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| Category: || Young Adult Fiction |
Posted:|| June 22, 2015 Views: 484|
Chapter 13 of the book Stories of the Dreamtime
Children lost from camp.
"The Ghost Cave"
Members from the Brooweena tribe break camp and prepare to move to their summer lands. Two children wander off and are guided by a giant Kangaroo. He leads them to the cave for the night. Wandi learns
As sister moon kissed brother sun and went to her rest; Sun rose to light the new day. On a cold winter's morning, the Brooweena tribe made ready to break camp and move on to warmer climes on the northern borders of their tribal lands.
Forty tribal members, including children, washed the sleep away in the nearby stream. The lubra brought cool, clean, stream water to the old people. They carried it cradled in huge, empty, Bunya nuts. All the children were rounded up and were warned by the elders not to wander off.
Wandi (aged fifteen) and his young sister, Melie (aged ten) were bored with the adults. They had been given chores to do: cover the fires and make sure the old people were warm.
The children then wrapped the small amount of dried meat for the journey. Along the way to the summer camp, men would spear Kangaroo and other animals for food.
The young men cut saplings for litter poles, to carry the old and sick. Two poles strapped together by bark made strong litters.This they did by cutting strips of bark, wetting it and twisting it into ropes. When the litters were finished they laid kangaroo skins between the poles. The women filled their dilly bags with dried snake and Kumar.
Lately, the animals had moved away from the Brooweena camp, leaving the tribe hungry and living on vegetable roots, witchetty grubs and snake roasted over the fires.
Wandi was tall and lean. He had just been initiated into the tribe and was considered a man by their standards. His Father, whose tribal name was Baralga, had politely asked a sheep to spare it's life for the sake of his tribe; they were starving. He then speared the sheep, which had wandered from the white man's land. He scraped the skin clean of meat and roasted the carcase.
Baralga stretched the skin until it was dry. He used the soap plant to soften the skin so it could be worn. The sheepskin was then given to his son, Wandi, as an initiation gift.
Wandi strutted around like a peacock. Nobody had a beautiful ,white, sheepskin like his. The two children were terribly bored and Wandi suggested to his sister Melie "Let's take a walk in the forest. Maybe we can catch a snake for dinner?"
They sneaked away from the camp, not saying anything to their elders. As they continued up the familiar walking track to the mountains, Wandi thought to himself, "Perhaps Melie is too young to walk so far." He pushed that thought aside and pulled his new sheepskin around himself as he took Melie's small hand. He knew he was being selfish but he didn't really care that much now that he was officially a 'man.'
Time slipped by as the children looked at the beauty of their homeland. They were sad to be moving away to the summer camp. Melie was shivering and started to complain to her brother.
"I'm cold, I want to go back," she kicked dead leaves at her brother.
"Don't be a baby," said Wandi. He stood on one leg with his spear supporting him and his opposite foot resting on the calf of his standing leg. This stance is a typical resting position for men.
Looking around the bush, he failed to recognise the area. Wandi began to panic. The sun was sinking in the west and the cold night air was coming down. There was no wildlife, no birds singing and he wished he hadn't brought his sister on this walk. She was too small to climb the hills and he wondered what to do?
He would have to find shelter from the freezing sheets of rain now lashing their semi-naked bodies.
Brother sun was slowly sinking in the west. Suddenly, a large red Kangaroo stood tall on the path. The children were scared. Kangaroo could be vicious toward human kind. They used their strong tails to sit on and kicked out with their large feet with seriously, razor-sharp claws. Kangaroo could gut a man in minutes.
"What are you doing so far from your camp?" the Kangaroo said to the children.
"We are cold and have lost our way," said Wandi.
"Hmm, I won't harm you. Baiame sent me to guide you to shelter. Follow me, children." He bounded slowly so the children could follow him. In the old days, animals spoke to humans.
After fifteen minutes' climb, Kangaroo stopped and pointed towards a cave hidden in the high timbers. He then took flight into the thick bush.
"Quickly, before the sun sets," Wandi pulled and half-dragged his sister up the steep granite slope towards the cave.
Once inside the cave, darkness was complete. Sister Moon was rising and gave some light outside the cave. Wandi gathered dry leaves and twigs from the cave floor. With his flint knife, he fashioned a stick to twirl in the leaves to make a fire. After much twirling, the leaves caught and light flickered.
"I will have to go get some branches to keep the fire going," said Wandi.
He slid down the granite bolder and found some dead trees on the forest floor. Many trees had died in the drought. He then made his way back to the cave and piled more fuel on the fire.
The light from the flickering fire threw shadows across the roof of the cave and the children looked up and saw white handprints and drawings of animals that their ancestors had left for future generations. Vampire bats frightened the children as they took their night flight to hunt for cattle, (which they feed on) sucking small amounts of blood from the beast.
Wandi took off his sheepskin and wrapped it around his sister. They huddled together listening to the heavy rain outside the cave.
Suddenly, the cave was lit by a wavering blue light and the children were terrified. They had heard stories about the ghosts of long dead ancestors that guarded the cave. Out of the blue light a figure appeared. He was wrapped in beautiful furs and his skin shone like ebony in the firelight.
"I am called Nunundiri, guardian of the Ghost Cave," he sat cross-legged before the fire.
The children's eyes were white with fear, never having seen a ghost or spirit guide before.
"Wandi, you have disobeyed your parents and put your sister in danger." Nunundiri frowned at the young man as Melie clung to Wandi's white sheepskin.
"You will be a great tribal leader one day, but for now, you must learn a lesson."
Nunundiri whisked the sheepskin from Wandi's shoulders and spun it in the air. It took flight and continued on its journey outside the cave, floating on the air currents, and then it was gone.
"I, I am sorry for my selfishness," stuttered Wandi.
Nunundiri made a spell, putting the children to sleep. He then wove a cloak of safety around them before he flew away to the Brooweena camp.
When Wandi and Melie awoke, the sky was blue and the air fresh from the overnight rains. It was a bright new day. Their small fire were cold ashes and they could hear the sound of voices outside the cave.
"Father! The children cried with joy. We were lost. We are so happy to see you."
On the walk back to the camp they chattered on, as children do. Telling their father about the visit of Nunundiri and how scared they were.
On reaching the old camp, elders gathered around and fed the two lost children.
"Nunundiri visited us and told us where to find you," said their Father.
"I am sorry that we left and disobeyed your wishes. I will try to be more responsible now." Wandi hung his head.
"Wait here, with your sister," said Baralga (Father)
He returned with a beautiful white sheepskin hung over his arm.
"Oh, I thought it was gone forever!" Melie buried her tiny face in the fleece.
Great dancing and celebrations were held to welcome the children back to the tribe. The men painted their bodies and placed feathers in their hair. The women stamped their feet to the deep throb of the didgeridoos.
The dancing was led by the father of the children, called Baralga. His stick-like legs reminded the tribe that he was named after the beautiful Brolga bird. The birds danced in their thousands at mating time. Their feathers were a wonderful pink and red colour, caused by the food they ate.
Wandi also danced with his father, imitating the dance of the Brolga bird.
In a tall gum tree, Nunundiri, spirit of the Ghost Cave, sat watching over the Brooweena tribe.
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Australian English and grammar:
Witchetty grubs: a delicacy roasted over the fire or popped in the mouth whole. Sweet and nutritious.
Dilly bags: woven bags from the stalks of water lilies. Women also use them to carry fish and when digging for roots of plants, like Kumara (sweet potato.)
Baiame: Great Spirit, Maker of all living things. Another name for our God.
Lubra: Older female tribal member.
Baralga: Means Brolga. A beautiful bird with long, graceful legs. They dance together at mating time. Wandi's father was named after the bird because he was the best dancer in the tribe.
The Bunya tree has huge nuts that drop to the ground and the aboriginals used to hollow them out and use them for containers. In the olden days, tribes came from all over Oz to celebrate the Bunya Nut Festival, there was much dancing and catching up with other tribes they hadn't seen for a year.
All animals spoke to humans in the old days. If a man would kill a kangaroo, wallaby, emu, he first asked permission from that animal. Then he thanked Baiame (Great Spirit) for the food to sustain his people. Please enjoy our way of life in the days before MacDonald's!
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