I’m standing in the national park visitor centre and I have the ranger’s full attention. She was practically raised in these mountains, but she’s never heard of the Broken Duck Spur, Left-Foot Peak, the Dodo Saddle or Belt-Buckle Ridge.”Strange,” I say to her “my dad’s been hiking these mountains for years, and that’s what he’s always called them.”
The ranger can’t tell me the best route to Broken Duck Spur if no such spur exists. I head home puzzled. Was dad lying to me about all his expeditions into the mountains? He exaggerates sometimes, but I’ve never known him to lie.
I ask dad the next time I see him. “What’s the deal with Broken Duck Spur?” I ask bluntly, expecting him to be remorseful because I’d discovered his lie. Instead he points me to the lounge room display cabinet. There’s a pair of salt and pepper shakers hidden behind one of my school sports trophies. They’re both glazed ceramic pieces. One’s in the shape of a swan. The other is in the shape of a duck.
“See those hairline cracks in the pepper duck?” Says dad. “Those were put there by your uncle Jim. He sat on the bloody thing when we were setting up camp on Broken Duck Spur. We ate roast rabbit with salt that night, but no pepper!”
“How about Dodo Saddle?” I ask. Dad ponders for a moment and chuckles.
“We were on Dodo Saddle when one of my co-workers pointed out a bush turkey. ‘Look! A dodo,’ he said. Well the turkey must have taken offense because it chased the silly guy all the way down the hill. It took us till sunset to find him. That was the only walk he ever accompanied me on.”
At my request, Dad finally explains the origins of the name Left-Foot Peak, which culminated in the naming of Belt Buckle Ridge. It was a death defying hike that nearly killed Dad and his companion. “Left-Foot Peak?” he says. “That’s where I broke my left foot. Simple.”
I press for more.
“We were about as far from the ranger’s post as we could be, so all we could do was walk. I told my walking buddy to go on ahead without me, but they were having none of it. We were basically using each other as human crutches until we were sat at Belt Buckle Ridge. I was down three belt buckle holes. My buddy was down four. We were pretty much ready to give in when I noticed a farmer’s vehicle in the valley below.”
After carrying his walking buddy down the hill to where the farmer was, dad got them both to safety. He says he wouldn’t have made it as far as he did without his buddy. If it weren’t for their commitment to one another, they both would have been dead.
“Who was your walking buddy anyway dad?” I ask.
“It was mum. I thought you knew that one. That’s where we fell for each other.”
“You told me you fell in love with her at the Royal Hotel.”
“Yeah, that’s what we called the cattle feeding trough where the farmer picked us up. It’s where royalty goes to eat.”
I sigh. At least I can be sure Dad’s no liar. He’s always said I was born at the City Hospital. I wonder what that really means…