THE DAY I MET A TRIVIAL PURSUIT ANSWER AND LIVED TO TELL THE STORY
Dinky, the Singing Dingo of the Outback
By Don Beaudreau
“G’day mates!” boomed the big and burly, white-bearded man. “Welcome to Stuarts Well Roadhouse, here in the middle of the Australian Outback! My name’s Jim, and me and my wife Mardi who’s working the cash register over there by the exit (she will handcuff you if you steal something and attempt to leave with it), are the proprietors of this dusty and dry, out-of -the way place, just 80 kilometers south of Alice Springs. But then again, Alice Springs itself is not exactly a glittering metropolis now, is it? At least for you big-city types.”
We laughed. We were 19 tourists on a bus who were on our way back to “Alice” after spending a wonderful day viewing the iconic Ayers Rock. It was a major accomplishment crossed off my bucket list. I was the only American in the group.
“Anyhow,” continued our host, “we are delighted you had one too many pints or cuppas and needed to utilize our very own dunny! Or rather, your bus driver needed to!”
More laughter from our group.
Jim continued. “And I hope that in addition to relieving your bodily necessities with us, you will help my hard-working sheila and me to pay our bills, by buying a new pint or cuppa; and hopefully a bickie, avo, chook, or any of the diversified variety of treats we are trying to sell you! But, let’s get right to business, ‘cause I know you weary travelers need to get back on your bus and continue your trip!
So, let me ask you: might there be a volunteer amongst you who plays the piano?” I quickly raised my hand, not waiting for any competition. After all, I was still on my four-month sabbatical and there I was in this bus stop in the Northern Territory of a continent 14,000 miles from where I lived, so I was very eager to have any new experience that offered itself to me.
Santa Claus eyed me with satisfaction. “Are you sure?” he asked.
“Sure, I’m sure. Been playing the piano since I was a kid.”
The others in our group laughed.
“But do you play it well? And do I detect an American accent?”
“Not too many complaints,” I answered, adding: “Yes, I am an American, residing in Florida.”
“How many complaints?” Jim continued.
“Including that guy in the bar in Pago Pago?”
More laughter from the group.
“Yeah, that one! The one who pulled a gun on you, right?”
“You got it!” I answered, going along with Jim’s routine, and starting to wonder what I had gotten myself into.
“So, you’re used to danger!” said Jim. At least when you play the piano. Not that I’m saying there will be any of it in the next few minutes, but only that there might be.”
“That’s comforting,” I said.
“But if you do get roughed up a bit, you don’t have to worry because Mardi and I paid our insurance last month!” Jim turned in the direction of his beloved who was guarding the cash register and asked her, “Didn’t we, old gal?”
Mardi looked at Jim and shrugged her shoulders in a display of her not being sure. The room swirled with conviviality, perhaps at my future expense of being a patient in an Intensive Care Unit — unconscious, and hooked up to a ventilator.
Jim turned back to me. “So, my lad from the land of swamps and gators, I hope you aren’t lying about playing the piano well. Or at least well enough to prevent our performer from doing some damage to you. He won’t like it if you aren’t up to his standards. He is a divo, you know. So, are you ready to meet this world-famous performer?”
Without waiting for my response, Jim asked me to be seated at the piano bench in front of the upright piano that looked as if he had fallen off one of the big, speeding trucks in the middle-of-the-night as it thundered its way over the Stewart Highway attempting not to hit a ‘roo or two. The piano exhibited various indentations and scratches. I hoped that I would not resemble the piano if the singer disapproved of me.
Jim continued. “Now, folks, just so you know, when our performer enters the room, do not make any sudden movement! And do not talk, scream, whisper, burp, sneeze, or … well, do anything else that might want to come out of you. Okay? Otherwise, we might have to evacuate all of you by helicopter to a hospital — that is if we can find a helicopter or a hospital here in the midst of our beloved wasteland. You folks got that?”
There was a smattering of vocal agreement and a nodding of heads.
“Remember, my friends: Swamp Man from the Everglades could be in danger if you fart!”
I hoped that Jim was merely playing the showman in an attempt to sell his pints and bickies.
He looked at me with a concerned look, as if I were a condemned prisoner awaiting execution, and asked me, “So, my friend from across the seas, are you ready to meet your fate?” But before I could say, “yea” or “nay” to Santa’s query, Jim was inviting the main attraction to enter the room: “It’s time, Dink! Do your thing!”
Not having been prepared to meet such a performer, although apparently most everyone else in the room knew who he was — thereby showing this American’s lack of knowledge of Australian culture — out trotted a medium-sized, short-haired dog with a yellowish-ginger coat, white feet, a very busy tail, and a look that meant serious business. The wild beast looked at me with more than mere curiosity. A look more like rage in those piercing eyes, as if to threaten me; as if he were asking: “Who in the hell do you think you are, invading my territory?”
Jim informs Dinky that I am just some passing guy from the swamps who says he plays the piano, so Jim pleads for Dinky not to be too rough with me, like he had been with the last guy. Then he assures the dog with a bad attitude that I will be getting back on the bus soon.
I swear I saw Dinky give Jim even more attitude, as if the man needed to realize that nobody could tell The Dink what to do. Yes, I am sure I heard a low snarling and saw attack teeth starting to appear, indications to me at least that Dinky knew that Dinky was really in charge of the situation. Not the cocky Kris Kringle.
Then Jim informs the group that Dinky the Singing Dingo is the most famous Dingo of all time, complete with his personal website, fans, talent agents, canine back-up singers when he is “on the road” and bank account. “Dinky” is also the answer to a question in the game Trivial Pursuit. That although he is descended from rough-and-tumble descendants that go back 10,000 years, the Dink’s primitive self only rarely is unleashed, and we should hope (pray silently if we want) that Dink’s ancient genetic code will not appear from its atavistic past and demand the blood of the enemy. At this point, Jim looks at me as if I were the enemy whose blood would soon be all over the piano keys.
“Anyhow, Dink, are you ready to perform?” asked Saint Nicholas.
The dog looked at Jim, hoping for a bickie, which Jim readily supplied him from seemingly out-of-nowhere. Dink grabbed it without a sign of appreciation, gulped the treat down with one big swallow, hopped onto a little table next to the piano, and then hopped on to the piano keys.
“Play something he can sing!” Jim demanded. “For the sake of all of us, don’t piss him off!”
I decided that given the present situation, the most appropriate thing I could offer to Wild Man Dink would be either “How Much is that Doggie in the Window?” or “March of the Gladiators.” I decided the former ditty seemed less likely to elevate Dinky’s primitive desires to maul me until the gore spewed and spurted from my every orifice — an offering to the Great Dingo Daddio Deity. And as soon as I played my first note, dog wailing commenced, with Dinky’s head lifted high and backward, with his feet firmly planted atop the road-kill piano keys!
“Sing, Dink, sing!” shouted the big guy. The Superstar of the Outback was alive with energy. And I lived to tell the tale of my accompanying a superstar. I have the photo to prove it.
For more information about Lake Chapala visit: www.chapala.com