We arrived at the High bank for a few days fishing. This was back around 1972 on memory. It must have been around that year because Jacky, My brother, Bob’s eldest, was about 6 or seven and her younger brothers were still pretty small.
Bob was stood on the bank surveying the murky waves lapping at the base of the bank wearing his usual bush attire, a pair of shorts. On memory I’d say it was another couple of hours before low tide.
There was a large splash in the water and Bob took one step closer to the edge of the bank to take a look, lost his footing and dived head first into the Norman river. We were not far up river from Karumba, in the Gulf of Carpentaria, and as a general rule, swimming in these waters was not recommended.
“What’s he doing?” shouted Mary (Bob’s Wife) as Bob disappeared below the surface.
I took a quick look in the water and saw one huge fin and large grey bulk. I merely shouted “IT’s F#$@#NG BIG”. Mostly, I am not one lost for words but on this occasion that was about all I could manage. These were the only words or thoughts that could reach my tongue.
Bob must have not heard me correctly, later he told me he thought I had said. “IT’s A F#$@#NG PIG”.
Pigs are always welcome meat and excellent to catch when out bush so when Bob surfaced with the thought of ‘pig in the water’, he stretched up to the top of the bank and grabbed his sheath knife, then disappeared once again under the murky water. Pigs are occasionally found in water, generally having ended up there by accident, and they’re quite vulnerable to a hunter in water. And fishing was hunting.
Mary was wearing what I called her ‘hula skirt’, It was a bright red Mexican styled skirt with crisscrossed shoulder straps attached. It was quite short, also quite sexy in a floppy, comfortable sort of way. The straps clung to her top half, so it was a good look for the bush.
The moment Mary realized it was a huge shark that Bob was confronting, she did the silliest, bravest, stupidest thing that I had ever seen, and to this day I have no Idea what instincts drive this woman… she simply hurled herself from the high bank and landed slap between the eyes of the huge shark that was at least 3 feet longer than she was.
The Hula dress slid up over her head as the force of hitting the water ripped the dress from her, leaving the straps of the dress up underneath her arms pits in a crisscrossed fashion. The shark had managed to swim right through the body of the skirt, leaving Mary attached to the shoulder straps. One further tail stroke from the shark wrenched the straps from under Mary’s arm and slid the straps down to Mary’s wrists and the cross-over design locked together as the pair of straps came together from opposite sides of Mary’s wrists. On reflection, I could have retired that day if I had a movie camera because in those days, Mary looked a lot like a young Elisabeth Taylor… except she was a bit more ample at the top.
The shark thrashed about, moving forward in a circle with Mary almost doing a naked body surf in its wake. It’s still a vivid and exiting image re-run I can tune into at any time in my old memory… I’m sure I could have sold that bit of film.
Bob still seemed to be totally unaware that he was not facing a wild pig that had found itself a little bit out of its element and seemed totally intent of bagging it for the barbecue, and as Mary body surfed passed him in the murky waters he caught a glimpse of her leg and grabbed it.
“Gotcha F%$#ING PIG!’ he shouted as he lifted the arm with the knife to stab the pig.
Mary had managed to free one arm and was just in reach of Bobs face as the shark turned around. She slapped bob firmly and fair as he surfaced – and shouted “Don’t you call me a FU#%;^@…” but that sentence never finished as the shark dove with Mary’s arm still firmly locked on.
Jacky, tiny as she was, looked on her dad as a super-hero. She jumped up and down shouting to Bob, “Can we keep it? Can we keep it? Can we keep it?”
Bob, seeing his daughter perilously close to the edge of the bank, only managed to shout at her as best he was able – “GET BACK TO THE CAR!” But the sound was muffled by the water and the splashing and the general confusion and it seemed that Jacky thought that ‘this fish was a keeper’ and that her dad had said “GET THE PAN FROM THE CAR”. Bob did keep a large bush frying pan in the boot of the Holden.
By this time, Bob was well aware It was not a confused pig he was chasing… instead it was a 3 meter shark and as Bob turned to face the shark once again, it completed another small circle, entangled and angry. Bob and the shark had finally seen the light and both now seemed content to view each other as the ‘kill’ target.
Jacky then arrived at the bank carrying the large fry pan. Seeing the shark raise its head out of the water and opening its jaws at it approached her dad she too dived into the water following what must have been the same crazy instincts obviously inherited from her mother. The fry-pan collided with the inside of the sharks jaws as they snapped shut, the sound of breaking teeth sounded like pebbles on a stormy shore line. The shark’s mouth clamped firmly with teeth embedded into the steel pan with the handle protruding outside of the jaws… the handle still firmly held by young Jacky.
The shark seemed to have lost a bit of energy and the blood in the water suggested that Bob had managed to inflict a few severe wounds because the shark went deadly quiet and the thrashing stopped and the Norman river went quiet… quiet enough to hear a car approach, a door slam and a fellow approaching.
“Catching any?’ the fellow asked.
Bob found his footing on a mud bank a few feet up river, grabbed the frying pan handle still protruding from the shark’s mouth and gave one almighty tug pulling the top half of the shark onto a mud ledge a bit closer to the bank.
Mary shouted, “Jacky! Get out of the water! You know the crocodiles will get you!”
Then Mary turned to me as she climbed back on to the high bank . “YOU!” she shouted. “You owe me a new frying pan”.
Bob turned to the fellow and answered his question. “Just the one, mate “