Tony’s Notes From The Bony Novels (Part 9)

Posted on Tue 04/12/2011 by


Preface for the Posts on Tracking.

One of the first things that stood out to me is in the way that Upfield described tracking, and here I will deal with this subject at length and in some comprehensive detail.

Again, this brings up the hackneyed phrase ‘Political Correctness’ and the reinforcing of those age old stereotypes when speaking of the aboriginal people.

When looking at the Upfield novels in a cursory manner, this may even ‘seem’ to be the case. However, if the novels are read in depth and considering how the nature of tracking is mentioned so often by Upfield, he, in fact, deals with it not as a reference to a perception of a stereotype, but as a skill that was noticed at the time, and then put to specific use, mainly for the resolution of crime.

It was a skill that was more than just following a set of footprints.

Here, in his novels, Upfield treats this as that skill that it was, but also as a Science, one that only the aborigines had.

It was something that could not be taught in a short time, as it entailed years of actually having to do this on a daily basis, something only those years of experience gave those aborigines.

I may seem to be placing emphasis on this ability of tracking, thus giving the impression of adding to those stereotypes, but what I wanted to explore was this ability to be able to do something like this, something that we as white people could not comprehend.

As I detail this Tracking Science over the following Two Posts, I want you to understand that all this information is only what I gained from reading these Upfield books.

Upfield has Bony as being one of the beat trackers that there has ever been, but in the text of some of these novels, even Bony learns some things that even he could not do when it came to tracking.

There were just so many different aspects to tracking, and as relatively simple as it may sound, it was indeed a Science, almost of forensic ability.

Bony treats tracking in much the same manner as modern Police treated fingerprinting, and that’s a little difficult to comprehend.

Bony knew instinctively that the tracks of each person were individual to them, and to them only, in much the same manner as that fingerprint.

However, saying that and then proving it were two entirely different things, mainly because the law was structured towards white people, for white people, and by white people, and trying then to explain something that only the aborigines knew as such a defined skill, even as a Science, was something he could not explain in a manner that would be believed.

As simple as you may think of it, each time Upfield has Bony either tracking himself, or using other aborigines to do some tracking, a new aspect is introduced to add to the total sum of tracking.

So, as you can see, the perception of it being something simple in nature then becomes part of the attitude that makes you tend to believe that this in fact IS reinforcing those stereotypes, when, because it is such an involved subject, it is a lot deeper than what it seems on the surface.

That is the real reason I will be taking two Posts to describe tracking.

Keep in mind that now, barely 50 to 80 years since Upfield wrote this series of books, that art, the Science of tracking is a skill that has been virtually completely lost, not only to white people, but even to those aborigines.

For them, before the white people arrived in this Country, tracking was something each aborigine had to know, just as much as we as white children learned the alphabet, the aborigines had to learn tracking in the same manner, as their lives virtually depended on it.

As a people mainly of hunter gatherer nature, they had to know the individual tracks of all those animals, because those tracks ‘told’ them things.

So, while I may seem to be giving inordinate space to what may only seem something of a minor nature, it is in fact another of those things that Upfield introduced into his Bony novels in a manner that may seem to be incidental, but he was actually preserving part of those skills that is now lost forever.