I was in Brisbane on Sunday and idly chatting to someone when a text arrived and I checked it.
The words of whatever I was saying died on my lips as I read the shocking words of the text.
The person I was talking to saw my face turn white and I struggled to tell them the news.
The great Mount Isa cartoonist, Bret Currie, had died suddenly at his home on Saturday. He was just 60 years old.
The news hit me hard.
Bret was one of the reasons I came to Mount Isa in the first place, attracted to become the editor of a city's newspaper which had a regular cartoonist.
For the best part of four decades, Bret had been seeing the funny side of Mount Isa, usually as soon as he scrubbed up after emerging from underground.
As far back as 1999, the North West Star reported Bret was leaving the mines to concentrate on his artwork.
But he always kept coming back. He juggled life in the mine and in the studio for rest of his life.
He was as Mount Isa as they come.
I recall the first time I met him not long after I moved to the city in 2016.
Bret had a serious look on his face and I asked gravely what was the matter.
"The news", he said.
What about the news, I asked, wondering what I had done wrong.
"The news", he repeated, "It is not interesting enough. There's nothing to draw about!"
Almost immediately the frown on his face disappeared and I got the big Currie smile.
He told me about the old days.
"McCullough, Molony, McGrady," he rattled off all the mayors.
"Every time they opened their mouth, they said something I could draw about," he said,
"But now the council is boring. Everyone is too careful about what they say!"
Talking to him made me realise how much colour and movement were important to understanding news and not just for cartoonists.
I made it my immediate goal for the news to be truthful, yes, but interesting too.
Nevertheless I was never as successful as Bret in capturing the essence of Mount Isa.
His pictures were worth thousands of my words.
Every time I posted one of his cartoons on Facebook, it broke the local Internet.
Bret had a way of seeing things that got right to the searing heart of the matter.
He wasn't just funny, he could do anger too.
His cartoons about the high cost of air fares, were a portrait of searing anger that cut through the slick gobbledygook of airline suits like a beautifully crafted knife though the flabbiest of butter.
And his portraits and caricatures were brilliant.
He had a way of capturing the look or the essence of people with a single brushstroke.
Everyone who was anyone in the Isa was "Curried" or wanted to be.
I knew when he had hit home because the following week the phone would be ringing hot with people asking for his number for a commission for someone or some thing.
There can't be an office wall in the city that doesn't have Currie artwork on it.
He had a particular affection for fishing and the Lake Moondarra Angling Comp and his annual artwork for that was always a joy to behold.
Bret, I will sadly miss our chats and even your complaints that the news was too bland.
Life was all the better for knowing you.
To Jenny and family, my deepest condolences on your loss.
It is a grief shared by all Mount Isa and everyone who knew the great Bret Currie.
- Derek Barry