Before Steve Irwin there was Bazza. Bazza was the original wildlife warrior, dog whisperer, worm digger and most of all, a fighter. I can still hear his bashful voice and words of wisdom.
“Mangroves are the nursery of the sea. If you don’t look after them we’re all stuffed.”
He had a way with words.
“Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.”
“Be modest in victory, humble in defeat.”
He would give away his last two bob for someone in need and when he looked at me, his first born daughter, he emotionally whispered, “She’s a bottler.”
His life had not been easy. His Mum died at twenty eight from breast cancer, leaving five small children behind to live with his hardworking father, who drowned his sorrows in drink. Family stepped in to raise the younger two, but the older three boys were children of the wild.
Bazza learnt about the world through exploring. He was small but feisty. He soon learned to fight for every morsel of food, scrap of love and place at the table.
As a boxer he won 69 of his 72 fights. He passed his skills onto others and was soon travelling the world to Indonesia, Thailand, Tahiti, Canada and Germany. His fighting spirit cost him a trip to the Moscow Olympics which many Australian athletes boycotted.
“ You must always do the right thing , even when it’s hard. Follow your moral compass.”
When the floods arrived in ‘74 Bazza was off at the Commonwealth Games in Christchurch. As the waters rose he tried to find out what was happening in Brisbane. He was told it had been washed off the face of the earth.
I was so scared and became very anxious without Bazza there. When he arrived home he told me that there were caves under Redcliffe where all the water went and we would never flood as badly as many other places. I don’t know if that’s true but it sure eased this little girl’s fright and made me feel safe again.
Our home always smelled like the sea. Dad had a licensed patch to dig sandworms in the bayside suburb of Wynnum. Bazza kept fisherman happy all over South East Queensland with his bags of worms. One early morning dig , despite having on three pairs of socks and heavy work boots, he made the mistake of stepping on a stingray basking in the shallows.The stingray was very unhappy and it’s poisonous barb pierced through those layers and into his foot.
Bazza dropped down and lay in the mud in agony. No – one else was around.The murky purplish blood pooled as he untied his boot from his rapidly swelling foot. He left his socks on and tied his t-shirt around his foot to stem the blood flow. Mud had oozed through his socks and into the wound. He had to act fast. Still no-one around.
“Bugger this. The only person you can rely on is yourself.”
Dragging himself through the squelching mud and sand he hopped into his Honda Legend and steeled himself for the drive to hospital. Luckily the bottler had given him this automatic to drive. It was the best car he’d ever had. And like homing pigeons these two legends headed for home. Past the Mater Hospital, past the Royal Brisbane, past Prince Charles, on and on he drove.
As he reached the Hornibrook Highway he began feeling woozy. He floored it, clenching his teeth against the pain. Just as the pain became unbearable he saw the entrance to the mighty Redcliffe Hospital. He careered into Emergency and out of the car, stumbling as the orderlies arrived with a wheelchair. His job was done.
He nearly died from the ensuing infection. But Bazza was a fighter, a warrior who lived to fight another day.
“Come on, that story is not true,” people would say, “ No- one would die from a stingray barb.”
But before Steve Irwin there was Bazza.
Freelance writer, wife and mother of three sons, occasional supply teacher and aspiring romance author, Michelle Beesley can be most often found in a coffee shop chatting with friends or beside a rugby field cheering on her favourite teams.
Michelle is a prolific—albeit reluctant—traveller, keen walker, bookworm and yoga enthusiast who loves anything pink or sparkly (including champagne!).