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Sunday, January 4, 2015

The Queensland Badlands

Horror Stretch

The 300 kilometre stretch between Rockhampton and Sarina is called the Marlborough stretch and is sometimes referred to as the 'Horror Stretch' because of a long history of murder, robbery and assault on the highway. Now it’s called the Horror Stretch because of all the fatal accidents in the fatigue zone.

Our family drove the Marlborough stretch every second year when we were kids and on our way to visit the grandparents in Sydney. We didn’t have air-conditioned cars back then… or seatbelts. Mum would sit with my baby brother on her lap in the front and my sister and I would draw lines on the back seat forbidding each other to cross. Mum would reach her hand back every now and then to slap us into submission. Or Dad would, whilst driving his unseat-belted, squabbling children.

Scotto and I drove through the Marlborough stretch today on our way home after our holiday.

“You know the Marlborough Man?” I said to Scotto. “He comes from here.”

queried Scotto. “The guy on the horse with the cigarettes?”

“Yeah,” I replied smugly. “The macho guy who’d come on the screen before a movie started. This is where he used to ride around rounding up cattle. My Dad told me when I was a kid.”
As I perused the monotonous panorama full of dreary eucalyptus trees, scrub and brownish grass it occurred to me the Marlborough Man probably smoked so much because he was bored shitless. 

The horse most likely smoked as well it was such a samey-same landscape. Hundreds of tedious kilometres of colourless bush and a mob of useless cattle to round up would lead anyone to chain smoke. 

The koalas probably shared a durry up in the trees. Maybe that’s why kangaroos have pouches… to carry their smokes in. I did wonder how the Marlborough Man avoided starting bushfires though with all the natural tinder around the place. Maybe he carried one of those portable ashtrays around in his saddle and shared it with the horse?
My mind wandered to the many unsolved murders committed on this desolate highway. 

Perhaps the dullness of the scenery coupled with the sticky heat led to murderous thoughts when wives had to sit as a captive audience listening to their husbands drone on comparing petrol prices at each town’s petrol station from Tweed Heads north to fudging Townsville? Who knows?
Anyway, I began to write this post and thought I’d do a Google search on the Marlborough Man and guess what?

He doesn’t come from Marlborough, Queensland. He comes from the United States and is called the Marlboro Man

My father lied to me. 

I must admit I always wondered why he rode around with a thick sheep skin coat on when it’s 40 degrees Celsius most of the year around the Marlborough district in Queensland. 

I wonder what other lies my father told me that I’ve spouted like a know-it-all for years?

What 'stories' did your parents tell you?