Wigley's Waterhole

1994, 112 x 256 cms

Summer rains had flushed fresh water through the water holes over Xmas, 1993. The river was still running gently. Raffi and I went for a dip at Wigleys waterhole. We were immediately alerted to a commotion from seven or eight Aboriginal woman erupted close to the centre of the riverbed where the water was a mere trickle. Two women were exchanging blows and verbals, as hot as the day. Both were bleeding from scalp wounds inflicted by river stones. They removed their T-shirts and convulsed along the river course forty metres before dissembling.

We skirted the argument to reach the pool. We waded in, leaving our towels on the shaded grass knoll, where a comatose couple sprawled. Young kids were swimming, using the inflated foil bladders of empty wine casks as ‘floaties’. Across the river on the  southern flank, half a dozen young men were teasing a mate who was dressed ‘proper flash’.  They wrestled off his cowboy boots and hat, then dispatched them to the murky water. He broke free and promptly jumped after his gear while his mirthful mates applauded. The women from the fight ambled past, except for the protagonist who lagged behind to pick up and replace her bra.  She studied the remains of her blouse, and followed the others, cursing them in English, stopping before us to wash the gash on her head. The blood skeined across the warm pool. She stood up and swore to put her foe in hospital.

In the opposite shallows another man, his left arm bandaged at the elbow, swung his strong arm at a bigger woman identically bandaged. Inebriated in thigh-deep water, they choreographed a pathetic comedy of mis-hits too feeble to result in further injury. Some of these events I later tried to cram into this work.