A good friend was rapidly going blind, but life in the red centre would not afford the kind of medical care he needed.
Until help came in the form of a phone number scribbled onto a small piece of paper.
The person who handed the crudely written note to Richard Davies had told him 'Fred' was a "nice man in Sydney" who would know what to do.
Upon calling the number, Mr Davies was confronted to find, the Fred he spoke of was none other than world-renowned eye surgeon Fred Hollows.
"I told him about the situation, and he said, 'bring the blackfella in'," said Mr Davies.
The cause of Mr Davies' friend, Richard Driver's problems was optic atrophy from a tumour on the pituitary gland.
"Fred sat us down and said, 'if we don't operate, in six months he'll be dead, and he'll go mad from the pain'," said Mr Davies.
"But the surgery could kill him too. Richard [Driver] just said, 'I know where I'm going if I do'."
Mr Driver was sent to await surgery at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital. In the adjoining room, he met a police sergeant from Redfern who was there for treatment of a slipped disc.
Before a near-miss with death had turned his life around, Mr Driver had been a heavy drinker and a fighter. A police officer was not who he would likely befriend.
"This policeman said to me, 'I never thought I'd be praising a blackfella, but I'm telling all the guys at the station to get down here and meet him'," said Mr Davies.
"He asked me, he said, 'what can we do [to make more connections like these]?' I said, 'treat them like people'."
Mr Driver survived the surgery, but his eyesight could not be saved. Soon after his stint in Sydney, Mr Davies and his wife Sue welcomed their fourth son into the world.
"When he returned, I told him, 'put your hands out', and placed our newborn son, Paul, in his arms. I wish I had a camera for the look on his face!"
The hunt for uranium brought Richard Davies to the Northern Territory in 1979.
It was meant to be a temporary posting, just while the then Sydney-based geologist was contracted to the mines by the Australian government.
Like many Sydneysiders, Mr Davies became accustomed to commuting a long distance to work.
But unlike most city commuters, Mr Davies' journey spanned 34 hours and 3,033km via the Landsborough Highway into Northern Territory.
He traversed that gruelling distance regularly for three years, beginning in 1980.
A sudden injury while walking through long grass to his parked four-wheel-drive stopped his work in the mines but kept his life in Tennant Creek.
"I damaged my back in an accident," he said.
"I never knew what happened, still now I don't know what happened.
"I loved my job, intellectually it was stimulating, it was exciting and I was earning piles of money."
Soon after, Mr and Mrs Davies were commissioned by the Australian Indigenous Ministries to take up residence in Tennant Creek. This time it would be the whole family making the move to the red centre.
It was a difficult adjustment for Mrs Davies, who was then pregnant for their third son.
"She hated Tennant Creek. She had no friends there, and it was a hard place to live.
"If it rained south of Alice Springs, the roads were flooded and you'd be stuck."
"Some years, I'd be away half the year, just a month at a time."
The couple would go on to raise four young sons among the rolling grasslands of the red centre.
Working as an itinerant teacher around the Barkly Tableland proved a challenging privilege for the former geologist.
"Non-Indigenous people compartmentalise our lives into the spiritual and the not-spiritual. Indigenous are not like that, everything has a spiritual element."
Admitting the justifiable reputation the towns have come to endure, Mr Davies confesses the struggles in Tennant Creek and Canteen Creek were not always so profound.
"When we lived [in Tennant Creek], there were eight police there, and that was enough.
"Now there are over 80. Unemployment is rife, gangs have formed, there's tribal jealousies, sexual assaults. It's pretty depressing, actually.
"There wasn't the violence there is now. I would walk down the street at night, but I wouldn't now."
The family lived in a tin home with strategically minimalist interior design. Upon their last return, however, Mr Davies recalls, their home had a particularly sparing appearance. All their furniture, he said, someone had "borrowed the lot", never to be returned.
Describing the time as "working the hardest work in the world", even as the difficulties mounted, Mr Davies said it was always "a privilege to work alongside the Aboriginal community".
Just as injury kept the Davies in the Northern Territory, so illness has forced their return.
"In 2012, I started having heart troubles," said Mr Davies.
Specifically, he began suffering from atrial fibrillation.
"The flying doctors would come to us every so often and electrocute me to get the [heartbeat] rhythm back.
"Then after three years, they said, 'we don't want you out here anymore'."
When the couple chanced to be in the Riverina for a couple of weeks in 2015, they once again made the decision to uproot their lives. This time, they would come to call Cootamundra home.
"There were no bars on the windows, no security guards hanging around stores, people seemed nice, and walking around, we thought, 'this is a friendly little town'."
This Saturday, the Davies will return to Canteen Creek, spending their last few months in the town that has served as their home for more four decades.