The Story of Hannibal / Hannibal’s Tale.

This children’s story has it’s origin in two events. The first was in my wanderings as a much younger man trying my hand at opal mining…not so much mining, really as ; scratching around. In amongst those months of loneliness up in the desert, I had as a “pet” companion, a mouse that I caught one day eating at a packet of biscuits…I named him “Hannibal” and I kept him/ her in my top pocket fed on bits and pieces of crumbs .

The other part is filled by an old miner who lived in a “dugout” hole in the side of a hill a couple of miles away, like the pic below.

Image result for old dugout coober pedy pics.

He was quite old then and his “dugout” in the hill contained only a big iron-frame bed and one small picture hanging precariously on the cave wall..It was a painting of a sailing clipper-ship that he assured me was the very ship he sailed in to Australia so many years ago. The “dugout” he lived in had a big hole in the roof that with the bright moonlight shining in, would give the super-white alunite walls a kind of blueish-phosphorous glow…quite a sight with he there on the edge of the bed talking of ships and seas while we were both in the middle of a vast desert!

Image result for Spinifex hopping mouse.

Spinifex hopping mouse.

Rodent.

The spinifex hopping mouse, also known as the tarkawara or tarrkawarra, occurs throughout the central and western Australian arid zones, occupying both spinifex-covered sand flats and stabilised sand dunes, and loamy mulga and melaleuca flats.

Scientific name: Notomys alexis

The Story of Hannibal / Hannibal’s Tale.

When old Charlie took me in as a live-in companion, I was living out in the sticks…most of my life had been a close encounter with the seedy side of life..a pretty hairy existence. So I was quite happy to be nothing more than a “conversation piece” to a lonely old man while I got my room and board , along with regular meals free of charge.

It took me a little while to get used to his house and habits…some of those older folk have habits of doing things that have taken them dozens of years to perfect. But I didn’t mind, he was always quiet in the mornings as he come to the breakfast table…just saying ;“ Hello Hannibal”..that’s the nickname he gave me..He reckoned that anyone as tough and resilient as myself deserved a heroic name! He didn’t really expect too much conversation, and sometimes he would even ask me something and then answer for me as well.

Sometimes he’d take a piece of rock out of his pocket and ask;

“What do you think of that colour, Hannibal?” and he’d answer himself before I even had time to think..” ..well I think it’s nice…a bit on the pale side, but it will scrub up well”.

I think it was just the fact of having some company there that cheered him up, and sometimes we would do things together ..”I want you to stick close to me today , Hannibal..I want you as close as my shirt pocket.”

On some days, he’d take me with him to work..

“Today, Hannibal, we are going to drive a little way along the east ridge..I think we might find some colour there”…and if it wasn’t too much of a tight squeeze on the drive, he’d take me with him for a bit of company, keeping up a running commentary of what he was thinking while he worked. It was often quite entertaining and I didn’t have to contribute to the work or the conversation at all as he told story after story…he didn’t even expect me to laugh..  though they could be sort of funny at times, I think he would have been shocked if I did laugh!

At night, he would cook up a nice little dinner and I would get my meal from the best bits…with all the trimmings of a yeast bun dessert, or a biscuit .

At bed-time he would see me to my room with his “Tilley lantern” , and make sure I was safe and comfortable for the night before going to his own bedroom…all in all, it was a very nice billet for the several months I was with him.

Eventually though, he had to let me go..I am afraid some of my nocturnal adventures had got the better of me and I came home with my three tiny babies…and he had to rename me ; “Hannibelle”. Old Charlie said he was too old now for the pitter-patter of little feet, and I had to find a place of my own.

He read out a letter his sister wrote to him to say she too had; “… found another nice “home” that HE could go into when he was ready..after all, he wasn’t getting any younger..” and he sighed and shook his head .

“Hannibelle” he said ; ” I’d rather live in a hole of my own choosing..if they don’t mind “.

Old Charlie has since left the district to go to another mining town , because that was his life ; he was an opal miner you see?..and he had to let me go my own way..after all, he couldn’t be expected to take a Spinifex hopping mouse and all her offspring with him in the inside pocket of his old jacket, could he?

Image result for old miner's trucks pics.

 

8 thoughts on “The Story of Hannibal / Hannibal’s Tale.

  1. More wonderful tales from the bush. I have tried to explain to people the attraction of somewhere like Coober Pedy. This place got into my very soul. I have been back with the missus for visits, I have a jar of opal from our last visit. I don’t know if I’ll ever get around to having it cut. When I tell people I would walk around with 3 grand in my pocket as a kid, they think you are lying. It was a place I’ll never forget, the more seedier side of my stay there will go up the chimney with me when it’s my time. It was there I met the gangster a one ‘ Jockey Smith’ from Melbourne he had a diamond in one of his front teeth he carried a gun under his coat in a holster. a rather large one. Gangsters would holiday in Coober Pedy to ‘ Cool Off ‘ this was in the days they were still robbing banks. Sometimes the tax office would turn up in the town ‘ Bunglers in suits’ I have seen opal loaded in an aeroplane in 44 gallon drums. Most of the real good stuff ended up in Japan. I had a opalized fossil of a small crab shell. like a lot of dumb things you do in life I sold it. As you know Coober Pedy was once under the sea. I found that crab at 100 feet below the surface. The treasure to be found there is incalculable. If I can up load a photo here I’ll photograph the opal if you are interested cheers.

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    1. Phil…you sound like you were into opal mining in a much more seriopus way than I ever could or perhaps would…I was more of a noodler than a serious miner..though I did have a winch and buckets and the old explosive licence which they gave out like cereal-box cards in those days…I’m talking the very early seventies.
      I also scratched around at Andamooka for a short bit…but the only thing I got from there was a unregistered vehicle booking and a poem..:

      “Andamooka..

      Two corellas bank in flight,
      Silhouettes against citrine light.
      Evening clouds ; ocean shoals,
      Swirls in whorls of comet tails.

      Trigg Creek trees silent stand,
      Column static ; chilling land,
      I turn my back on penumbra shine,
      Last light on hills of shingled stone.

      An ocean ; the world outside my door,
      The wind is waves along the shore,
      The diggings ; whitecaps on the hill,
      Whitecaps washing sea-bourne gulls.
      My dreams like a heavy ocean’s roll,
      Like the swirls in whorls of a comet’s tail. ”

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  2. Excellent poem . If I can indulge myself, one of mine.
    Hello Mum and Dad from the trenches.
    Just a quick note to let you know all is well
    Which is quite surprising in this living hell
    It is winter here now wet and freezing cold
    My feet are frozen and it’s frost bite i’m told
    My fingers are blistered and torn to shreds
    Think of me mum from your nice warm bed
    We are here for country God and our Queen
    I have only seen dead men what do they mean
    It’s stirring here now I am over the top at dawn
    Another day more sons for mothers to mourn
    The smell here is woeful it really does stink
    A body full of rats it has a smell that is unique
    I saw a young German soldier over the parapet
    His face covered in mud soaked in his own sweat
    I thought he wants to kill me for his lying Kaiser
    Was he as indoctrinated as us or so much wiser
    Well mum I’m finished now it’s over the bloody top
    When you get a minute mum write to the Queen
    Tell her we are dying here get the guns to stop.
    From a son.
    Phil Beats,

    My hates are war and the suckers that go fight them. With exception of my father, my brother, my son. I met my son in June last year in the land of the Pom. We drove around for three weeks. He had taken his leave there from Iraq and Afghanistan. We had a hoot we took the obligatory trip to the cavern of the ‘ Beatles fame. It blew my mind. I am a muso I have played guitar for thirty years. My son did his trade with the Army.

    Back to Coober Pedy. My wife wont live there otherwise I would go back there to live. The colours of the desert mixed with the sparse vegetation is a painters dream. Yes I mined there we bought the gelignite at the local store. It was owned then still might be by the Coro family who lived in Adelaide. I still remember the two electricians that died in his store working on the DC Current. This was pre state power. It certainly left its mark on me. I had a stent put in a huge brain aneurism two years ago and suffered a mild stroke so forgive my rambling style and the grammar. Cheers.

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    1. Can’t say it is a “nice” poem…hard-hitting in that genre style…So you sound like you’re from a “military family”…if not voluntary, then at least a serving one..from a long time ago?
      From your health description, sounds like you are still “in the wars”!… Coober Pedy, Darwin in the old days before “Tracy”…drinking myself to oblivion here there and everywhere like a young bloke would do in those days…down at the Seacliff Hotel with the crazy boozers and characters there….there are some stories I won’t put up on that AIMN blog…they are too woozzy for real-life stories… here : https://freefall852.wordpress.com/2016/03/29/jasper/

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  3. My father joined the Navy during WW2. He told me he joined the Navy as he didn’t want to end up in some trench it was a game of chance for him. More chance of surviving in his mind anyway .His brother ended up in Changi when Singapore fell. My brother yes he volunteered for Vietnam. My dad went troppo at him. He went on after Vietnam and joined the SAS. I have had long political arguments with him, he was and I emphasise was, anti union. He is/was a product of institutionalised military thinking. I did the most stupid thing I ever did, I punched him between the lamps over politics. Dad had seen the bodies smelt the mixture of blood and shit. He told my brother there was no glory in war. My own son joined to get a trade. The money they pay them now is five times what I got. they have to pay them well or they move on.

    I like the politics on the AIM I have been corresponding with a dude that comments there on another forum. He was interested in my collection of papers from WW1 & 2.He is I believe a Dr of philosophy. I spent half a day scanning it for him. I was lucky my dads sister kept all the guff and willed it to me. Things like post cards from Changi believe it or not. I was very close to her she formed my politics. She was a socialist and took up many causes. I have the correspondence between her and the government in England about the persecution of Bahai’s by the Iranian authorities in Iran.

    My only complaint with the AIM is some commenters can be quite condescending, we all have our story to tell. Mine was formed by life’s experience not out of some fucking book. I left school at fourteen it probably shows . Anyway I love your writing it is a treat from the dross that comes up on most of these forums. Take care.

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    1. Ta, Phil…yes..our lives are formed from the many incidents we become involved with…as a matter of interest, I have an almost complete collection of those WW2 Defence dept’ publications..: “HMAS Mk I – II – III …and the Soldiering On books as well as “These Eagles” etc..I collected them in my travels around the nation…while they are pure propaganda publications, there is some very interesting (now) historical information in them..
      Left school at fourteen myself…self-taught ..as are most from our side of the tracks..no concern on my part about your grammar or writing…
      I have made quite a few enemies on The AIMN…I think you know who they are…They won’t read my stuff out of spite..I just won’t take the pontificating, patronising, passive /aggressive shit from them…I grew up in a rough and tumble world where such types were thouroughly dealt with.. and as for the “virtue signalling”. . .

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