My mining partner Robert and his wife June had a lovely little toddler named Taran. Their camp was about half a kilometer from the opal fields at the back of Mintabie.
Robert and I were working a claim near the water tank. We were both underground when we heard June arriving somewhat in a hurry with the horn blasting. Robert went up the 50 foot ladder in about 3 steps closely followed by me. June was in a panic. Taran was missing! She had been cleaning the camp and had not noticed that Taran had wandered off. She had frantically searched everywhere and her little angel was no where to be found.
This was a really serious problem as there are thousands of shafts and large drill holes on the opal fields. Because the top few feet is sand often the holes are shaped like large funnels and are extremely dangerous.
Noodling on our dump were several of the local aborigines including Whisky the local leader of the Pitjantjatjara. We asked Whisky if he could track. (Many aboriginals are experts at following footprints) He said he could so we bundled him into the four wheel drive and headed as fast as we could to Robert’s camp. Whisky picked up her tiny footprints almost immediately. She was headed straight for the opal fields.
We all began to panic as Whisky led the way into the opal fields. Deeper and deeper into the field we went and the more concerned and frightened we all became. We wanted to call out but didn’t want to panic little Taran, in case she ran towards a hole.
Several hundred meters in towards the centre of the opal fields Whisky said that a large dog had joined her and was walking beside her. We thought this could have been my German Sheppard ‘Peppa’. This was good news, at least she wasn’t alone. Whisky continued his tracking for what seemed to take forever. We were past the center of the opal field and were heading towards the road that led in from the town on the other side of the diggings.
Our other mining partner ‘Kim’ and his wife had a caravan actually in the opal fields beside the road and Whisky was headed straight for it.
There curled up, asleep, on the dusty mat in front of the door was Taran. Peppa was there beside her. Little Taran had decided to pay Kim a visit.
Whiskies ability to follow Taran’s tracks was totally amazing. There was no way I could see what he saw, yet it seemed so natural to him.