Mardi Gras in Bullamakanka: Celebrations reach all the way to the outback

Bullamakanka Pearl of the Outback
Photo: QN Magazine

Thanks to the wonders of the internet, previously isolated gay communities in rural hamlets can now participate in their own small way in the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras. QN Magazine’s regional Queensland correspondent Pearl of the Outback explains how.

Mr Humphries recently hosted something the young folks call a Mardi Gras Watch Party.

He does not claim to be the only gay in the village but does claim to be the gay in the village, based on the assertion he once marched the length of the main drag in drag.

Of course, a few of us are old enough to remember quite differently his much-recounted frocked up dash from one end of Bullamakanka to the other.

Mr Humphries is known otherwise, in his absence, as Miss Parks and Gardens.

It is his particular penchant to wander the municipal recreational reserves rather late in the evening in search of kneeling enjoyment amongst the prickle infested flora.

He was doing exactly that one Mardi Gras weekend in the early years of this century. On that particular evening, in an effort to entice other creatures of the night, Miss Parks and Gardens divested himself of his clothing only to later find said clothing gone.

Bullamakanka is not a large place, at least not until you find yourself naked on the opposite side of town to your domicile.

In search of something to conceal his modesty, Miss Parks and Gardens visited a nearby Hills Hoist where, to his dismay, the only available apparel was a loud floral nanna frock.

Donning the gaudy garment, he dashed for home. Luckily the town goes to bed at 8pm and the only person awake was dotty old Widow McTavish who waters her petunias at midnight, come rain or moonshine… usually moonshine.

As Miss Parks and Gardens sprinted by in a floral blur, Mrs McTavish recognised the dress of the widow Hildebrand, her long-time rival at the Bullamakanka Ladies Bowls Association, and the following morning reported her to the local constabulary for prowling the streets late at night.

“Bingo!” thought the copper.

“I’ll look into it,” he told Mrs McTavish.

Mrs Hildebrand once chided him as “impertinent” for enquiring when her husband died. Payback time!

A tagger had graffitied the water tower one recent Sunday night, so the cop raided the 67-year-old pensioner’s cottage in search of spray paint.

He found none though the hunt did turn up a pair of the late Mr McTavish’s Y-fronts, missing since 1996.

I’m reminded of that dress because when I arrived at Mr Humphries place for the Watch Party, he had the bloody thing on all these years later.

“You’re still wearing that old rag.”

Mr Humphries chuckled nervously. He knows I remember the truth but am unlikely to bring him undone unless provoked.

However, the fawning minion at his side was outraged.

“That dress should be in a museum,” he sputtered, in thrall of the tale of Bullamakanka’s long-ago Mardi Gras Parade.

Over the years Miss Parks and Gardens’ mad dash has morphed with every telling to an epic saga of one brave man’s pioneering stand for gay rights in remote rural Australia.

Now in the year 2019, the dash is said to have occurred in broad daylight and the frock itself especially chosen for its bright colours and high visibility, purchased, they say, on an excursion to Brisbane made just for that purpose.

Apparently, shopkeepers shuttered their houses of business, school children deserted their classes and farmers rode their tractors from nearby paddocks to cheer our hero on.

Give it another year or two and I reckon he’ll have added in a firework display off the Bullamakanka Creek Rail Bridge to rival Sydney Harbour on New Year’s Eve.

We older queens raise our eyebrows and tolerate the nonsensical mythmaking.

Like all similar communities we do possess a couple of nasty old bitches inclined to bare their teeth at the merest hint of blood, but they hold their tongues mindful of the dexterity of Mr Humphries’ tongue and the easy welcome it extends all-comers.

We’re good at looking after ourselves in the bush, but sometimes one tires of DIY.

The younger gays fall for the story hook, line and sinker. Of course, there’s a new one every year.

They finish high school, come out and two months later flee to Brisbane or Sydney, never to be seen again.

However, during that couple of months before their escape, they turn to Miss Parks and Gardens for tutoring in gay culture and history, preparatory to their introduction to civilisation.

With a certain inevitability, each year as news of an impending Mardi Gras reaches our outback outpost, the latest young thing suggests it is time for a re-enactment of the famous march.

But of course, Miss Parks and Gardens dare not wear that dress outside the confines of her comfortable abode.

Not that the actual owner of the dress would care. Mrs Hildebrand is dead and lies alone in the Bullamakanka graveyard.

No one remembers if there was ever a Mr Hildebrand, a subject much debated at the Bowls Club the night after her death, but she lies just a hop, skip and a jump from Mr McTavish to Mrs McTavish’s unending exasperation.

Mr Humphries had the cheek to attend the Hildebrand wake but made an early departure after a poorly received remark about a Y-shaped coffin.

The Ladies Association are easily pissed off, but especially so when someone has the cheek to say out loud what they’re all silently thinking.

Mrs McTavish is still alive and will never forget that dress. It was the cause of the entire town snickering about the discovery of her late husband’s underwear in Gladys Hildebrand’s undies drawer, four years after his death.

Miss Parks and Gardens checks the obituaries every week for the name Florence McTavish.

You can guarantee Bullamakanka will see a Mardi Gras march, the March after she dies.

And eventually we old queens will die, and history will document the original Bullamakanka Mardi Gras of 2004.

They say history is written by the victors but sometimes it’s actually written by those who outlive everyone else.

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Pearl of the Outback

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