Lindsay Johannsen


Born July 1939 in Alice Springs, in the sun-baked vastness that is Central Australia. Educated there to Grade-seven in the local Higher Primary School (if "educated" is the right word here, exactly). Then, about half way through year eight...


Look this is not my idea. I mean I don't want to write this sort of stuff. "...and then, shortly after turning nine, Lindsay stubbed his toe in the bathroom, after which he had to wear a surgically-fitted shoe with a special toe support. Later, when he was..." I mean give me a break.

Instead let me me tell you a story. "Johannsen's Skooldaze", it's called, and I present it here at great expense and embarrassment to the Smashwords Management. ...Well, embarrassment, anyway. They'll get over it though ... if they don't excommunicate me first.

So! ...Like many a boy from the Aussie bush, little Linz Johannsen was a high-spirited, open-space-freedom loving lad. --Feral even, some would have insisted. As time passed and he grew older (a breathtakingly tautistic statement but there you have it), he found that, adventure-wise, this going-to-school business cut severely into his time. (Switch to first-person.)

In fact I really only attended school because I had to, having played "hookey" one time too many and had explained to me sharply and in terms clear and unambiguous how turning up punctually and putting in the hours there was something that simply "Had To Be Done" - especially should I wish to maintain amicable relations with my parents vis-a-vis food and shelter etc. And - you know: clothing.
And broadly speaking (in the wider context of all things schoolish and everything taken into consideration by and large), I was hopeless. To start with, my handwriting was just abysmal. (This was before the advent of ball point pens, you understand. Instead our desks had ink wells, into which we dunked the nibs of our pens - and, should the opportunity present itself with a low risk of immediate exposure - one of the young lady in front's pigtails.)
Many pages of my workbooks illustrated major WW2 air and tank battles, while their more formal sections comprised a great many blots and smears joined up by "writing". Other pages had been sequestered to make paper aeroplanes.
Then one day in Grade-six our teacher gave up trying to decipher my writing. Thereafter, he informed me, I was to print all my work in capital letters.
It wasn’t much better.
The thing I remember most, however, was the never ending stress-knot in my guts – caused generally by the contents of the previous lesson, the lesson in progress and/or the lesson immediately to follow. See for the most part I had no idea what the teacher was on about – possibly something to do with the fact that, instead of listening to what he might have told/been telling us, I was filling in the details of an exploding German Mk 3 Tiger tank or similar. Exacerbating the situation was the fact that I had failed to take note of such things as Horatio’s doings at the bridge, the population of the Pushquahti capital, Dunghwadi, or the principle product of Rasputistan – without even thinking about how I’d done nothing whatever of the last three nights' homework assignments and had neglected to get my diary signed anyway.
But there were things I found of enduring interest at school besides capturing certain archival moments of World War Two. These were 1) Astronomy, 2) Rocks and Minerals, and, 3) (from grade 6 onward), contemplating to distraction the delights of a roundish young lady named Mary Bennett – situated at once, I regret to say, on both the other side of the classroom and the other end of the intellectual spectrum to myself.
Regrettably (and naturally, I suppose), she spurned my every lunging attempt at friendship, regarding me I now believe as a primitive form of primordial life from Jupiter or somewhere. And whenever I waxed bold enough to utter something in her immediate presence she would clap a dainty hand to her lips and gasp in wide-eyed astonishment: “…it talks!”
Equally regrettably, rocks, planets and the way to sweet Mary Bennett's heart formed no part of our educational curriculum. And while rocks and minerals were certainly collectible, I’d never had to bother, because my Dad had amassed a pretty comprehensive collection himself over the years. I’d made a few minor contributions to it myself, here and there, and more or less knew what each of his specimens comprised.
Then one day our teacher announced it was Term Projects time (the subject of which I can’t actually recall). And, in due course, the well rounded, porcelain-skinned angel of my heart's desire (along with most of the other pupils) produced project books fairly bulging with cuttings-out, researched facts and information, figures, examples, maps, illustrations and diagrams etc – along with lengthy dissertations on the required subject.
I, however, handed up an exercise book containing about a page and a half of mostly indecipherable scribble, completed during breakfast that very morning (if "completed" is the right word to use here, as well).
The teacher glanced at each offering briefly as we put them on his desk. Then, when we had finished lessons for the day, we were called up one by one before departing. Interestingly, for some reason best known to himself, I was the last pupil to be so called.
"... I don’t know,” he said to me in quiet exasperation – after searching a while for just the right words. "... Is there anything at all – anything – that might fan some tiny spark of interest in your mighty brain?"
I could hardly mention my dreams of sweeping the fair Miss Bennett from her bicycle an instant before the runaway locomotive / quad-trailer road train / stampeding mob of wild buffalo ground her derangingly fragile and precious body to mince under its pounding wheels / hooves, so I said, "I um ... er... Rocks, sir. I'm interested in rocks."
"Well then," he replied (as a drowning man might grasp at an overhanging twig), "Why don't you do ... a project ... on rocks?"
Well, this was a breeze. I mean it was so easy I didn't even have to try. At the appointed time I handed in two project books and three trays of specimens, all indexed, cross referenced and described in detail. In the project books were hand-drawn and coloured reproductions of every geological map I could lay my hands on, along with a number I'd more or less made up.
Mineral specimens and rock types I’d not been able to find, outsource or steal from my Dad's collection were illustrated (though he did donate many items voluntarily), added to which was a short treatise on the basic principals of geology, complete with appropriate sketches and diagrams.
So you'll fully understand then, how it was only natural that, on entering high school (Grade-eight), I should take up the subject of Book-keeping.
The problem, see, was that all the bigger kids kept telling us younger oiks how difficult Physics & Chemistry was and how we should avoid it at all costs. More importantly, there was, at that particular time, no vocational guidance whatever available for us, let alone someone who might advise on a pupil’s aptitude – or give one a shove in the right direction, at least. And so, as a result of all this, I am prepared to confess here and now that not once did I ever manage to get a balance sheet to actually balance.
I mean how on earth were these two totally unrelated columns of figures somehow expected as-if-by-magic to arrive at the exact same total? ...Meanwhile, the beautiful Miss Bennett et al were up to profit and loss statements and bank reconciliations and stuff.
Then one day my Dad suddenly withdrew me from school. This was mid-way through the first term and it ended forever my dreams of selflessly saving the poor helpless Miss Bennett from one incredible peril or another – despite the fact that she had a right hook the envy of every boy in class and could look after herself pretty well anyway.
Apparently Dad wanted me to work at his little copper mine, a proposal that suited me perfectly in the main. There I could learn to spit properly and to swear; there I could be a man amongst men.
Later in life I was to visit the Geology Department of Queensland University as the guest of my friend Dr Steve Dobos. He was lecturing there at the time, and one part of his afternoon's duties that day was to review (with two others) the field-project work of four second-year geology students.
And I couldn't believe how little enthusiasm each of them showed toward their chosen subject. I have to say, too, that it was only with some determination that I was able to keep my mouth shut and to refrain from shaking them all one by one until their back teeth rattled.
So what was wrong with them? It was all so basic. I mean bloody hell, I could have done a better job of it when I was ten – and all whilst saving the entrancing Miss Bennett from her stalled bicycle and the sudden horrendous firestorm that was about to engulf her ... my fractured arm slung in the tattered remnants of my shirt and my geological notebook clamped firmly in my teeth as I abseiled her unconscious form the thirty metres down the escarpment I'd been mapping to the safety of the waterhole near my base camp.

So there you have it. We won't dwell on the subject of subjects other than the subject of geology here as I've probably gone on long enough.

Mind how you go. And remember: Failing eyesight is God's way of hiding your wrinkles.

Me? Coupla plastic lenses; vision like a hawk.

Rocks Johannsen*
*(Not his real name.) ...Oh yes; and while you're here, check out McCullock's Gold. It's even worse than this.

Where to buy in print


McCullock's Gold
Price: Free! Words: 90,690. Language: Australian English. Published: November 30, 2013. Category: Fiction » Mystery & detective » General
(4.00 from 1 review)
McCullock’s gold is an Australian murder mystery set on the northern edge of the Simpson Desert. There’s an abandoned 4x4, its missing driver, some missing gold, some bad guys and some bodies - plus a smart-arse Aboriginal mechanic who helps the local bush copper solve it all, while at the same time trying not to divulge any of the sensitive cultural information lying at the heart of the affair.

Lindsay Johannsen’s tag cloud