119 12 A life living between a river and a creek Leonie Nunn Introduction I describe what this river means – from my heart. Cooper Creek is an incredible system, sometimes a creek and other times a raging river. The Cooper is folklore in our home, reflecting the heroics of my father who ‘swam’ 600 bullocks across the flooded Cooper in 1949 on the Birdsville Track (Fig. 12.1). There was a cairn erected to mark this feat, as no one had done it for 30 years. My grandmother chided him about his celebratory photograph in the Adelaide Advertiser: ‘at least you could have had a shave’. My childhood was also coloured by Tom Kruse the mailman, a legendary outback character, who linked our remote communities (Fig. 12.2). I remember going down to dry bed of the Cooper in the 1960s with Fig. 12.1. The Cooper flows down from south-western Queensland, past the town of Innamincka to fill the Coongie Lakes system, and then flows south to the lower Cooper lakes where the Birdsville Track crosses the river (dry in this photograph from October 2016). The punt (on the left of the photograph) takes cars across the river when it has water. This was near where my father heroically ‘swam’ 600 bullocks across the swollen river in 1949 (photo R. T. Kingsford).
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