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HomeVolume 28Dogs: Two for some, dozens for others

Dogs: Two for some, dozens for others


During winter the families would retreat a couple of kilometres from camp to Pepperill Creek, a minor tributary of Emily Creek, on the eastern fringes of Alice Springs.

There were soakages near the larger rivergums and better protection from the bitter easterlies. Plus, firewood, the daily basic necessity.

Settlement at Whitegate had depleted supplies and required ever longer walks in search of decent ironwood or gidgee.

Six kilometres walk to town in the morning was no big deal. But by evening many took the taxi home, and most knew to avoid the drivers who ripped them off.

Now and then, usually after supper, I’d get a knock on the door from someone with insufficient fare and a needing a lift those extra kilometres. Most admitted a genuine fear of the dark, particularly inentye/ a traditiional assasin who might lurk in the hills.

Brother to Arranye, Gregory “Eyeglass” Johnson is pictured strolling in the early morning with a string of dogs between him and partner, Janet.

On seeing the painting, a couple of men joked that “Eyeglass” was, as usual, “looking for butts or apwerte / coins”.

Before spending substantial time in remote communities I regarded Alice as the dog capital of the world. Wrong.

In bush communities many households were overrun with dogs. It wasn’t unusual to see a dozen or more competing for scraps. A tough life and yet each was regarded as kin.

Urbanites kept dogs no doubt as pets, one or two perhaps. They walked together mornings and evenings. But clearly, the dogs had another role defending property invasion as gate signs and high fences attested.

Gregory had attended the Tent Embassy in Canberra, had advocated for the Johnson outstation at Uluralkwe / Little Well in the north-east corner of the Simpson Desert, and assisted with establishing CAAMA radio.

PAINTING by Rod Moss: Gregory & Janet Johnson with dogs near Pepperill Creek, 1990.


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