Happy Australia Day! We wanted to share the slightly controversial national day of Australia by sharing a paragraph from the recently released Walkabout by James Vance Marshall. The action so far: a plane has crashed in the middle of the Australian Outback, leaving two American children as the only survivors. Stranded in a harsh environment, they run into a young Aboriginal boy, in the middle of his initiation to manhood, his Walkabout, a solitary walk that can last as long as six months.
Late in the evening they came to the head of the valley, where it petered out on the edge of a million-acre plateau. The trees were still with them, though not so thickly-growing now. So were the birds. The chat-chats, the corellas, and the sweetly-singing bell birds; and, a little before dark, the bustards. There were three of the bustards. Foolish, inquisitive birds, rather like scraggly turkeys, they followed the children almost at their heels: sniffing, scratching, and plump enough to satisfy the hunger of three. Slowly, imperceptibly, the bush boy dropped behind; edging every closer to the foolish birds. Suddenly—as if it had been thrown—his hand flew out. His fingers closed round the baby bustard’s neck; cut off its life in a single twisted jerk.