The Quest to Find Big Shit Down Under!
Easter is just around the corner. Well, the supermarket shelves are full of Easter eggs and hot cross buns so, Happy Easter, ready or not!
Easter for us Southern Hemispherians also means a good old family road trip. Yes, it’s that time of year when four-wheeled drives and station wagons get packed to the rim while bikes, canoes, tent poles and caravans render the family car unrecognisable. It is funny how under normal suburban conditions we are very rulesy about overcrowding in the car or obstructing the driver’s view, however the minute a road trip is on, seeing safely out through the rear view mirror is somewhat less important than making sure all the sleeping bags and hubby’s golf clubs have made the trip.
But all contingencies must be catered for when going on an Aussie driving holiday because it takes so bloody long to get anywhere. From the time it takes to get from Melbourne to Adelaide you could drive the scenic route from Belgium, through the Netherlands to Munich, Germany. That’s right, Europeans get to have a dunny stop in Cologne and check out their chocolate museum and we get to drop in to the BP petrol station at Keith for a Snickers. Who the fuck was Keith anyway? If you know, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. The Gent would be most grateful not to have to hear me bang on about how a town could be called Keith. And what was wrong with Trevor?
Luckily for us, our pioneering forefathers experienced the same problem as they schlepped from one end of our big brown land to the other. They too laboured through hours of staring at nothing but gum trees, red dirt and road kill. They wanted to see something in between the ‘Welcome to Keith: A Tidy Town’ sign and ‘Thank you for visiting Keith: A Tidy Town’ sign (wouldn’t you argue that it’s pretty easy to be a Tidy Town when there is nothing sodding-well there?).
And so the over-sized commemorative fibre glass (or possibly asbestos) statue was born. Australian children were to sigh from boredom no more. In the absence of the modern day interweb we were blessed with 16 metre high fruits, animals and random stuff, otherwise known as ‘Big Shit’.
The anticipation of seeing Big Shit on a two week drive to Queenlsand for a long weekend almost surpassed the trip itself. My brother and I would get out the map and plot out the stops:
The Big Merino; a terrifying man-sheep made of concrete (the locals actually call it Rambo). It has a gift shop and wool display.
The Big Banana; a potassium deficient pensioner’s dream, complete with a gift shop and fudgery, (what else?).
The Big Pineapple; with a rough end big enough to bring a tear to the eye, and an unmissable gift shop and pineapple display.
I think you get the idea.
Sometimes there was an added bonus. At The Big Pineapple you could ride around the plantation in the NutMobile. It was a motorised convoy of giant sized macadamia nuts that you sat in, while weaving in and out of pineapples. So coveted was this innovation in transport that Prince Charles and Princess Diana were compelled to try it out for themselves on a Royal Tour of Australia back in 1983. The exhilaration on their faces speaks for itself.
So off we would set in search of Big Shit. Despite having seen it all before it never failed to impress and the road signs along the way would alert us to the nearness of splendour. ‘Welcome to Coffs Harbour, the home of the Big Banana’. It was at this point that, rather than reducing speed to a pedestrian safe pace of 60km/h, I am sure we clocked Dad doing 100 km/h, in a bid to avoid adding an hour to the drive and spending $40 on plastic souvenir banana crap.
As a mother now, I know it is my patriotic duty to bestow these joys on to my own children. Last year we had to head to the New South Wales north coast right near the home of the Big Banana (and people now too). It is 1300km away. Admittedly the only driving we did was to the airport and back, but I did insist on taking my girls to see that yellow phallic homage to man’s notion of ‘making the best of what you have’.
And that is essentially what all these country towns and regions are doing in constructing their Big Shit. They don’t want to compete with the large metropolitan cities with their skyscrapers and transport systems, no my friends, they know what they are on about and they are not afraid to tell people.
The Golden Gumboot in Tully, Queensland is a classic example of people owning their shit. It rains like cats and dogs up there but they are no pussies. They strap on their gumboots and get to work. We would have no idea that the record annual rainfall of Tully was 7900mm back in 1950 if it wasn’t for their proudly positioned gumboot. We would go through life as a pack of self-absorbed ignoramuses.
So take your flatulating dog and road trip your little hearts out. Forget the gas bottle and lose the tent pegs. Blow a tire and load up on barley sugar. Pack that car at 4am in the driveway waking the neighbours, because you are off to find Big Shit in the spirit of our forbearers.
Let me know how you went when I get back from Hawaii.