THYLACINE - The Case in Defence

Chapter 5

BUCK AND JOAN’S STORY

Buck and Joan are the writers of this ebook. We know the Thylacine still survives because we have seen two. We know we aren’t lying!

READ ON FOR OUR TALE...

I, Joan, am a native-born Tasmanian and proud of it. I call myself a ‘Queenie girl’. I’m proud of that, too... West Coasters are like that! Proud of the isolation. Proud of the remoteness. Proud of the rain. Proud of the uniqueness of our rainforests. Proud of our animals.

My home town is the centre of gross environmental damage - a place desertified by sulphur fumes from the local mine and the deliberate cutting and burning of surrounding hills. The result is a putrefied landscape, treeless and scoured.

Here is a recent satellite image of Tasmania. See that dirty yellow blob halfway down on the lefthand side? That is the area around my poor home town, Queenstown. Environmental rape, nothing less... and I still love it.

My reverence for things wild came from my father. Charlie was a keen bushman who knew a world beyond the devastation of Queenstown. I remember my first walk with Dad across those eroded hills to a different world - a world of gushing streams, clean air and unspoiled trees. My reverence for the environment had begun.

As a young man (c1916-20), Charlie’s first job was out in the bush as a surveyor. This meant camping in the wild. Dad loved telling his stories of life around the campfire… especially stories of the Tiger.

Since then, it was my hope that one day I too would see an animal with stripes. Little did I dream that I would see - not one Thylacine, but two! - in the most unexpected place and time!

Buck, my husband, shared this sighting!

Two Tasmanian Tigers seen by two people!

Buck honed his respect for unspoiled wilderness in the North Woods of Minnesota. When he migrated to Tasmania, Buck brought this respect with him.

Our surprise sighting took place in 1980. At the time we lived on the outskirts of Lilydale, - a small town in the North East of the state - where we owned and operated a small restaurant. At the time, Buck had been Journalist for the College of Technical and Further Education (TAFE), Northern Campus, Launceston. I, Joan, had recently retired as Head of Humanities at a local junior college in the same town.

I was 41 years old. Buck was 47.

Buck’s Words:

"Joan and I decided to drive in to Launceston to see a movie. It was a spring night in 1980… or it could have been ‘79."

"The movie finished about 10 o’clock. We decided to drive straight home by the Lilydale Road instead of by our usual route through Turner’s Marsh and Karoola."

"That turned out to be a lucky choice!"

"It was one of those crisp, cool nights you get in Tassie - no moon, but the sky was clearing to a shower of stars. It had just rained, so the road was still wet. I had my lights on full beam. I remember them shining off the road very brightly."

"We were coming down the hill just below the Mt. Arthur School when I noticed two animals standing on the road about 100 metres ahead. Most of our wild animals are nocturnal, so I’m always on the lookout - cars are a major cause of death for a lot of them. I’d had my headlight smashed a couple of times before, so I didn’t want to hit anything."

"They looked different for some reason. At first I thought they were two Alsatians, but then I knew almost immediately they weren’t."

"One of them was standing on the left side of the road. The other one - a bit smaller - was on the edge of the road about 10 metres on. They were side-on and in full beam. They were looking straight into our headlights. Maybe they were blinded, but I don’t think so."

"I still remember how they looked, I’ve thought back on them so many times. I thought they must have been a mother and her cub. I can still see the erect ears and large head. They were light brown, just like the dog we had at the time… sort of a light mutt brown."

"It flashed into my mind immediately - Oh, my god! I’m looking at a couple of tigers!"

"By this time I was within about ten metres of them and they still hadn’t moved... it was almost as if they were disdainful of the car. If I hadn’t put on the brakes I would have hit the first one, I’m sure. They still didn’t move... maybe they just wanted me to have a good look!"

"Just as well, because it gave me a chance to see their funny tail. It looks too big for them to swing it, I thought."

"The stripes were very clear... right down from the top of their backs to their flanks."

"Their tail especially struck me because of the large hump on the rear. It reminded me of our other dog that had recently been hit by a car and was left with a gammy hip that made her a bit crippled."

"The Tiger - that’s what they had to be - moved in much the same way as poor old Woofie... as if it had something wrong with its back."

"By now the little one was gone. I had to pull out to miss the big one, then I slowed down and stopped about 30 metres on."

"We both just sat there for a bit. I was so excited I could hardly breath! Then I whispered to Joan, ‘Don’t say a thing. Put what you have just seen in your mind and let it burn there.’"

"Then, without another word from either of us, I drove to the Mt. Arthur turnoff and turned around. I had in my mind we just might see them again, but - no! They were both gone."

"I drove back to the top of the hill, hoping to catch one more glimpse. No sign of them, so I turned again and stopped."

"Then I said to Joan, ‘Now tell me what you think you saw.’ When she answered, she had a bit of a quiver in her voice… "‘I just saw a Tiger,’ she said, then, more excitedly…"

"‘We just saw TWO Tigers!’"

"I honked the horn all the way home I was that excited!"

"I got on the phone immediately to tell our friends. I remember talking to Stan, Tony and Sue, George and Penny, and a few more. I was so excited my voice squeaked. None of them quite believed me, though. I think they thought we’d been drinking or something, but we hadn’t."

"It was a real anticlimax!"

"Next morning I called the Parks and Wildlife people. It took a while to get onto someone who seemed to show some interest, I remember. I remember him asking a few questions - not particularly scientific ones as I recall - and then he said, ‘Yes, it looks like you saw what you say you saw.’ I’m not sure whether or not he took my name... but, surely, he must have."

"What I do remember are his last words... ‘Now, do us a favour and shut up about it!’ That was the last we heard from them!"

Joan’s Words:

"Buck and I had been to the pictures in Launceston. We were driving back to our home in Lalla. I think it must have been 11 o’clock at night. The night was clear and I think there was a moon... I’m not sure about that."

"We were between Underwood and Lilydale, just about at the foot of the downhill curve when I saw two animals in the headlights. I could see them very clearly because they were right in front of us on the road and the lights were on full beam. Buck had to brake or he would have hit them, but they just stood there looking towards Brown Mountain."

"One was bigger than the other. The smaller one of the two was standing slightly behind and to the right."

"They looked very unusual... mainly because of their tails. I remember them being very stiff. They had big heads. Their stripes were very clear, extending all along the back and getting smaller towards the tail."

"Buck had to swerve or he would have hit them, then he drove on for another couple of hundred metres before stopping."

"We both just sat there for a couple of minutes. I think we were both a bit stunned. Then Buck asked me what I had just seen."

"I didn’t have any problem in telling him ‘a Tiger!’. I knew I hadn’t seen dogs. The stripes were a give-away. Buck said, ‘That’s exactly what I saw!’"

"When we compared notes, there was no doubt we had both seen the same thing. Buck turned around and we drove back, but they were gone."

"Our friends laughed at us when we told them."

Buck and I saw what we saw...

WE KNOW WE AREN’T LYING!

READ ON FOR MORE TALES...

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