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The Emmaville Tiger

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Author Topic: The Emmaville Tiger  (Read 296 times)
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« on: October 28, 2008, 11:04:04 am »

Australia, 1954. There are many strange happenings that cannot be explained.
                                                  This is one.
There have been reports of the sighting of some strange creature, glimpsed only on dark nights for many years up in the rugged New England high country.
 It was and still is a wild and in parts nearly impossible terrain filled with deep gorges, steep mountains covered in thick scrub and tall timber.
 On some winter days the fog doesn’t lift till the afternoon in the deep ravines.
 It was first whispered too far back for anyone living at the present time to know.  .but it is talked about quietly amongst those that live in that vast area, that for a long long time  a ghostly and  mysterious animal like creature roams on dark nights in the New England  high country.
Is this ghostly creature a myth?
Maybe it started as a drunken rumor.?
How far back in time did it first appear?
No one seems to know. But it is out there believe me. I saw it.
 The area in question is roughly  bounded by The Great Dividing Range in the east to an imaginary line running through the little towns of Barraba, and Ashford to the West and Bendameer and Walcha in the south, up to the Queensland border .in the North. An area about 2000 square miles.
Its divided by the New England Highway and the Glenn Innes to Inverell road.   A vast territory of mountains covered in snow in winter to the edge of the great Western Plain.
At various times over the years this mysterious creature has emerged briefly from the darkness to be observed by a lonely traveler but always so fleetingly as to throw doubt on what was actually seen.
In the late 1940’s and early 1950’s I was one of those few lonely travelers, driving a truck regularly the six hundred miles through that high country from Sydney to Brisbane.
 Between Tamworth in the south and Brisbane there were many dirt and gravel sections.
 The sealed part of the road was a narrow ribbon of bitumen that needed constant vigilance and the gravel sections such as the steep Bolivia Pass was a nightmare. The sealed road finished at the top of the pass after a gradual down hill run of a couple of miles.
 Brakes had been constantly used before arriving at the end of the bitumen and then the gravel section dropped away like a roller coaster, hugging the cliff face on one side, no safety rails just the mountain dropping away to the valley below on the other side. As the driver bounced off the sealed part, the gravel section fell down into a cliff face that forced him into a sharp left turn then back around the cliff edge to the right.
Quite a few unlucky drivers ended up slithering and sliding into this rock face  from loss of brakes and with the help of little gullies that water and time had worn away across the road. It was one of the many hazards a driver had to learn with experience. Road warning signs were practically non existent back then.
You learnt as quickly as possible by trial and error, and on escaping the errors, sometimes with a fright, to indelibly remember the next time you came that way. Slowly but surely a driver would learn every mile of the road by heart. To be careless or forget spelt disaster.
       So it was always expecting trouble that a driver of a winters night, with snow in the air and the cold wind blowing through the cracks in the freezing cabin, that the high country  caused  an unsettling feeling. It was hard to describe but you could feel it.
For instance I always had a shiver up my spine when passing Thunderbolts Rock which the 19th century highwayman and outlaw used as a lookout. It stood sharply out in the moonlight just off the road and there were times I even thought I could  see him standing there with his horse waiting patiently there so long ago for the stage coach to come past.
It was probably only the cold that made me shiver, taking my gloves off one at a time as I tried to breath  warm air onto my freezing hands,
The ghost like few little towns, all in darkness would flash past not a soul abroad. No other vehicles just you alone in the whole world and the cold, always the cold.
It was just such a night as this that I too joined those who have had a spine chilling fright, seeing the unseen that didn’t exist. I did.
As I said before up in that country a driver never relaxed or felt the slightest bit sleepy.
I had been traveling all day and was due to fuel up at Bill Yates little service station in the village of  Bendemeer. It was supposed to be named after the bullock drivers from the last century who after climbing the dangerously steep Moonbi Range, stopped and ‘bend them here” in other words have a drink. It consisted of a country pub, a general goods shop, Bill Yate’s tiny country garage with a couple of fuel pumps.
Now this trip I was driving a British A.E.C. Which only had a small fuel tank that would get me to Bendemeer  with not much to spare.
This trip I knew I was running low on fuel as I had been battling a head wind all day from Newcastle up the Hunter Valley. The last few miles up into Bendemeer was a steep and dangerous climb, the dreaded Moonbi range and it was going to be touch and go if I could make it to the top into Bendermeer. It was a 5 mile climb, extremely steep and very narrow with no safety rails.
 The dangerous part was if anything went wrong, like running out of fuel, the brakes couldn’t hold and I would have to turn the steering wheel sharply and jam the truck  backwards  into the cliff face as quickly as I could. I had to do it once before a year ago and it was no fun.
If I was too slow or panicked, there would not be enough time to jump out, which wouldn’t help much as that was the edge of darkness, the valley side. Over the edge and out onto space I would go truck and all. It was a long way down to the valley below.
With these thought in mind I eased into low gear, instantly alert dreading the thought of the motor faltering and started the climb to the top. Is there enough fuel I kept thinking, please let there be enough fuel. I always filled it to the top when filling up at the start of the trip squeezing the last little drop till it over flowed .and all I could picture in my mind was did I squeeze the last drop in this time.
As each moment passed and the rhythm of the motor kept a steady beat, I searched anxiously the road ahead looking for rocks and boulders that sometimes came tumbling down off the cliff face above, hoping against hope I would make it to the top with no problems. Not wanting to even think about the drama of reversing at a split second notice into the cliff face.
I made it around the first left hand curve still climbing slowly and steadily when suddenly
‘What’s that?”
  At the extreme end of my headlights where the light fades to shadow, something large sprang up out of the darkness from the valley on the right hand side and sort of loped across the road ahead, leaping swiftly up on to the left hand steep bank quite effortlessly and vanished into the darkness above me. It seemed a fleeting shadow. I froze, eyes wide open, heart thumping but having the presence of mind to keep the throttle pressed to the floor.
The only sign of its passing was the cascading of small rocks and gravel from the cliff up above onto the road ahead of me. It all happened so quickly that I had reached the point where it had crossed the road before my brain had fully taken in what I had seen. As I crawled past the spot some small rocks were still spilling down onto the road from the  darkness above.
 A chill ran up my spine into the back of my neck. The brain kept sending pictures I didn’t want to see.
“What in bloody hell was that? What was it? I thought shaking my head.
 It wasn’t black …more like a dark brown color,,, and I think had some sort of tail.
It wasn’t a calf or wild pig as neither calf or pig could spring out of the darkness from the  valley  below and bound across the road and leap so gracefully up the cliff face as this ghostly thing  had done
 The impression it gave me was of a large cat like creature. But we didn’t have lions, tigers, leopards or panthers in Australia.
It was then that I came back to reality aware that my hands were gripping the steering wheel like claws of steel and my right foot was trying to press the accelerator pedal through the floor. I tried to relax a little and  as I pondered on this another  shiver went up my spine and in a flash I closed my window which I had left down in case I had to make a hasty exit from the truck on the way up the climb.
I reached the top, pushing the “old girl” up through the gears and with pounding heart I took off down the slope toward Bendermeer. I pulled up outside Bill Yates darkened little garage with the three pumps, two for petrol, one for diesel and reached for my .45 Colt.
 It took a couple of minutes of peering out of the window before I could talk myself into being brave and climbing down from the cabin into the darkness and pressing the night bell.
 Stepping back I kept looking over my shoulder looking for I don’t know what.
When Bill came out in his dressing gown  to fuel the truck he asked what was wrong as I still had a look of fright on my face, gripping my..45.pistol and peering into the night.
He was watching the flow of fuel as I hesitantly told him what I had just seen. I felt a bit sheepish  expecting him to laugh at me.
He looked up and said matter of factly,
“You have just seen the Emmaville Tiger’
“Tiger .. what Tiger. I’ve never heard of any Tiger.” I said frowning at him.
“Well that’s the name its given ..  how and why I don’t know.”
“It has been reported over the years here and there in this high country by farm hands and some drovers, of an unseen animal with a cough like grunt that’s only heard on dark nights which sent shivers up their spines .Its like nothing they have ever heard before in the bush.
 One rumor said, a lion had escaped from a circus long ago and was not reported missing. Who knows?
 All the sightings are like yours, a blink of the eye and it’s gone. Some people have seen it like you and some have heard it, never both. Strange isn’t it. Stranger still no single person has seen it twice. But yes there is something out there, what it is no one knows for sure.”
 I stayed the night in Bendermeer tucked up in the seat with the Colt within easy reach.
 So was it a fact or imagination? I wasn’t drunk, I was wide awake.
Is there some strange beast prowling the New England high country on dark nights ?
Has it been around from the beginning of time?
Is it myth or fairy tale?
What don’t we know?
 I know what I know ….I did see something that night and I don’t care what anybody says It was real, it was scary, and that New England Range up in the high country is still spooky on dark nights for we that have seen… Something.   

From the book           “My Way on the Highway”
                                       The life and times   
                                             of the 
                                          Nullarbor Kid   
                             Ray Gilleland copyright  2005
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