“Lost?! I was so lost that I passed the Black Stump three times from different directions!”
I waited for the laugh, but my joke had fallen flatter than a shot duck.
“The black stump?” I continued, waving my arms a little, “Three different directions? Lost?”
Young Mate yawned then asked, “So, where’s this black stump?”
I started laughing, but stopped because, a) I was the only one laughing, b) it dawned on me that he was serious, and c) I was suddenly feeling very old – and a little sad.
Not for the first time did I ponder that in this glittering age of instant information, we appear to be getting stupider. But, here was a chance to share some Australian folklore, using actual words!
“Well,” I began, “the Black Stump is a fabled place so far away that not many people go there.”
“Oh,” he beamed, “Blackwater!”
“Ah, no, it’s a little further out than that,” I replied.
“Right, Longreach then.”
No. Once on a visit to Longreach, I jokingly asked a bloke in a pub for directions to the Black Stump and he pointed out the window to a distant point far beyond the western horizon.
In Perth I was surprised to learn that the Black Stump was somewhere way back east; basically from where I’d just come from.
Young Mate interrupted my musings. “Got it!” he crowed, “according to Google, the Black Stump is in Blackall.” This was news to me. “Um, are you sure?” I asked.
Holding up his phone, he showed me the evidence and, as far as he was concerned, that was the end of the story. As Young Mate pottered off, I wondered if his phone could help me navigate through the maze of the modern age, because right now I’m a little stumped.