DONOVAN: Sally-Ann

Written by Sally-Ann Donovan, nee Christie  March 2008

John and I had our first smoke but it didn’t go without incident and this is the story of it

The hotel had a very small room that the cigarettes were kept in. The room wasn’t as wide as a single closet but it went back deeper and it had a door that was cut in half so you could just open the top half or the bottom.  John (my brother of 2 years 11 months older than me) wanted me to pinch some ciggies for him and his mate to smoke, but he was taller and was scared he would be seen trying to get in via the bottom door, so of course, had to con me into getting them for him.

From here, I have to give you a little more of a description of the hotel and its surroundings so as to continue with the story at hand.  The beer and spirits were kept in a huge tin shed ( I mean massive) the beer cartons were loaded onto wooden crates and John and I had made a cubby out of them at the side of the beer shed surrounded by dry spinifex (which of course anyone who has lived in the Northern Territory needs no description of).  Across from the beer shed, separated from the main area of the hotel by a dirt road was a small concrete shed, which was the hotel laundry, this with the hills hoist, minus a few rungs, one lemon tree that hungover and which the goat had almost totally demolished and the one and only outside tap with a very short hose attached – just long enough to water what was left of said lemon tree.

Hope everyone so far is getting the picture, now back to the ciggies.  I of course, being the snotty nosed brat in pig tails wasn’t about to let John have all the fun, so had said, I would pinch the smokes, but only if he gave me one as well. Having shaken hands on the agreement, I nicked a packet as well as the agreed boxes of matches.  John and his mate (being older and wiser) decided to high tail it on their bikes and head for the bush to partake in their mischief, me on the other hand, went straight to the cubby, gleefully smug that I could do the same as John.  I picked out a match and struck it against the side of the box, stunned that it actually lit, lost it out of my hand, where it landed in the spinifex next to wooden cubby and beer shed.  POOF … up went the spinifex, and off I ran to get the hose across the dirt road from the only tap within cooee of the cubby.  Ahhh but yes the hose wouldn’t reach and the blaze was now well and truly underway, the cubby was no longer standing upright and the flames where licking the top of the beer shed, I had no other choice than to run yelling FIRE!  … FIRE!

Once the fire truck had gone and the beer and spirits where safe (anarchy would have reigned if the beer had not been saved) Mum and Dad looked at me with my soot covered face, and being the quick thinking snot nosed pig tailed brat that I was, burst into tears and said “John did it and he took off on his bike”.

Oblivious to all the commotion that had been going on John and his mate arrived back at the pub smugly thinking that they had gotten away with their smoking, only to have Dad and Mum waiting with stern faces and a good firm hand at the ready, don’t panic John never let on (but he made me pay for it for years)

Mum and Dad eventually found out the truth once I had my first child (I was 20).

See the truth always comes out (eventually).

We used to drive from Tennant to Alice to buy a pair of shoes and to watch the Henley on Todd.

We had a festival each year in Tennant and one I can remember, was the float the Hotel put in, a big black swan made from chicken wire and covered with crepe paper,  made on the back of a trailer and everyone on that float had to help hold the swan’s bleeding neck up.  John and I sat on top of the pub roof and had the best view in town.

Sally-Ann Donovan (Christie)