Almanac Life: Yarrawonga Rhythm



The rhythm of Yarrawonga. We follow the shade around the elms as the hours tick away. The sun circles above and we shuffle to its relentless beat. Actually, the sun doesn’t circle, we circle it. Thanks Galileo. Good work.


The Passenger rests on my lap. Cormac McCarthy’s latest sweeping novel. He makes you work old Cormac. This one features the Kid, a hideous tormentor, and Western and Alice. Crumpled souls all of them. It’s a tortured piece of work. Brilliant and mad. If there is only one thing, he writes, then there are no things because the one thing has nothing to look at, no reference point, no location, no thought because thought is the result of conversation. Or something like that. My head hurt. I need to read this book about five times. He’s a genius.


“It has snowed lightly in the night and her frozen hair was gold and crystalline and her eyes were frozen and hard as stones.”


Sentence one. Holiday reading.


A kid yells out. Not one of mine thank goodness. Those days are gone.


“Can I have a lemonade Dad?”








“Because why?”


“Because you have too many of them.”


He leans back in his chair and sips his Carlton Draught can.




“Yes mate.”


A boat hums into the bank from out of the glare. Squeals accompany it. Kids on a blow up biscuit are flung in a circle as the boat turns hard left. They hit the wash. Some bounce out, some don’t. Joyous laughter. A summer laugh. Its light and breezy and frivolous and belongs to children. I remember it well. Winter laughs, though no less effective, are boisterous and heavy. They carry winter’s blackness on their edges. The distinction is clear.




I’ve become a bit of a water snob as the years have progressed. Where once I would have skied around the Horn of Africa in a storm, now I need the water to be as close to mirror clear as it can get. Glassy. Still. It’s getting there. Tiny bugs dance across its surface, a sure sign the wind is dropping. I can almost sense the giant Murray Cod eyeing the bugs off from the depths. But they wait. They are patient and old. When the boats go, and the water becomes inky dark they pounce.


Cicadas croak it the shadows, singing their own operas. Cockies lark about above us. They always seem to be enjoying themselves. The heat is penetrating, its sting reaching nasty proportions.


I squeeze into my buoyancy suit. I need to take a deep breath before doing up the central zip. I’ve noticed that as 30 years of age turned into 40 and 50 and now nearly 60 the breath required to get the zip done up is increasing in magnitude. The suit must be shrinking. It’s the only explanation. I slide down the small embankment, ski in my left hand, and feel the Murray’s wisdom. The temperature is just this side of not too cool. Perfect. I stand on the ski so it sits on the lake’s bottom and bend over to get my left foot in the bindings. The binding’s cords get pulled tight until comfortable. The left foot binding is a rubber shoe-like contraption that wraps around ankle high. Once in I lean back and slip my right foot into the rear binding which is a simple foot wrap, like a Greek sandal. The water hurries down my back.


They throw me the rope and chug off to get the slack out of it. A bit over a third of the ski is out of the water on a sliding angle resting under my backside.




The boat roars and I’m suddenly wrestling with a V8 engine. Keep the pressure on the right foot pressing down, head up. Let the ski do the work. A good boat driver will pull you out of the water without too much fuss. Too slow and you feel like you’re drowning in slow motion. Too quickly and you need a shoulder reconstruction.


I’m up. No matter how many times I do it there is still a thrill in emerging out of the wash. Not quite like surfing a wave which is more exhilarating, like a helicopter lifting off, where you feel the ocean’s might rumbling under you. It’s simpler than that. But that is its beauty. The laws of physics dispel the boat’s power to the ski which is now a part of you. There is an intimacy about it.


The water is like silk but there is boat roll from Malibus further out in the lake, dragging other kids around in biscuits or knee boards or skis. Boat roll is bad. It causes the ski to bounce rather than glide. It also requires more work from the back leg to keep stable. That brings about fatigue which usually results in a stack. I pull out to the left of the wake and hit the roll. My ski bounces left then right uncontrollably, and I get pulled forward. Usually fatal. Imminent face plant. But I manage to bury my right foot, the back one, which recovers equilibrium and I hit the wake upright. Great save! Applause from the boat. Broad grins. We’ve all been there.


Jetting across the water on a ski is as close to flying as we can probably get without leaving the planet’s gravitational pull. Speed is good. It’s like you have the water at your mercy. It succumbs to both boat and ski which cut a swathe through it as if they are Moses himself.


After two circuits (each one about 2kms) I let go of the rope. Ski over. Heart rate up. Cardio work done for the day. Buoyancy suit off. Ski gloves rest on the ski in the sun amongst the other paraphernalia of summer water fun.






“Good water?”


“Fabulous. Bit of boat roll……………………….”


“New gloves?”


“Yep. Christmas present. I call them my T1000s.”




“You idiot”


Arnie fought the T1000 Advanced Prototype in Terminator Two.


I shuffle my chair from 6 o’clock to 1 o’clock under the elm as the sun continues on its way to Europe. By about 5pm it will be positioned at 10 o’clock. We’ll have a few cans whilst keeping an eye on the water. Sometimes as the sun is perched on the horizon like The Big Orange in a Queensland paddock, and the twilight of the day is bringing with it the silence of the evening, skiing is at its best. Glassy water with warmth captured from the day’s heat, a subtle breeze that wouldn’t shake an autumn leaf from an elm, a purple sunset that fades to black, and the rumble of the boat sending the Cod into a deep dive.


“Dad can I have a lemonade?”




More stories from Dips O’Donnell can be read Here.



To return to the  home page click HERE


Our writers are independent contributors. The opinions expressed in their articles are their own. They are not the views, nor do they reflect the views, of Malarkey Publications.


Do you enjoy the Almanac concept?
And want to ensure it continues in its current form, and better? To help keep things ticking over please consider making your own contribution.


Become an Almanac (annual) member – CLICK HERE





About Damian O'Donnell

I'm passionate about breathing. And you should always chase your passions. If I read one more thing about what defines leadership I think I'll go crazy. Go Cats.


  1. Kevin Densley says

    This was an enjoyable read, Dips, and I felt as if I was in the hands of a good writer throughout. You paint your picture well in this piece. One – of quite a number – of things I liked was the use of telling little details, like the references to Murray Cod – these added a pleasing resonance. (Maybe you, like me, have a fascination with that fish – I posted a poem of mine about it on the Almanac a while back.)

    Also, I think you’re doing well to be water skiing as a man of er, ‘mature’ years (you are roughly my age). I can’t imagine myself putting on the skis and shooting along the Murray!

  2. Cheers Kevin appreciate the thoughtful comment.

    Yes skiing is getting harder as the years tick past. But it’s a joy to blast out of the water. I’ll do it for as long as my shoulders the legs can handle it.

  3. Excellent as always,Dips you take us along for the ride.I admit I’m land only the amount of times I’ve tried water skiing are-Ashwood c March b Lillee no score

  4. Ha! Excellent RB!

  5. roger lowrey says

    Marvellous yarn that Dips.

    I well recall in Mildura circa 1981 that serendipitous feeling where the boat driver’s intuition and my own preparedness became congruent (for once) just long enough to launch me.

    A great experience akin perhaps to that sweet feeling in your hands when you play a well executed golf shot without having to look up and inspect same.


  6. Pretty fair comparison that RDL. I experienced that golf buzz once and probably only once. Golf and I haven’t come to terms with each other.

  7. Love it Dips, what a wonderful holiday, from kids and lemonade, enjoying a good book and hell, why not, a bit of cardio on the ski. You can feel the heat and the languorous atmosphere and the enjoyment in your easy going but observant prose. A summer holiday as it should be! Incidentally, I have The Passenger and Stella Maris ready to go in Koh Samui in less than 30 days but who’s counting!

  8. Cheers RK. I’m not sure about Stella Maris but will probably read it. He gets me in does old mate Cormac.

    Koh Samui hey? Magnificent. Enjoy. Fair bit of relaxing I’m tipping?

    As a kid I thought Koh Samui was something that was eaten with black bean sauce.

  9. I was given a 1979 Cormac for Christmas. “Suttree.” Yep, he makes you work. And yep, genius.
    Sentence one:
    “Dear friend now in the dusty clockless hours of the town when the streets lie black and steaming in the wake of the watertrucks and now when the drunk and the homeless have washed up in the lee of walls in alleys or abandoned lots and cats go forth highshouldered and lean in the grim perimeters about, now in these sootblacked brick or cobbled corridors where lightwire shadows make a gothic harp of cellar doors no soul shall walk save you.”

    Beauty, Dips.
    I’m sat under those trees with you right there right there. Look at the big sky. Look at the water.
    Lemonade, beer. Ha.

  10. Nice to hear from you ER. I don’t know Suttree?

    The sky up there is a whole other piece. Extraordinary when viewed whilst floating on the lake at night on a lilo.

  11. John Harms says

    I love when a bloke finds his spiritual home in Yarrawonga.
    Brendan Fevola

  12. I think I have a few spiritual homes. Is that bad?

  13. John Harms says

    Ideal, I would have thought.

  14. A great read. Thanks, Dips

  15. Colin Ritchie says

    Those lazy, hazy crazy days of summer! Nothing like them. Fab read Dips.

  16. Cheers lads.

    Laconic is a great word to use in the warmer months. So is hazy! There are definitely summer words and winter words.

  17. Frank Taylor says

    Beautifully put Dips and extremely well written.

    Having had a permanent caravan site at Chinamans Bridge Caravan Park, Nagambie in the late ’70’s and early ’80’s I was instantly transported back in time.

    A few of us were hard-core. 1st up had 1st ski. This meant at literally the crack of dawn – no matter what was ingested the previous evening. Well, well before 6 o’clock am.
    (Dragging off a black swan trying to take off right next to you while the sun, a molten orb, is JUST over the horizon and glowing right in your face while the sound – that very particular sound – of a ski slooping, slurping, slicing through the mirror surface was my idea of heaven in those summer years……. (Yes, I’m a left foot forward slalom skier to.))

    Skied/bare-footed until the another boat came out onto the water, usually about 9 or later. Went in, had breakfast and spent the rest of the day mucking around – teaching newbies, building pyramids a la Moomba, and the like.

    You are right about the evenings – when everyone else went in for dinner about 5 o’clock, out we’d go again. Until dark. Until we couldn’t see.
    Chasing the best water.
    Must’ve shat everyone else in the park, but we didn’t care.

    Haven’t had a crack for over 20 years now, i might find a way somehow soon before it is (physically) too late.
    Loved it Dips

  18. Magnificent Frank. Great tale. I never got to bare foot stage. I admire anyone who takes that on.
    Last summer we completed an “amateur” pyramid. Huge fun. Jacki, who stood on our shoulders, was regularly in Moomba.
    Gun skier.

Leave a Comment