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Under the shadow of the black knight Pt 7: Billa Kalina
Title : Under the shadow of the black knight Pt 7: Billa Kalina Under the shadow of the black knight Pt 7: Billa Kalina
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Creator : Isabel J Dingaman Taylor
Place Of Creation : SA
Date of creation : 06/10/2008
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Description :

Billa Kalina, this name has stuck in my head, because it was one of our stepping stones as we travelled around our country, but I reckon the name has stuck because of growing up and listening to the old people, calling out jokingly to one another, saying, 'billy gana bula guleanamalo', (clean out the billy can), and then they would all laugh out loud. They were a happy gentle old people my lot, always laughing and joking amongst each other, and sometimes picking on one or two just to 'take the mickey' out of them as the saying goes. Everyone had their turn, that is 'having the mickey taken out of them', if that is the right term, and the old people could always tell if someone has had enough, and they would deliberately pick on the one particular person who was the cause of that one's distress, and they would keep going, encouraging him or her to participate in taking 'the mickey' out of that one, until the distressed one starts enjoying themselves again.

Billa Kalina was one of our main camping spots as we travelled from place to place. Mum told me once that 'we had just made it to Kingoonya, after leaving Billa Kalina, just in time for my brother (Daryl now deceased) to be born'. Billa Kalina is a beautiful country of red sandhills and and mulga trees. Mum and all the women folk in the family took us kids out to teach us how to look for the right tree and to tell if there was mugoo (witchetty grub) in there. There was always a tell tale sign that we had to look for. I was always amazed at how the old girls always picked the right tree, even from a fair distance away. Once I asked Mum how she did that and she said 'that old goonga mugoo' always waved at her and said 'over here' - I remember really believing her. She said that if I wanted to see the old mugoo too, I would have to look really closely at the bark of the tree, not the leaves, because that is where she hides. She (mugoo) will only show herself to special girls. I started looking at the barks of trees and bushes all the time after that, and as I got older and more experienced, I began to see even the smallest markings on the barks, even from a distance, little dark spots began to stick out. Soon I learnt the secret of the 'waving mugoo' (witchetty grub).

That is why Billa Kalina sticks in my mind for many reasons: camping, travelling through, old people joking and taking the mickey out of each other, and the secret of the the old 'goonga (woman) mugoo', waving at Mum and and saying to her 'over here'. Today, I just have a little giggle about that story - it was one of many educational bush stories that taught me how to hunt for small bush tucker, and the old people always added a touch of humour to get us kids really interested, and it always worked.

Today, when I read about Billa Kalina and how the government wants to turn that beautiful country into a nuclear waste dump, it just really makes me feel very helpless and sad. They say it is because it is nothing but wasteland, but to me it is far from being a wasteland, because it is the home of the Kokatha people, the waving mugoo and my place, because this is where I learnt one of many, many funny and beautiful little kid's stories about what it is like to be a bush kid roaming free, and learning what is was like to be a special little girl. Billa Kalina will become a wasteland once the nuclear waste is dumped there though, for sure.

Period : 1946-1979
Place : Billa Kalina, SA
Region : Flinders Ranges and Far North - Outback
Further reading :

Low, Tim Bush tucker: Australia's wild food harvest North Ryde, N.S.W.: Angus & Robertson, 1989

Sveiby, Karl Erik Treading lightly: the hidden wisdom of the world's oldest people / Karl-Erik Sveiby and Tex Skuthorpe. Crows Nest, N.S.W.: Allen & Unwin, 2006

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