|Stephen Scourfield Writing
|One of my greatest mates has died, alone, on his motorcycle in the Kimberley. It was a good place to die, because that was where he lived.
I spoke to him the day before he died, on the million acre
cattle station he owned and where he lived alone. He'd
been rained in for months, but the road was clearing and
he was heading into town. He was looking forward to a ride
on the bike, he said.
We shared these loves of motorcycles and landscape. We
also shared roughly the same age.
I have known him nearly a decade, but it was in the last
years we grew close. His brother died and his wife left.
We talked a lot. He was handed many tests, and now I
wonder exactly what the hell they were all about.
He overcame them, then he died.
We grew closer through the novel I am finishing, which was
inspired by him but not about him. He was very interested
in it, he took it seriously. We talked about it several
times a week on the phone. He nearly jumped out of his
skin with excitement when I told him about the publisher
and funding support.
I emailed him the draft and he said he'd read it after the
weekend. When he got back. When he'd been for a ride. Of
course, he never did.
BYRNE TERRY found international fame through his bath. It
sits out there on the station under the massive,
star-spangled sky and a boab tree more than a thousand
years old. It was first featured in a National Geographic
I asked Byrne once why he built the bathroom out there, in
the open. "Because I'm a romantic," he grinned.
YOU might have seen my mate Byrne Terry and me in Subiaco
one Saturday evening. If you did, you'd remember. Not me,
but you'd remember him.
He'd come down from the Kimberley and was staying with me.
We went out for dinner.
I'm tall, but Byrne was a lot taller. He ducked under
doorways. He had a home-repaired leather jacket, torn
jeans, cowboy boots, earrings, a leary smile and a big
moustache. You wouldn't have known that under his shirt,
his life story was literally tattooed around his body.
You might have been among the wedge of people in Hay
Street which parted, jaws dropping, to let him through. I
think I actually heard someone murmur the words "Crocodile
Byrne was tall alright, but he seemed bigger because he
was larger than life.
"BYRNE was an Australian icon," says another mate of ours,
creative furniture maker John Streeter in Yallingup. "He
was one of those very rare Australians who could live by
himself in one of the most remote areas and be happy. We
would sit and talk on the phone every two weeks about life
Byrne Terry stood in the last State election, a campaign
effectively stuffed once he was rained in to the station
along the Gibb River Road and his phone went off. (I've
heard he was facing legal action for finding the fault in
the line and fixing it himself. Knitting the spaghetti.)
He was a fixer, a cattleman, a leatherworker, a man
interested in the changing view of land management. He was
a mechanic who converted an old International truck to
six-wheel drive himself. He was as strong as a bull.
He was building tourist accommodation from the station's
stone, hauling it out with a bull buggy, digging a trench,
standing it up with an A-frame. All on his own.
WHAT'S hardest is that after I spoke to Byrne the last
time and sent him the draft, I was away for a couple of
weeks in the desert working on The Other Country, the
novel which is now dedicated to him.
I was thinking about him pretty much all the time, but he
was already dead.
It feels weird, that not knowing.
He had died, alone, on his motorcycle in the Kimberley. It
was a good place to die, because he made sacrifices to