The Pink Panther and The Croc

The Pink Panther

 and

The Croc

Bob makes model aeroplanes these days. The old bloke’s memory is not quite functioning as well as it may have done in the past. The ravages of too much home brew and a life of adventures and near misses have taken their toll. This little episode happened back in ’72.  Bob and Steve at the time, a couple of 18 year old larrikins, were stationed at the Army barracks in Darwin. Thursday night of pay week, saw them out drinking at the pub in Larrimah. They had the next few days off and intended checking-out the local female population of the area. They had been told they could on occasion be very obliging There were only a few locals in the bar but it was only early. After the beers had been ordered, there was a lull in the conversation for a good 5 minitues or so. Bob was thinking. Steve had learnt in their yet as brief acquaintanceship to keep silent when this happened. This is where Bob’s great inspirations came from.

“Ye know Steve, I reckon’ that if some joker were to borrow that there Pink Panther for a little while the pub would pay plenty to get it back.”

“Nah they wouldn’t Mate, you’z can get them at the Easter show in Sydney all the time.” Steve was from Sydney so he knew these things.

“This one’s just a bit bigger is all.”

“Even though this one’s bigger and is the pub logo.” It was a part question, part matter of fact statement that came from Bob. They had not drunk enough to continue on with the idea and dismissed it as a rather stupid thought even though Bob hadn’t formulated his new vision nor had Steve heard it.

Sober, the next day, after an unexpected big night on the grog and none of the pretty young girls they had been led to belief frequented the place, the idea seemed even more stupid to Bob. But then Bob got to thinking about it. By the time he and Steve got down to the pub later in the day and had a few drinks under their belts Bob’s plan did not seem so useless. Together over quite a few more drinks they worked out how to take the Pink Panther and make some money out of their exploit. Realistically, Bob worked it out; Steve just nodded his head and came along for the ride. It was like that with these two. Bob was the one who had all the brains.

On Sunday nights the pub closed early. The two mates drank at the bar as usual until closing time when it was left up to the backpacker bar maid to tidy up and lock up. Bob and Steve bid their good nights and left. They sat outside in the ute and waited for the young girl to get in her car and drive off. Then they swung into action. They got out a pair of heavy duty bolt cutters and cut the cable that was attaching the Pink Panther to one of the posts of the building. Then they picked up the large ornament put it in the back of the ute lying down of course and tired a tarp over the top and off they drove easy as could be. As is the case with any well thought and laid out plan.

The next part of the plan was simple. They put an ad in the local paper stating that anyone who was prepared to pay a minimum of $50 could have the Pink Panther. Once the money was paid the winner would be told where this icon could be picked up. Simple enough!

The ad created a sensation. Three bidders showed a keen interest. The Daly Waters pub, the Larrimah and some other pub in Katherine and with the cross bidding the price eventually reached $200. After which, Bob in his heavily disguised voice, rang the Larrimah to let them know that there bid was successful. He advised the publican to place the cash in a white paper envelope and marked Mr Jones and to leave it on the bar of the Imperial in Katherine.

Once Steve had collected the money, Bob using his disguised voice again, rang the Pink Panther and told them where to pick up their emblem of identification. Then the ad appeared in the local newspaper telling the whole district where the Pink Panther was resting which was opposite the traffic lights at Daly Waters.

Our villains had pulled off a successful coup with four times as much money as they thought the ploy was worth and with no one suspecting them at all. But a few nights later they got a little carried away with the drink and were having a good laugh about it when a tourist interrupted their joviality wanting to know how come they know so much about the affair. “We’ze locals Mate, its common gossip.”

Escaping that one Bob made a decision.

“Mate, this might be a good time to change our drinking habits and find a new pub in Darwin.”

It was about a year later when Bob was sitting down reading the paper during smoko when he came across an article, written by a cadet journalist about the most kidnapped Pink Panther in Australia. The article stated that a new rivalry had developed between the Larrimah pub and the Daly Waters pub and how one would steal it from the other and the other would pay a ransom and by ceversa. Then the ransom money would be donated to charity. The newspaper article quoted that as much as $500 had been paid for the return of the Pink Panther. Bob was furious and slung the useless rag to the ground.

“The bastards stole our idea. I am going down there to sort this out.”

They drove down the next weekend. On the Stuart Highway where you turn right into Larrimah there is a service station and caravan park with a large crocodile seemingly being caught.

At the pub there were photos of the Pink Panther and where he had been found after the various ransoms were paid and there were certificates of appreciation from all the charities that had received the ransom money. It had certainly put Larrimah on the map, not to mention the increase in the hotel and tourist trade. They then went down to Daly Waters and the same thing was taking place but they had extended the idea with the collection of other memorabilia namely the things that tourists had left behind.

“The Bastards.” Were the only words he could get out.

But Bob was not one to be defeated easily. His mind ticked over. What about the croc? So two great minds set to work on how and when the croc would go walkabout. But this time they were thinking big. They were not going to be swindled a second time.

“This time we take it to a city and let them proper market forces take their toll. I’ve got a mate who wouldn’t mind helping out for a quid or two.”

Steve as usual nodded his head in agreement.

So it was organised the bolt-cutters, the trip to Townsville, the time off from work, the ad’s in both the local rag and Townsville courier. This famous stuffed croc responsible for eight known deaths countless injuries and hunted down by the territory’s most famous croc hunter. You know the fellow, Hollywood made a movie about him recently, that everyone is cashing in on. Well this relic which was recently on display in Larrimah in the legendary outback was for sale.

The bidding was fierce but finally it was sold for $2000 to its owner naturally who counted on and received all the publicity and accolades that he thought he fittingly deserved. Bob’s army mate got his 10% organising fee and once they had taken out the petrol money and costs for the ads et cetera each entrepreneur had a tidy $700 in his pockets.

This episode stopped all the silliness of the Pink Panther kidnappings. The fees were getting too high and the whole thing was getting out of hand. Besides there was that initial $200 that was never actually donated anywhere.

The croc was never chained up again because on the way home from Townsville it was stolen from the back of the ute that it was being transported in. Never to be seen again no matter how many appeals were made for its return. Some say that it was friends of the Croc Hunter’s that rescued The Croc and it is stored someplace in Arnhem Land in his memory.

As for Bob and Steve they stopped for lunch and a beer at Camooweal on the way home and were no sooner over the border into the Northern Territory, about 20 km from Avon Downs that’s right where the cop shop is, than the revenue squad pulled them over for a breathalyser test. Bob got done for mid-range. Steve was also breathalysed even though he was the passenger, and told to drink lots of water and wait three hours before driving. Bob as a result of this lost his driving licence for six months had to pay a fine of $600 and then on top of that he had to pay court costs and solicitors fees of just over $400. Which cut their profits down considerably.

But their troubles were not over yet. The speed limit in Katherine is 50/60kph. Steve was doing just on 65 with a cop car behind him. The dog was in the back of the ute as usual when Bluey spots, on the footpath, another dog that he decides he doesn’t like. He bolts off the back of the ute after the other dog. Steve hit the brakes, then both Bob and Steve jumped out of the vehicle leaving their respective doors open and separated the two dogs that were going at it hammer and tong like their clans had had a vendetta going for centuries. Steve eventually managed to put bluey back in the ute. Such a display of wanton anarchy was too much for the Katherine peacemaker, so he threw the book at them. First he nailed Steve for exceeding the speed limit in a built up area $87, stopping without adequate warning another $87 obstructing the normal traffic flow $120 stopping in a no standing area $137 dog not secured in a moving vehicle $90 and finally just to cap it all off dog loose and not on the lead in a built up area $220 add to that he could either contest the fines or he could just pay them save himself a lot of time and additional costs. The guardian of our laws had him cold.

The Two entrepreneurs were pretty silent the rest of the trip back to the barracks. It was Steve who breached the subject first.

“You know Bob we creative people never receive our just reward for our genius. We come up with these great ideas and schemes but because we always do the right thing someone else takes the credit and then because they ain’t smart enough to figure out how we done it they resort to them immoral ways to take our hard earned profits.”

John Audet

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