As the Village Turns 

Going Down Under

click to enlarge Leo and Ellie White are taking Buddy and Samantha to - Tasmania.
  • Leo and Ellie White are taking Buddy and Samantha to Tasmania.

F or the courageous, the world offers lots of amazing adventures and great challenges, bold quests that cause the weak to panic and run away -- to use the old expression -- "like President Bush when he sees a word longer than dog."

Leo and Ellie White aren't really embarking on that kind of adventure. They're not, for example, trying to find the Holy Grail.

But the Whites are doing something bold and adventurous. They've sold their home in Colorado Springs -- where Leo has lived for 24 years -- and in a few months will pack up their belongings and their two cats and move to the other side of the world. Tasmania, to be exact.

If you're like me, you're asking the obvious question: "Geez, isn't moving to Tasmania a bit of an overreaction to the idea of having Doug Bruce as a county commissioner?

The answer, of course, is no, it is not. (I know a group of people who vow to move to Siberia and raise yaks for the rest of their lives if Bruce is elected in November. The group is known as "the rest of the county commissioners.")

Buddy and Samantha

Actually, politics did play a small role in the Whites' decision to move nearly 10,000 miles away. Leo, a consultant for Digital who has traveled around the world many times and has lived in Colorado Springs since 1980, is weary of the politics that guide our nation and our village. A fly-fisherman of great obsession, Leo wants to live in a place that offers peace and serenity -- and rivers filled with trout. Ellie wants to be closer to her mother and her daughters. They live in Sydney, a one-hour flight from the Australian island state of Tasmania.

They made the decision earlier this year. They put their home up for sale and, unexpectedly, got an immediate offer that was too good to pass up. So they sold it and moved into a condominium on the West Side and continued the preparations for the big move. The main preparations are named Buddy and Samantha -- the Whites' giant, loveable cats.

Australia has never seen a case of rabies. This makes rabies far different than our vice president, Dick Cheney, who is seen about once or twice a year. To ensure that rabies doesn't take hold, Australian officials have strict and complicated laws about bringing animals into the country. Thus, Buddy and Samantha recently had computer chips implanted in their shoulders, and with each of the many vaccinations they receive, a veterinarian scans the information into the chips -- to be read later by Australian customs officials.

(On a related note, U.S. Homeland Security boss Tom Ridge has authorized the same shoulder-implanted computer chip for another cat -- once-popular singer Cat Stevens, who gave up all his fame and millions of dollars and changed his name to Yusuf Islam so that he could live with goats and be thrown off airplanes for the rest of his life.)

A rose every Monday

Leo and Ellie met in 1995 in the Bourbon and Beefsteak bar in a somewhat seedy neighborhood near downtown Sydney. It was a Sunday afternoon. Ellie and a girlfriend had come from a wedding. Leo, on assignment in Australia for Digital, walked into the bar with a Russian woman on his arm.

Ellie and her friend ended up sitting next to Leo and his Russian date. Leo and Ellie glanced at each other.

"I took one look into her eyes and said, 'That's it! I'm done.'" Leo recalled. "My date went to the bathroom and I slipped Ellie my business card."

Ellie, an Italian-born Australian resident whose family moved to the great Down Under when she was a child, finished the story.

"I thought, 'What a sleaze!'" she said of Leo. "I mean here he was with a date, handing me his card."

Then she smiled.

"But I put it in my bag anyway," she said. "You never know."

After their first meeting, Leo sent Ellie a rose. Every Monday. For the next two years. They were married in Colorado on Jan. 1, 1997, and moved briefly to Ireland, at the request of Digital. But in 1999, Leo returned to Colorado Springs with Ellie.

Can't stop smiling

Now, after nearly a quarter-century in the village, Leo is packing his bags. And his fly rods.

"Fly-fishing is a big love," he said. Leo is so enthralled with the sport that he even has a copy of my new fly-fishing humor book, Zipping My Fly, although this story is about Leo and Ellie and not about me so there will be absolutely no further references to this really funny book (hardcover, Penguin-Putnam, $19.95), or that it received a great review from the Los Angeles Times and would make a terrific holiday gift, or that if you buy a few of them maybe my children can stop eating dirt.

Anyway, these days Leo and Ellie check out real estate listings for Tasmania on the Internet. They recently found a four-bedroom home on 87 acres with two kilometers (1,487 pounds or 4,569 bushels) of a first-class trout stream running through it. The price is $245,000.

Leo wants to buy it.

Ellie says she wants to see it first. Women are funny like that.

And soon, they will be gone.

"I love Colorado," Ellie said. "It's just magnificent. But my family is down there and I need to be closer to them. My daughters might have children, and I don't want to be this far away."

Leo can't get the smile off his face.

"The fly-fishing," he says, "is supposed to be fantastic."



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