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Near-News: 'Worst Xmas ever' tale of woe bedevils Orange man


By staff writers

THE Central West relatives of a man who is still recovering from the Worst Christmas Ever have recounted in harrowing detail the scene that greeted them at his remote Top End property this Christmas.

Weather-beaten Vernon Wibble, 52, was due to host Christmas lunch at his 989,000-acre Outback spread in Haggard Hills West, north-east of the main mining wedge.

He had been badgering family members for 23 years, and finally convinced 18 siblings, cousins, parents and children to make the long journey from around the country and, in some cases, overseas.

"Vern is still feeling very weak about what happened this Christmas," said Wibble's cousin Len "Chickens" Borderman, an Orange local.

Borderman had flown from Orange into Alice Springs via various locales, and then taken a connecting light aircraft flight into the official Tiny Town of Numb.

He had then driven 745km through the hot and dusty badlands to attend the groundbreaking holiday beano at Vernon Wibble's property.

Borderman explained that Wibble had accidentally left the fridge door ajar two days before Christmas, shortly before heading off to shear sheep in searing 47C heat at one of the property's outstations.

"Vern returned late on Christmas Eve to get the house in order for the guests," Borderman revealed.

"But all the food had gone off – the turkey, the ham, the salads, the prawns, the milk, the butter, the cakes, the fixings for ambrosia, the strawberries, the trifle and a wide selection of heavily-aged cheeses and loose deli meats. And all the ice to keep the drinks cool had melted."

Borderman, who has lived in Orange since 1972, said the stench was so putrid that upon returning to the house, Wibble's cattle dog Mortein had promptly turned around, walked slowly but with purpose off the property, and died by the side of the road.

Les Borderman - who was travelling with third wife Beryl Borderman - finally arrived at Wibble's house on Christmas morning, after a torturous three-day journey from Orange involving heavy and light aircraft, buses, trains, rent-a-cars, horse and carriage and hot air balloon.

He found his cousin Vernon - who he had failed to properly keep in touch with over the years - sat on the lino floor of the kitchen, staring off into the middle distance.

No presents had been wrapped, and the Christmas tree had been tipped over.

Baubles were strewn about; Wibble had nicked a toe after treading on a yellow one.

The turkey before Vernon Wibble came at it. Wiki Commons.

"The pathos was overwhelming," said Len. "I didn't know whether to laugh or to cry, so I did both."

Psychologist Merry Whey, who spoke with Wibble's approval, said it would be a long, slow recovery for Vernon, but that he was already showing signs of progress.

That said, Wibble has been advised to never host Christmas lunch again, as Whey said there was "a fine line between getting back on a live horse, and flogging a dead one".

"The guests will be talking about this for decades to come," she said thoughtfully.

"It will be passed down through the generations: 'Do you remember the time Vernon made a mess of Christmas?' 'Do you remember the ants, and the cockroaches the size of a child's shoe, feasting on the rotten food?'"

Whey added more: "Eighteen people turned up that fateful day, although Vernon's 89-year-old mother Maureen did succumb on Boxing Day to heatstroke at the Numb portable base hospital-cum-bingo hall. The ripples from the pebble in the pond ..."

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