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DAVE AND HIS DOG

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  • DAVE AND HIS DOG

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    Rosie lay beside the open guitar case, pretending not to notice the people passing by, but the flicker in her eyes notifies that she never misses a trick. Dave, with his mop of unruly dark hair under a battered bushman’s hat, sings his songs with meaning, his soft blue eyes also watching. Just another busker? His voice and guitar skills hint of more.


    Dave was born in Maffra, near the Dargo High Plains. One of five boys, he taught himself to play the guitar when he was young. His parents were battlers who had to deal with their own issues. This would not have helped them to bring up youngsters in tough times. But they must have done something right.

    At 15, Dave was working in the saw mills. No easy job for a youngster, but he is a survivor and it was not long before an adventurous spirit saw him on the move. He arrived in the city, working in factories in Fishermans Bend. From there he graduated to working as a Flyman/Mechanist, which is a highly skilled job carried out in the wings behind the scenes in theatre productions. It’s not by accident that complicated scene changes occur precisely and silently.

    In the theatre world, Dave met a wider slice of humanity than had rubbed shoulders with him in the mountains. He worked on such varied works as the “Holiday on Ice” show and a selection of operas, as well as some complicated ancient Japanese productions, involving the Noh and Kabuki traditional works. Some of the masks used here are up to 800 years old. Handle with care.


    An odd smattering of French comes out now and again in his conversation, hinting at adventures further afield. I get a strong suspicion that there is a learned man underneath the rough exterior. And not surprisingly, I find there is a lost love somewhere in the mix.

    Inevitably, the show moved on. Dave followed his dreams with a one way ticket to Paris, via Tokyo, where one of the top ice skaters in a show had danced into his life, and into his heart. His eyes light up with memories as he recalls the unique Scottish border accent of his skating ballerina. The boy was now a man.

    This time there was no happy ending. The show moved on. Dave discovered that dreams can be elusive. Sometimes they dance out of our lives when we need them the most. But the memory of the dream is never erased. Nor should it be.

    Alfred Lord Tennyson said it in 1850, referring to the death of his beloved friend, Arthur Henry Hallam,

    ‘Tis better to have loved and lost
    Than never to have loved at all.*

    When I first met Dave, he was singing ‘Me and Bobbie McGee,’ as I trudged up the ramp from the Safeway car park. I stopped for a chat. We exchanged itinerant stories. Some of his jobs were picking fruit in France, after his dream died. I told Dave about my time working in Queensland as a teenager. As my friend and I crossed the Outback, we were known by our nicknames, ‘Bobbie’ and ‘Billie’. We hitchhiked around the country moving from job to job. And in between we danced. Yes there were hard times, but we survived, and the good times
    provided a balance.

    Then a new episode started. We grew up and settled down, but we carried the spirit of ‘Bobbie’, and ‘Billie’ with us into adult land. We both started families, which saw us living in different states.

    Then one day, Bobbie didn’t survive. She disappeared, believed murdered. How and where has never been solved. Where she lies, is believed unknown. But somebody must know. There is no closure in these cases, but the wonderful memories remain, mixed with grief.

    Somehow, ‘Me and Bobbie McGee’ is ointment on the wound. As I told Dave my story, his expressive eyes filled with tears. He told me his story and we cried together. Whenever he sees me coming, he sings our song - and he calls me Billie. Through the tears, the world becomes a brighter place.

    People walk past buskers, sometimes noticing an unkempt appearance and clothes that have seen better days. Most have no understanding of the paths that these entertainers may have trod, the despair they may have known, or how easily someone can slip into that situation.

    But that is their loss. Hiding under the ragged clothes you might find a gem like Dave if you stop to look.

    I was talking to a young writer about Dave.
    ‘I know him,’ she said. ‘He always says ‘Hello Madame’ when I pass. He treats me with respect. At first I wasn’t sure how to take it, but then I found out it was genuine.’ She understands.

    And so does the dog. Rosie has also known sadness. Rosie is a rescue dog. Just like a child that has been abused, Rosie is wary of strangers who rush towards her, not sure of their intentions. Dave finds a sunny spot for her to sit. Wherever he is, she is home.

    As Dave sings, Rosie’s terrors fade, and the world is a better place. For all of us.



    Brenda Richards 2015
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