tanned horse skin. His trousers had rotted away, leaving only the waistband and pockets. A leather satchel pitted with tooth marks was strung over his shoulder and a dead Torres Strait Island pigeon hung from a piece of animal gut around his neck.

The sailors had been preparing to row back to the ship moored in the bay, after spending a week looking for any sign of a white man, when they spotted the gaunt figure, more apparition than flesh and blood, wobble out of the tangle of trees and vines. At first they mistook him for a native but as he came closer, moving unsteadily on his tremulous legs, through the long spiky grass towards the beach, it was the Aborigine who recognised him: Dat Mister O’Conner. I think ‘im Simon, Mister O’Conner’s boy. Captain Jackson asked Pompey if he were sure it was one of O’Conner’s sons. The staggering man seemed too old to be eighteen.Dat ‘im all right, Captain.

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