As you holiday in the Outback…

The morning starts at Sparrow’s fart; what time that actually is reflects heavily on the constitution of the Cocky whose abode you’ve been taken into and of course the nature of the tasks set down for the day. Alarm clocks, though normally set, are rarely heard to ring; more likely to wake you will be the sound of heavy feet hitting the floor, kettles to the boil and a wide & endless array of jobs commencing in the dark. These jobs can often be punctuated by the occasional “sit down ya bastard!” directed at either barking dog, crowing rooster, bleating & baa-ring pot-gutted poddy sheep or any other assorted hanger-onner-ers. And although it’s bound to be either freezing cold in the cooler months or rapidly approaching boiling hot in the warmer times, the early mornings are some of the best times to experience life on the land. Every day offers the chance of fresh reward and accomplishment for tasks both set and met. The challenge of both enduring and surviving a life on the land is often a pretty good spectator sport for the untrained but admiring onlooker.

First there’s a quick lap through the shower to wake you form your slumber, this though will be an absolute luxury only entertained and tolerated when visitors are on hand; for water is a sparse commodity and the notion of it being wasted in the service of rinsing sleep from tired city folks eyes is a rarity at absolute best. Clothed you’ll be in good time and soon after arrive at the breakfast table. Often it’s dad, father or Boss that starts the brekky shift as mother has consistently spent good time cleaning up after dinner the night before, she’ll also with much regularity have spent the late hours of the evening folding clothes, making lunches or impersonating a rural banker, tax expert and emerging accountant.

Fresh toast stacked at least one loaf high and perhaps one wide will sit centre to the table with butter and home grown eggs alongside. An array of other meat assortments are often made available, rarely cooked ‘bloody as hell’ and more likely to be ‘burnt to a crisp’. There’s plenty of sauce, coffee and tea for you to add to the breakfast plate, as will be the constant invite to “load up!” or “get amongst it”. You will most certainly and I can guarantee that you will surely starve in the outback of Australia if you don’t do as suggested and make the very best effort to look after one’s self. The food will be on offer and there will always be plenty of it; but don’t wait for it to be offered and don’t waste it once its yours, for there is too little time to check if everyone’s happy & content and too much to do rather than pander to newly found house guests.

I suspect strongly that the ABC news will be on the radio with the volume at an surprisingly elevated level. Folks on the land don’t make the news nor do they care for too much gossip, but if there’s a chance that someone will suggest rain is on the horizon or a kick in the wool, crops or livestock markets… they’ll want to hear it. Brekky may commence as early as three AM and could go on for over an hour, followed soon to straight after by wash & dry, filling of water bottles and bagging up of lunches and loading of eskys… The manner in which we navigate these early hours of preparation can often be an enormous determinant as to the quality of the day we have in the paddock. Many a time have I seen a bad day or a crook situation made good by the provision of extra cool or cold water, fresh sammo’s or a treat discovered in the bowels of the esky or lunch box.

I walked a bulldozer out of one side of its tracks one day at the very peak of drought with hundreds of cows stood ready and hungry; and while the surprise of discovering a ‘Mars bar’ in the bottom of the esky did nought for the Brahmans with calves at foot… it rallied me and in turn I them. I took a moment and ate the mars bar, licked the wrapper and sucked my filthy fingers clean. By this stage the machine had cooled and so too my temper; the time had passed and we had sat and thought and pondered a while, before returning to the situation with a few fresh ideas and a little more energy. The tracks were off, but not all the way off, and with some gentle coercion, a steady hand on the throttle and what seemed like a thousand times in and out of the cabin and nudges this way and that… the tracks found their way back into place. We tightened some bolts, greased nipples and joints, dug out leaves, sticks, branches and stumps… and then we went back to work.

These occasions number in the many and I for one know the part that that sugary temptation played and am not too proud to say that for some time after, months even… perhaps years… chocolate was always at the ready when things fell over, fell off or broke down or broke in half. Be it crutching maggoty tailed ewes or dehorning red eyes, welding or running waters, chasing sheep or yarding billy goats, scrubber cattle or tracking cattle duffers; the saviour on that day and others was due to the early morning thought… to be better prepared.   

With water and tucker packed and loaded it’s off for the paddock you’ll eventually depart and into the great unknown of rural and remote enterprise. These ensuing hours will be filled with differing portions of extreme challenges and success, education and reflection. Working on the land, in the elements and with animals, machinery and ever changing and evolving situations is difficult to adjust to… but an absolute joy to experience and something I whole heartedly recommend to all and sundry. This life, on this land for these people is part of the history of this nation for sure, but it is an existence that all are welcome to come, witness and share… so go folks, go now and find your own outback experience… (TO BE CONTINUED)

Thanks for reading & for playing along… This is Black Rat’s Back Chat and you’re welcome. JM xo.


Categories James Blog | Tags: | Posted on August 30, 2017

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