Lake Eyre Basin Rivers 120 my mother, Mrs Kruse and her son Jeffrey to meet the great Tom Kruse. He was late again, delayed by a Cooper flood upstream, and so we had to camp in the dry bed of the Cooper. We came back later to see the floods cut the Birdsville Track and so we had to cross by the Cooper by punt (Fig. 12.1). My memory is punctuated by flood times. They were markers in my life. I was palpably excited by my next big flood in the 1970s, when I was 19. Then I deeply understood the importance of floods, unencumbered by my early innocence. In the 1970s, our outback community descended on the river, from far and wide, to fish and camp. It was a momentous time. One flood followed another in an incredible sequence of floods that eventually filled Lake Eyre. I was astounded by the magnitude of the flood when I visited the great lake in 1975. It seemed that we were out at sea, speeding across its waves in our boat. I returned in 1977 when I began teaching at Oodnadatta and there was still water in the drying lake, now an amazing pink colour. Six years later, I was the teacher in the small town of Stonehenge, between the Thomson River and Vergemont Creek, tributaries of the Cooper. Here, the country was different but the floods were just as important, a powerful force shaping our community. I watched the vast 2000 flood in wonder, every morning, as it crept across the floodplain. Sometimes it even made waves. We couldn’t move for nine weeks but no one complained. The river This river is integral to our lives. It affects us physically and spiritually. Its dry years and flood years determine what we do and how we live. Our stories and memories are woven Fig. 12.2. Tom Kruse and his family, the outback mailman, was a legend in the Lake Eyre Basin, connecting communities with his dependable mail deliveries, sometimes delayed by the floods. He was a vivid part of my childhood memory (photo, Kruse Family Collection, http://www. lastmailfrombirdsville.com).
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