This title of this post is something of a misnomer. On an oblate spheroid like the earth, there is no “end”. It’s been said that an ant crawling around on a basketball can do so forever…infinity…it’s just stuck on one dimension, but still. Don’t get me wrong, I think the concept of the “end of the world”, not in a rapture sense, of course, is really quite fascinating. Think about it. If you were a merchant seaman or solo sailor and you sailed off the end of the earth, it could ruin your whole day. And the water. Where does the ocean go at the end? It must flow off the edge like a celestial waterfall beyond human comprehension. But where does the water actually go?
But I digress.
For those of us who live in the Northern Hemisphere, we tend to think that’s where all the action is. I mean, who really lives in Paraguay except escaped ex-Nazi’s? We’ve seen these fascinating photos of Antarctica, but we all know those pictures of Robert Falcon Scott, Shackleton and others were probably taken on a sound stage somewhere in Nevada. But, several months ago, I happened to take on a Random Player in my search for a Scrabble partner. I was getting tired of getting beaten, endlessly and without mercy by my son-in-law (isn’t there some kind “handicap” situation given to gray-haired fathers-in-law?), my daughter and my wife. All of these people, who are supposed to love me in some way, always found ways to put letters on the screen to make words that I truly doubt really exist. I’m a well-read literate kind of guy, but some of the words, Bob, my son-in-law, came up with stretch credulity to the limit.
So, my new friend, I’ll call her Jackie (mainly because that’s her real name), happens to live in Australia. Now I never played Scrabble, board game or otherwise with a citizen from Australia, ever! I checked out her stats and saw she was only a few points ahead of me on the win percentage. Everyone else was about double my score. Here, I thought, is someone who won’t play and run (one woman I challenged as a guest had something like 7,000 games and about 400 Bingos. She beat the crap out of me and never played me again). Jackie and I played a few games and we were more or less equally matched, though she beat me more than I did her. We kept playing. It got me thinking about Australia and I began to recall how at one time I thought of going there to see the country. Then I found out just getting there would cost a billion dollars. The flight alone takes about as long as a lunar mission. Maybe someday…
I started recalling what I already knew about the place. I know that Olivia Newton-John is an Aussie as well as several other actress/actors, I just couldn’t think of their names. The only one I was familiar with was Crocodile Dundee. I thought the character was interesting and fun to watch in the movies. Then I found out that Crocodile Dundee was based on a real character. That’s fine until I read the “real” one was shot and killed by Australian police in a stand-off. He must have been an interesting guy…not that many people get taken out by the police during shoot-outs. America, however, is nicely endowed with such characters like this, like Bonnie and Clyde and John Dillinger.
As a retired science teacher, I had a pretty good handle on the wildlife that lives in the Outback…but they don’t have names like the rest of the world. We have bears and deer. Germany has wild boars. Africa has lions and elephants. But in Australia! Why can’t they just have regular animals with regular animal names? No, the Aussies live amidst such creatures with names like: Galah, Frilled Necked Lizard, Dingo, Rainbow Larikeet, Phascogale (?), Osyter catcher, Quokka, Quoll, Dugong, Yabby, Wallaroo, Numbat and the Emu (great for the N.Y.Times crosswords), to name just a few.
And, what is it about the rabbits? They brought in a brace of rabbits some decades ago and they bred. Boy, did they breed. When you say someone f#%ks like a rabbit, you’ve got a really hot ticket on your hands. Then the rabbits ate all the grass in one part of the country so they had to build a rabbit-proof fence. If you look at an aerial photograph of those areas, one side of the fence is actually green (that would be the grass), and the other side is denuded of any vegetation (that would be due to the fact that the rabbits ate everything).
Jackie and I are still playing against each other, sometimes the games are nail-biting and some times she buries me…every so often, I bury her. After all, I went to England several times so I know what a QUID and a BLOKE are. I’m just so smart.
Why am I telling you all this? I consider it my mission in life to prepare people…that’s why I became a teacher. So, if you ever find yourself playing Scrabble against someone from Australia, keep your Official Dictionary handy.
And, if you ever travel there, wear boots. You just never know what’s down there by your foot beside rabbit crap.