National Geographic : 1992 Apr
sharpened into knives. Then suddenly she whispered: "Perentie." Yellow dots on gray skin made the lizard nearly invisible against the rocks. At this cool time of year it should have been resting in the caves to our backs. But on this day it had come out to sun its half-grown body-longer than my leg. Perentie teeth are sharp, but I wasn't worried, knowing Mabel's deftness with a rock. She was holding one but decided to spare the beast. She would wait "until next year, when this perentie is bigger." ROSSING into southwest Queensland, Medford and I picked up an old stock route that once led drovers to the Birdsville Track. Grilling a gift of beef from Atula as we camped that night, I heard a car pass in the distance and counted it the eighth we'd met that day. This is the Channel Country, a flatness laced by the braiding channels of the Geor gina and Diamantina Rivers that periodically overflow with rains borne from Queensland's northern tropics. Rainfall here is the highest in the Simpson region-11 inches a year on average. Fields of lilac pussytails and golden grasses were witnesses to the wet summer past. So too, as we pushed south, was a road crew, healing the mauled track with heavy machinery. Recent showers were not making their work, or our driving, easier. The trick to getting through flooded sections of a dirt road is to head straight down the middle, where the earth is most compacted. The boggy ground is to the side. Medford, a seasoned country boy, knew this. Rushing to reach Birdsville before nightfall, he was long down the trail when my truck stuck fast, listed to port, and gurgled.