The things that will kill-ya dead

Go west young fella! Go bush, go country, go hard or go home!!! That’s what they say at least…

Everyone ya meet has – or at least claims to have – a link to the Aussie outback, and at one stage or another throughout life you either get the inkling or some friendly encouragement to go and explore that part of the world. Sounds good, sounds great even and there should be more of it… the outback is a bloody big place and has done so much for the building of this country, but has grown a bit short on the human head count. More people I say, more people from down inside, from out of the big smoke, from off the beaches and the endless pavements should put a knot in their swag, load up the motor car and get amongst it. But be careful though, the true outback where all this marvellous motivation is meant to lead you is not that easy a place to find, nor survive in. I recently read a thing published on the Outback Australia travel guide web site that spoke in some detail about seven things that can kill you in the aussie outback. These were Snakes (yep!), Spiders (definitely), Crocks (in some parts), Serial Killers (on occasion), the Desert (certainly), Ayers Rocks (if ya fell off it I guess) and the Sun (hell yeah! Hot that bastard!). Then they added an eighth … and that being ‘common sense’, or the lack there of it (spot on!).

So that’s eight things that will kill you in the outback… plus there’s next door to no bugga there to help you out when the shit hits the fan, so be sure to take a friend along with you… only thing worse than being lost, dead or dying in the bush… is to be doing that on your own! You don’t want to get all motivated, pack up ya crap and head off on a bold new adventure, only to come unstuck and not be able to get yourself through it and home safe and sound. Be it for a holiday, a lifestyle change, a new direction in career or just a mad dash into the wilderness… just remember, ‘ya a long time dead – so don’t rush – and safety first!’  

Once you’ve packed up, fuelled up and manned up… it’s time to get on the road, and you best get comfortable because going anywhere in the country side means one thing, travel… lots and lots of travel. You’ve gotta get there, you’ve got to survive while you’re out there and then you have to get home again… and for the folks that call the outback home, it’s a never-ending and bloody constant adventure… that they/we call life. A life where travel is a challenge, but it is also essential… you’re on our patch now and many of the things that we take for granted and see as essential to getting around in the more populated areas of this great nation, are few and far between.. if at all. Street signs are very few and far between, mobile signal in most parts is patchy at best and so the old GPS is bound to struggle. Country folks, if & when ya find ‘em will help you out for sure and always point you in the right direction (unless they’re one of those serial killing, axe wielding, body burying mad bastards from up in the NT)…

Anyways, they did mention on the travel site as part of the summary that ‘because the continent is so empty’… a lot of the other seven or eight ways to die in the bush were so bloody common… and on that one I fully agree. She is a big old empty country for the most part… empty of people that is, but not so empty of shit that will end you. I’ve had a bit to do with a few of those nasties on the  ‘killya dead list’, not all (thank F!) but a few… Then again, as they say, ‘you’ll never ever know, if ya never have a go!’ So grab the tool box and the fishing rod, throw on some leather boots and comfortable travelling mocker, prep the ute and brief the family or traveling companion… it’s travelin’ time :)

So with the challenge excepted, port on the roof and at least three spare tyres bolted to the back, you’ll set off for what should in most cases be the absolute time of your life… as long as it doesn’t end ya life (I’m kidding – you’ll survive). Once on the road be sure to drive with purpose, steer straight and brake early… this is going to be exciting.

Starting with errant kangaroos, emus, wild pigs, crazy sheep or bullock headed cattle of all shapes, sizes, breeds and colours criss-crossing the road at all hours of the day and night, often at pace like unmanned and unguided missiles, making just getting from A to B into what can be a death-defying physical and mental challenge. Add to this the imposing site and occasional need for passing hundred metre long road trains carting thousand kilo bullocks or thousands of litres of oil or fuel charging towards or up behind you doing at least a dollar. For most folks this is where the driving in the outback starts to get pretty serious.

Now not forgetting for a moment that once you get a couple of hundred clicks inland from which ever coast you may be departing the quality of the roads often declines while the distance and travel times between towns only increases. You’ll need plenty of fuel, a big arse esky, bloody gallons of drinking water… and don’t forget to bolt something pretty solid to the front grill, I’ve hit a few things in my day (on the road that is) and even with a four or five post bulbar & matching side rails… some of the wild life hits pretty hard.

So moving on… having spent many hours and in some cases days trapped in the vehicle and navigating the Aussie bushland and countless back roads your journey draws to a close. You have survived the trip north, south, east or west and arrived safety at your chosen destination, be it for work, pleasure, travels or games… the real test of human V’s ‘outback’ now begins. You step out of the vehicle without appropriate footwear and quickly find you’ve buried a three pronged goat head burr into the heel of your foot, and while often easy enough to remove the pain of the injury incurred will remain long after. Be it bare foot, simple sandal or even the mighty aussie thong are all soon helpless to the sheer brutality of the man-killing goat head.

And while you steady yourself and attempt to regain some composure, you may soon find yourself set upon by the land owners’ station dogs who double as both guard dogs and fearless attack merchants on any unsuspecting visitor. While most of these hounds are more likely to be kelpies or some variation of sheep dog, what they lack in visible stature, they easily make up for in outright aggression. In some instances and this is very much a case by case scenario you’ll find a mixture of dogs loitering around the station oasis and family homestead, ranging from bitser-bloody-everything type pig dogs and cattle dogs right through to hairy house dogs and garden ferrets. Bush dogs are often like back yard welding jobs, ugly as hell but strong as steel.       

With the family or added extras still trapped in the car and you bouncing from one burr filled foot to the other and with assorted pan lickers nipping at your heals or hanging from your pant legs, you attempt to cross the open space from your vehicle to the garden fence. Should you be lucky enough to not be confronted, intercepted and or assaulted by pet goats, poddy calves, hungry-gutted lambs or home raised feral pigs you may arrive and access through the front gate. At this stage and with the assortment of attack animals left behind you could not be blamed for regaining a certain level of confidence as you now approach the house and look for a welcome or introduction.

Should you though have arrived unannounced, a little earlier or later than expected or at the wrong entrance to the homestead… your troubles have only just begun. Be it daylight or dark, midday or dead of night in some instances you may find yourself confronted (welcomed as well) by a surprised Cocky! And let me tell you, there are few things on this earth or in this land as fearsome and unyielding as a pissed off Cocky wielding a 410 snake gun and sporting a 357 or 44 magnum handgun stuffed down the jeans or tucked into the shorts. My old man has welcomed many a lost opal miner or over-zealous pig shooter at the back door with hand cannon locked and loaded… he’s done same in the middle of the night without a stich of clothing on… and I can’t say for sure what was more terrifying, the loaded hand gun aimed front and centre or the fact that is was being carried by a buck naked white man with the worst cricketer’s tan you’ve ever seen.

With introductions now complete and a certain level of normality returned and hospitality extended, you manage to retrieve the family from the car and proceed inside to the safety of the country homestead. Be aware that many a not-so-friendly Joe Blake the snake has often found his or her way inside, into the house, into the bed rooms and on some occasions, the bed of both local and visitor. The result of this definitely uninvited guest has ranged from extreme fright to death… death of both man or woman and slippery intruder. Some of the houses have been around for many a decade and everything from unlevelled floors, doors that refuse to shut and last century wiring can add to the experience and enrichen your stay, or see you frightened, fried or fragile.

You’ll dine at the big table on home grown, home caught, home killed & cooked everything and wash it down with beer, cordial and endless cups of tea. The veggies will be fresh, the meat will be tender and the serving a size to be remembered. Country people work as hard as they need to and that is often harder than most would even consider, and they do it with a monotonous regularity. This enviable work ethic requires fuel, lots of fuel, hence the size of the meals and the frequency of the smokos and the quality of the spread. Should your timing by spot or dumb luck fall your way, you may be fortunate enough be involved in the weekly or monthly kill, be it sheep, goat, pig or cow… and on some occasions… all of the above. In some instances this will come in the form of a well-planned and equally well executed mission resulting in the humanely orchestrated demise and careful butchering of the required food stock. In some other and mostly rare instances you may be exposed to a wild and somewhat frantic bush kill, an exercise that still results in the death of said animal and the presentation of meat to cold room for chilling down or cooking up… it’s just the quality of the journey from paddock to plate that may differ.

Managing not to get gut shot in the paddock, run over by retreating kill or knifed in the dissection of beef or mutton; you can comfortably take part in the retrieval of home grown veggies from the patch by the house. Being sure to avoid the spiders hidden under leafy foliage or other Joe Blakes tucked away, always keeping one eye on the nearby river bank of straying crocks brave enough to approach the civilised settlement. Dinner will be served once again and your safety for now assured. With beers imbibed, tucker devoured and with you taking on both appearance and sensation of a stuffed pig or poisoned pup, you retreat to your room for rest and recovery. Not a day’s work completed or single goal achieved other than remaining, in some way… alive. (TO BE CONTINUED…)  

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

Categories James Blog | Tags: | Posted on July 31, 2017

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