CHRIS OVERLAND’S STORY about Baimuru and the giant canoe, Eiwo, brought back some memories.
I picture my sometime boss, the late, great Clarrie Healey, setting off in his own most-favoured government canoe, Tillicum, and heading off into blinding rain accompanied only by a single cop, a Sepik constable known far and wide as ‘The Spider’ for his long, lanky and predatory look.
The Spider pushed off from Gulf Traders wharf while I remained behind to follow to Beara in another canoe, “if the plane brings the mail.”
Beara, established after World War II as a Patrol Post was uplifted to Sub District Office status as a parking-spot for Clarrie, now an Assistant District Officer after his demotion from District Officer status. Beara was soon to become a Patrol Post again with this writer as OIC.
On that wet day we had, as was customary, ingested ale and rum in largish quantities with The Colonel at Gulf Traders establishment, known locally as The Palace Flophouse, a name bestowed by another memorable Gulfite of the time, the late Francis Xavier Ryan.
We were increasingly, doubtfully, waiting for the plane to come from Daru and Balimo with the mail and freezer from Port Moresby.
Clarrie, who at home was ‘on the dry’, wanted to get back to his place not quite blind drunk so as to be able to pacify the much put-upon Mrs Healy.
He was inordinately fond of his skill as an ‘outboard-whisperer’ as applied to the heavy, often recalcitrant but durable Archimedes outboards which were supplied to us in those days.
As expected, with one pull of the starting cord, the twin-opposed two-stroke engine burst into life, on full throttle, with a mini-Harley Davidson-like burst of thunder.
Unaccountably unsteady in stance, Clarrie disappeared in a short arc over the transom. Tillicum surged away into the rain - the long, thin figure of The Spider gesturing frenziedly from the bow.
At an appropriate juncture after Clarrie had crawled up the ladder and had been fortified with further rum, a rescue was executed.
Also at that time there existed a worthy ancestor to your big canoe, Chris.
It was that built by Col Ryman, late of Kaimare sawmill and Gulf Traders, business partner and co-font-of-ribaldry with Keith "The Colonel" Ledingham of Gulf Traders.
Keith was also organiser and minder of Gulf Traders’ HQ, the Flophouse, and its store and the Shell agency at the downstream end of the airstrip.
This huge marine beast was endowed with a big, six-cylinder Chrysler Marine inboard engine and a normal motor launch shaft drive.
Control was maintained from a small, ugly, rectangular wheelhouse at the stern.
This latter excrescence resulted in the beast being named "The Specialist" in honour of the once-famous book about a builder of fancy outhouses, or dead-drop dunnies as we knew them. [That book was written by one Chic Sale in case anyone decides to search for it.]
So, Chris, we had The Colonel, Col Ryman, Joe Stuart and, by that time far away at Koialahu on the eastern side of the Vailala, the late Bertie Counsel.
Their antics and endless flow of yarns kept me from going completely mad in my memorable Gulf days which (madness in itself) lasted five years at one stretch.
The Colonel, a refugee from civilisation, possessed some inherited money and a good, classical education from one of Sydney’s GPS boarding-schools.
He had an endless repertoire of stories featuring either a pompous Major Ponsonby or a sex-crazed travelling salesman.
The others all had similar talents. Bertie Counsel, ever cheerful, witty and source of so many good stories, was an accomplished pianist, as he demonstrated once on the only piano west of Kairuku at Kikori. But that’s another story.
You may or may not have heard of the lingua franca known as King's Cross Motu.
This, originated by The Colonel, was spoken by a small group of intellectuals, one or two of whom look at this blog from time to time.
All of us were domiciled at Baimuru and at Ihu in those days of yore and endless rain.
In this era, succinct messages in Kings Cross Motu used to be left for other initiates in the famed New Guinea Book kept at Ushers Hotel in Castlereagh Street, Sydney.
Messages such as haraga ita mei botaia inisini were left as insider invitations(English translation let's hit the piss here soon).