The most interesting person I met in Australia this time gave me hell. I was taking photos of his opals and he told me, crankily, to stop doing that. As he expressed security concerns, I promised to delete the few pictures I had taken. That’s why you won’t see opals here.
His name was Jack Absalom. While he ranted, he told me that opals are found also in Hungary and Mexico, but that Australia accounts for 98% of the world’s output of them and that this means close to $100 million each year to its economy. He also told me that he had found every one of the opals I was admiring, and that he had the largest collection of them in the Southern Hemisphere. I don’t doubt either claim.
I had never heard of Jack Absalom, but Grant had. Grant, his wife Cherril, Ruth, and I spent a day exploring Silverton and Broken Hill, Australia. After all of us enjoyed Broken Hill’s Geo Centre together, Grant wanted to make one final stop, The Absalom Gallery at 638 Chapple Street. We had trouble finding it, but a friendly Aussie led us directly to it. Grant said that he had enjoyed Jack Absalom on TV and wanted to meet him.
Jack Absalom, I figure, is as big a celebrity in Australia as Steve Irwin was but is not as well-known beyond its coastline. Grant, who lives in Geelong, warned me that Jack Absalom has a reputation for being prickly. He certainly was but, in my opinion, he has earned the right to be outspoken after 91 years on this planet. He will be 92 next November, and I don’t doubt that he will be around to celebrate this birthday. Jack Absalom grew up in the Nullabor, one of the most desolate and difficult places in the world. He has been a miner, has written 7 books so far, starred in 22 TV shows. etc. In other words, he’s a true Renaissance Man. He started painting what he observed in The Outback in 1972 and now sells his art works in this gallery in Broken Hill, which he calls “the best place in the world”. He has lived there for close to 70 years while raising 5 children.
The on-line Bull Moose Patrol commented that they had “the impression that he’d have no problem knocking someone on their tail if the situation called for it”. Luckily, while I was in Absalom’s Gallery, I remained upright. Jack even let me take his picture!
Jack Absalom died in March, 2019. I’m certainly glad that I got to meet him. Little did I know that my words about him would turn into a tribute. Broken Hill has truly lost one its most distinguished residents.