Over the years I’ve met some amazing Australian bushmen and the knowledge they have to make life in the bush easy never ceases to amaze me. Nothing gives me more pleasure than the moments that present themselves that enable me to pass the tips I’ve received from these characters on to those who are just starting to explore this wide brown land.

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Recently one of those moments arrived when two of my nephews announced they were heading to a sandfly-infested camping spot in the hunt for a feed of fish. No one much went to this spot apparently as the sandflies were “as big as ya head” and “so hungry they’d gnaw the tail end out of a low-flyin’ duck”. Instantly I broke into helpful uncle mode and gave them the tip to save them from imminent sandfly disaster; an old bushman’s failure proof piece of advice that I’m positive will make its way through to their sons and grandsons.

“Righto boys, listen up, this’ll get ya sorted. Save up all the lids off ya stubbies as the afternoon goes on before the midgies start chewin’. As the sun starts to set and the little buggers start ta hit, get the lids and fill them all to the brim with brown sugar ‘n’ place them as close as ya can to each other in a circle around your camp (the more ya consume the safer you’ll be!).”

They sat and listened intently as I gave them the secret to being able to survive the fishing spot from hell, asking their mother for brown sugar to pack and then asked me how it worked. I said “well, what happens is, as the sandies head for ya camp, they smell the sugar, they’ve got a real sweet tooth ya see boys? When they get to the sugar they hook right into it and it rots their teeth, then they can’t bite ya!”.

I thought at that moment they’d give me a barrage of abuse for pulling their legs but instead, full of confidence, they stuffed their brown sugar in their bag and head for the river.

Apparently, it didn’t work completely but they reckon it definitely slowed them down a bit and I just felt proud that I’d kept an old bushman’s yarn alive for another generation.

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