Windward Review

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Volume 18, 2021

Harlan Yarbrough

Dry Land

Even in wet times,

neither Lake

Coongie nor Lake

Goyder reached

more than ten feet

in depth at their deepest points.

After two full years of drought,

neither held the slightest trace

of water, and their fissured clay

beds looked and felt as dry as

the adjacent Sturt’s Stony Desert.

The changing climate meant the

droughts came more often and

lasted longer, and no water flowing

in from what Cam had grown

up calling Cooper’s Creek but

had finally learned to call Cooper

Creek, which meant both

lakes remained dry more often

than not. Goyder, at the extreme

tail end of that branch of Cooper

Creek and with high dunes

north of it, always filled after all

the others.

Cam had expected the

drought to turn Lake Yamma

Yamma’s bed to a dry clay pan,

and it didn’t disappoint him

when he’d reached it two days

earlier. Eight hours on outback

roads had brought him as close

as he wanted to drive his old

dual-cab pickup to whatever

might remain of Lake Yamma

Yamma—or Lake Mackilop, as

the old-timers called it. He’d

spent that first night in the back

of the pickup, with the tailgate

open for maximum air circulation.

The next morning, Cam

had walked the five hours to the

middle of Lake Yamma Yamma’s

dry bed, looked around, and

taken a few pictures.

He’d brought his summer-weight

sleeping bag and

thought about spending the

night in the middle of the dry

lake. In theory, the rains could

return at any time, but Cam

didn’t expect them this year.

Although everyone called this

season “The Wet”, the warmer

ambient temperatures and the

El Niño over the Pacific made

significant rain in the Warrego

Ranges extremely unlikely.

Even if Cooper Creek did,

against all odds, begin filling

Lake Yamma Yamma, the lake

could not possibly rise enough

overnight to reach a level over

his head. If he found water

seeping into his sleeping bag,

he could simply stand up and

saunter back to his pickup.

Even the remote possibility

Civility + You

35

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