May 8, 2010

Illustration Friday: Fearless

'The Blue Rhino and the Red Rose'

Not that I tell many people, but at the age of ninteen, while I was busy drifting around up the north coast, I worked in a circus for three months.

Now it wasn't any ordinary circus. The circus was run by a chap called Ralph - who liked to call himself Raphaelo whenever some pretty young ladies were around. In Ralph's circus were all manner of dangerous animals - lions, tigers, Tasmanian Devils - and even rabid dogs.

But the most dangerous animal was the Blue Rhino.

This particular Blue Rhino was so dangerous that it was said that he'd once killed a king rat with nothing but his stare (my personal feeling was that the rhino had probably breathed on the rat - and the rat had died of asphyixiation).

Rhino breath aside, the unusual thing about Blue Rhinos is that they have very delicate feet and skin. So, just like horse, they have to be 'shoed' (only once a month), and scrubbed down with special rhino baby shampoo twice a week.

Cleaning a rhino down, let alone shoeing one, is no easy task. In the olden days the only way to get the job done was with a tranquilizer gun. But with rhinos having skin as thick as your arm, this was easier said than done.

That was till Jim came along.

Now Jim, I am led to believe, just wandered into the circus one night, just wandered in out of the darkness and sat down by the fire without so much as a -by-your-leave.

Jim, who was about eight years old, didn't say much, but old Ralph took him under his arm, and adopted him like a son.

It wasn't long before the circus folk noticed that Jim had a certain way with animals. When Jim would approach a lion or a tiger or some such he'd start humming weird tunes under his breath. And what do you know? You could see the animal relax straight away, almost as if it had been hypnotised.

But the Blue Rhino needed more.

I don't know who first discovered it (I think it was Jim), but the smell of roses, especially red roses, had an wonderous calming effect on the Blue Rhino.

And so on washing day, and especially shoeing day, Ralph would arrange for a dozen of the best red roses available to be sent to the circus. Solemnly he'd hand them to Jim. Jim would take them in his own quiet way, stick them out in front of him like a weapon and enter the Rhino's cage.

Immediately the Rhino would go quiet, cease it's grunting and pawing of the straw, and bow it's head, sniffing delicately at the rose perfume with it's gigantic nostrils.

And behind Jim, tiptoeing ever-so-gently in their muddy boots, would come the strong circus hands whose job it was to scrub down the Rhino before he became aware of their human smell.....

I stayed with the circus till February that year, when Ralph decided they were going to head inland to the back of Bourke.

We parted company at some lonely crossroads just north of Gilgandra, myself standing very still, watching the circus wagons rumbling into the west, spewing red drought dust clouds behind them until they were nothing but tiny specs on the horizon.

A few hours later a double decker cattle truck came rumbling down the dirt road and I hitched a ride down to Sydney. The truckie let me off outside Kensington Uni, where, later that day, I signed up for the first Intra Neural Cavity Research course.

Time passed.

Several years later I heard that the boy Jim had dissappeared one night up in the northern territory, just as quietly as he'd appeared. Rumour had it that he was eaten by a giant crocidile - but Jim was an animal whisperer, and I don't believe that for a moment.

The story doesn't end there though.

Three weeks to the day that Jim left, the Blue Rhino just lay down on its bed of straw, and, with a faint intake of breath as if it were smelling the perfume of roses, it just died.

The circus struggled on for a few more years, but Ralph, denied the company of both his boy Jim and the Blue Rhino, gradually lost interest in travelling. The circus shrank and dwindled, the old hands began to leave, and one day the three remaining loyal circus employees arose from their beds to discover that Ralph himself had vanished.

In 1987, on my very last visit to Gilgandra Town, the local doctor told me an unlikely story about Ralph. He claimed that Ralph had moved to Banjang Provence in Northern Indonesian with the idea of starting up another circus. There he'd married a one-legged Dutch girl he met on an internet dating service. Rumour has it that, though Ralph was eighty-seven years old, he sired a boy child.

I also heard he called the boy "Jim'. But I don't know.

You can't believe everything you hear, can you?

Happy mother's day! :D

Apologies for the rush story. It's a first draft, written in situ. And the spelling! Thankyou very much to everyone who wrote and told me the blog was down!

And I will get back on that last post. Thanks to everyone who were kind enough to guess. :)

see you in a couple of  years - er I mean hours.


  1. Yay, it's back ;)! What a fun story Andrew, love the illustration too. That's one big horse shoe, oops I mean Rhino shoe. Yes, I imagine shoeing a Rhino would be quite the task and bathing one maybe worse. I have trouble bathing my dog, can't imagine trying to soap down a Rhino!

  2. i love the title The Blue Rhino and the Red Rose.

  3. wow, cool banner here! as always, superb work!

  4. amazing, as always.
    my fave part: the raven, as always.

  5. I love this Blue rhino and the red nose.

  6. Roses are red,
    Rhinos are blue.
    Another great one,
    by mr. Andrew.
    I'm a huge rhino fan! I think they are so cool, but I don't think I'm FEARLESS enough to present one with a dozen roses. Although I did brave it with my ex-wife. :o) Love the story as well.

  7. Hahaha, I love Jack's little ditty.

    I love this piece. Absolutely love it. Yay for his wrinkled blue skin and that glint in his eye. Yay for the muted colors, save for the roses. Yay for Jim's haircut and old-world attire. This is a fairy tale, and I can imagine settling down in a big armchair with my hot cup of ginger and honey tea while you spin a fantastical yarn by the fire.

    Did you know that the children of men who sire them past the age of... I forget, but let's say 50, are more likely to have schizophrenia?

    Now I can't get the thought of Larry King out of my head.

  8. I suppose it's OK to have an overwhelming need to be spoiled rotten when you are near to extinction(and a blue rhino is probably a zillion times more rare than other rhinos, no?).

    What with the special rhino shampoo, shoes and red roses for a bath, the creature gets more pampering than I do!! Perhaps I could interest you in a special brand of 'No Stinky Rhino Breath Mouthwash?? Really, you're beyond weird. You're like genius weird! Hahaha...

  9. Beautiful work!

  10. ... but of course the Freudian-Lacanian lit critique is sneaking out of me and has something about... the mommy (OK, we are dealing with an Australian here: mummy) image in a rhino... red roses as erotic symbols... hmmm... a bit Oedipus complex...? :D

    Other than that (or with that, rather), it is a very sweet, nice work, Andrew. Great rhino texture! Now that I know you are in the digital 3D business, I am just amazed - 3D has always been mystery to me (in digital technique).

    Love your new banner too.

  11. Hello... err now what happenes when I push this red button? Umm. Click, cler, rup. It makes a noise. Lucky. That means it must be useful.... :)

    Thankyou for looking at my work and taking the time to comment. Again :)

    Karen thanks for the heads up on the blog being down. That will teach me for pushing that 'red button'. And thanks for reading the tory.
    It's fun to do the image then try and guess what the story is about.

    Appolonia : thanks. They are sort of wierd opposites hey? By the way, you look very familiar. :)

    the enigma ; thankyou very much :)

    Ah mita, what Ravens? :) Banjang Provence? I looked it up on Wiki; It said :A very small provence, famous for being the Indonesian Provence where Ralp the Circus Master lives.

    Ces: :) He has a blue nose. :)

    Jack: that rhyme is a crackup, thankyou. Your ex wife was a metaphorical Rhino?

    Bella, that is very funny. Thankyou for the "yays'. I didn't know that about schizophrenia! (In fact Ididn't even know how to spell it)

    Amalia: how can I be weird, as far as I can see, I am absolutelutmentatolly normal. (But I haven't checked the mirror for several years, so you could be right :)

    Thanks coralmoon. I really like your paintings. I admire anyone who works in plain air. I find it impossible!

    Hya Kinga : thanks for telling me about the blog as well. You know, I was worried about the freaudian slip with the huge horn you know.
    We see things differently.

    Glad you like the banner. I did it one afternoon when i was supposed be doing my TAX aaaaaaaargh. :0

    see you :)

    By the way: my taxes are finished after three days aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaghh Yipeeee.

  12. Beautiful story and a wonderful image. You´re writing is so vivid (is that the right word?), it makes me visualize the whole story in my head.

  13. wow, the blue rhino feels like is about to come into my living room. I am ready to get my things and run for cover or I better go get a dozen red roses instead. I loved the story (a bit sad)and once again you made me laugh with the Rhino breath reference. Beautiful work, great story!

  14. is it really a true story? you are confusing me.
    i mean was jim really able to nail that rhinoshoe alone? and the rose thing how is that the rhino did never taste the flower or one day she might have eaten the bouquet and the boy really ended up in the rhino's stomach and perheps it made her very sad and broke her heavy heart what she had done to the little whisperer and in that very sadness she didn't want anymore her heart to beat

  15. Hello, Janne and Linda and Apollonia and Maria and LiLi:

    thank you for taking the time to read that story. I never know whether the stories work or not so I appreciate your comments.

    I admit that I like LiLi's version as well, that the Rhino ate the boy, but I am afraid LiLi that I have only recorded what really happened, and so must tell the truth.

    I looked at your blog, you have a large future!


Hya! Thank you so much for leaving a comment. I appreciate your time and thoughts.