The piercing screams of the Devil-Devil Spirit are so loud it can wake you at night, as he roams aimlessly trying to get across the weir.
He is said to live in the Macquarie River somewhere between the Talbragar River and Butler’s Falls, according to Aboriginal tradition.
The legend of the Devil-Devil Spirit is just one of the Dreamtime stories that the local Wiradjuri tribes are talking about since the river has flooded.
“Years and years ago old Mr Peckham went down to that site in a horse and cart and something pulled him in the river and he was never found,” recalls Wiradjuri woman and teacher Di McNaboe.
The story passed down to Mrs McNaboe by Wiradjuri elder Mrs Howie is thrilling.
“A lot of people died in that section of the river, there are deep holes there and we always warn kids at school not to swim there,” she said.
“At Devil’s Hole there is a hole that hasn’t been bottomed, it must go into the underground rivers.
“Some people don’t know these things and put themselves in danger by not knowing the river system.
“Young girls and fellas should not go wandering around the river at night,” she said.
The Wiradjuri people are from country that is bordered by three rivers, the Macquarie, Lachlan and Murrumbidgee.
There are large Wiradjuri communities in inland centres including Dubbo, Wagga Wagga, Griffith and Condobolin.
The number of Indigenous people who make up the Wiradjuri tribe is unknown, according to the Dubbo branch of the NSW Aboriginal Land Council.
For many years Wiradjuri people have lived along the river but these days only a handful of locals call the river home.
Mrs McNaboe is a descendant of Sergeant Alec “Tracker” Riley, the famous Aboriginal police tracker who served with the Dubbo police force between 1911 to 1950.
“Tracker” Riley was the first Aboriginal tracker promoted to rank of police sergeant.
In 1943 he was presented with the Kings Police Medal for service by Lord Wakehurst, the Governor of NSW.
Mrs McNaboe has a master’s degree in the Indigenous language and teaches the Wiradjuri tongue at West Dubbo Primary School.
She is an advocate for language revival and said the floods have created an avenue to teach locals about her culture.
“When I have been down at the river looking at how it’s flooded, I have been telling people about the river and the stories associated with it,” she said.
“The flood means it’s great for hand fishing, the old fellas used to be able to get behind the fish and scoop them up with their hands on to the bank.”
She attributes this knowledge to Uncle Tommy Reilly, a Wiradjuri elder.
Watching the Macquarie River flood has brought back memories of the 1955 flood, where about 600 Aborigines living at the Talbragar mission were stranded and forced to leave their homes in boats, Mrs McNaboe said.
“Some of the old uncles were in a car trying to get to the people to tell them the water was coming. By the time they got there all the old women were in the trees,” she said.
“The people at the mission weren’t allowed to live in town - out of sight, out of mind you know. They had to get in boats to get them out of the reserve,” she said.
Aboriginal artist and teacher Gail Naden, who was the face of last year’s Yellow Pages, said that the flood is an integral part of bringing wildlife back to the Macquarie River.
Mrs Naden lives in Gilgandra and is part of the Wiradjuri and Kamilaroi tribe. She said she was excited to see the land replenished.
“After a 10-year drought the flooding is wonderful - there is an opportunity to replenish the earth, the minerals will get back in the soil and the flood will bring the fish back again,” she said.
Despite the damages to the city, farms and infrastructure, Mrs Naden sees a spiritual significance to the floods.
“It’s hard for farmers who have lost crops but disaster brings humanity together again,” she said.
“I think God is in the place of healing and restoration, whether it’s drought or storm we always overcome the darkness.
“Water is a source that sustains life,” she said.
The floods have prompted many Aborigines to start talking about their culture again, like Dubbo man Mark Ebsworth.
“The river is part of our stories, it links us to the land and a lot of Aboriginal people live along the river,” he said.
“It’s now great to go fishing and camping, there are so many birds and lots of snakes too.
“Back then we all grew up and lived off the river,” he said.
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