Our local grocery store in Thargomindah.

Our local grocery store in Thargomindah.

Standing in the line at the checkout of a major supermarket recently I couldn’t help but compare the lack of service to times long gone by.  There I was with three other customers in front of me, only 1 other manned (womaned) checkout open because most of the well programmed customers were checking out their own groceries at the do it yourself checkouts.  All those jobs lost just so the supermarket can trim a bit more off its operating cost.

Compare this to the service that we experience from our little local towns.  I can ring or email my grocery order through to my local store whether it  be in Quilpie, Thargomindah or Cunnamulla and the staff will collect all my stuff, pack it properly in boxes ( yes boxes! ) and either tape them up or tie the boxes up with string and send them to me via my mail man twice a week.  The bottles will be wrapped in paper, the fruit and veg will also be wrapped to protect them as will any cold articles I order.  It is generally speaking a pretty good service. For my part, I keep the string and the nice white paper used to wrap the fruit and sometimes have a bit of a read of the newspaper that has been used to pack the bottles!

Thinking back to when I was a little kid growing up at Eight Mile Plains in Brisbane (which was the sticks back then!) we had a little shopping centre within walking distance of my home, bush all around us and even a creek at the bottom of the hill where we could catch yabbies.  Milk, the newspaper and bread was delivered to our house daily and anything else we needed was purchased from the local shop.  The lady would ring the item costs up on the till and a boy at the other end of the counter would pack the stuff in a big, solid brown paper bag and put it in the car for us.  Mum had a big drawer that was used for keeping all the bags, bits of string, rubber bands and the occasional plastic bag for recycling – even though I bet she didn’t call it that!

Medical chest at Kilcowera Station

Medical chest at Kilcowera Station

Most properties have a medical chest which is issued from the nearest Royal Flying Doctor base, in our case it’s Charleville. In the event of an emergency or someone getting crook we ring the RFDS and speak to a doctor who can prescribe drugs from out of the chest. We go through the contents twice a year and send an application off for any drugs that have reached their expiry date.

The RFDS is a truly wonderful service for not only us who live on the properties but for many of the small towns who don’t have a resident doctor. The Flying Doctor and various other nurses and specialists do clinics several times a month in those little towns for both the locals and visitors to the area.

We are also never far from medical assistance as the RFDS flys to properties in emergencies and takes the patient straight through to the nearest suitable hospital – in our case either Brisbane, Toowoomba or Sydney.

The first drawer of the chest

The first drawer of the chest

 

Full moon rising over Cardenyabba Lagoon.

Full moon rising over Cardenyabba Lagoon.

This came to me via the Westprint Friday Five, a weekly newsletter that shares all sorts of stuff about life not in the cities.  Written by a bloke called Michael in Toowoomba.  Thanks Michael, I love your thoughtful description and can really relate to it.

My definition of the “OUTBACK”

Although I’m only half way through my working life, still in my baby cradle as some may call it, I like to talk to people (older and younger) about their travels, domestic and international.

I have a friend who is a vet. You don’t know where she will be from one day to the next. It’s nothing for her to buy a plane ticket one day, pack her bags that night and be in another country the next day without too much thought or worry. I would be a nervous wreck and would need months of planning.

New Zealand was a huge leap a couple of years ago but now I feel I could just pop over for the weekend without thinking too much about it because I have been there before. If only we didn’t need money of course.

Another point is the normal routines we have – example – going to the shops to buy groceries. Some people do it every day and it takes 15 minutes – and that’s the time it takes to get in the car, drive to the shop, get your stuff, drive home and pack the stuff in the fridge.

We go about once a week but when I grew up west of Rockhampton; we would go every 6-8 weeks. Yes it’s embarrassing walking out with 5-6 trolleys to feed your large family. Especially when we had our own meat, milk, vegies and fruit that was grown on the property. What did we put into those trolleys? Spaghetti, baked beans and out of season items.

For others it’s a full day event – or even overnight. You drive the 6 hours or more, go to the doctors, pick up the pallet of barbed wire, cattle spray, some new boots, get that hydraulic ram fixed, have a chat to a neighbour because he lives so far away and you haven’t seen them for a while, etc. Then the last thing you do is pick up the groceries,pack the groceries into eskies then travel home at night when it’s cooler so that your items don’t spoil. When you get home at midnight you have to pack those 5 trolleys of groceries away in the cupboard. Too busy tomorrow to have time to pack it away then.

So my point? The outback for me is a road that I haven’t travelled, a road that you can drive where you haven’t seen anyone else on the road for a least half an hour. A road where you had to look at the map to find where it starts and where it finishes – even though it could be 500k’s between those points. A road where you need to watch out for critters sleeping on it because the bitumen is nice and warm. It’s the places where you can pull up and have a chat to someone without them wanting to leave in a hurry – because apparently they have something else better to do.

A road where you most likely come across a cattle drive and pull up to talk to the rider on the horse. Watch out for those patties – they stink when they a squashed and are usually sloppy because the cattle are excited about the new grass. A road where someone is on a tractor in the paddock and you wave to each other as you fly by – a friendly acknowledgement. He’s probably been on that tractor for a couple of days now and going around in circles is getting a bit boring. A road where it is single lane bitumen and you have to drop off the edge to pass a car with the fear of blowing a tyre on rough bitumen.

A road where you have to get right off the road because a 120 tonne road train is coming. Let’s face it – he’s bigger and will fall over if he gets off. That’s a messy sight you don’t want to see.

Don’t get me started on gravel roads, corrugations are similar to the rumble strips on the bitumen white lines they keep you awake. Don’t worry, the grader will be through next year after the wet. The ground is just way too hard at the moment.

The outback is house driveways that are more than half a kilometre long -the cattle yards and work shed look better then the house. Watch out for all those dogs. The outback is the fenced 50 acres around the house, usually called the house yard and your children get out on Saturday mornings on the two ride-on mowers to mow it.

I thought Cape York was remote bit I couldn’t get out of the dust from all the other vehicles flying by. The outback is when you hit a bump so hard you hit the roof and bite your tongue – and your nuts that you were holding (the ones that you eat off trees, shrubs and out of the ground) fly everywhere. It’s amazing the nook and crannies these things get into.

The outback is somewhere you can set up your tent, caravan, swag without someone using you tent pegs on the other side of your tent because they are so close. Whispering in the tent next door still sounds like normal talking. Outback is when you realize there are stars in the sky.

In summary – the outback will depend on someone’s travel experience, where they live, if you need to look at a map to find out where it goes and if you need a full tank of fuel and food to get there. The outback stops becoming the outback when you don’t need a map, you have travelled that road a couple of times and it seems to be another street going through another suburb to get to the shops – even though that shop is 300k’s away.

Did I mention that the outback would most likely be a little hotter?

So I guess I don’t know where the outback starts or finishes either. I would class the outback as the unknown and untravelled location. Maybe a perception, not a location.

Michael. Toowoomba

Fuel drums at Kilcowera Station

Fuel drums at Kilcowera Station

Mustering at Kilcowera

August 17, 2013

Hereford cattle at Cardenyabba Lagoon

We start our next round of mustering on the first of September, what a great way to to get into spring!  The helicopter is booked, the musterers are booked, the plane and bikes are ready to go –  horses too.  This muster is really about trying to find all the naughty little weaners who did not stay in their new paddocks when they were put into them in April, they went everywhere!

Yarding up cattle at Kilcowera Station.

Yarding up cattle at Kilcowera Station.

 

Kilcowera airstrip in Calenso Paddock

Recently, I was on our newest airstrip, the one above, walking up and down the sides poisoning the small mulga trees that were, and are, attempting to take it over again, when thousands of feet above a jet whizzed by.  It got me thinking, all those people up there drinking scotch, coffee, a beer, reading, eating, watching movies, chatting, keeping their kids happy, admiring the flight attendants – does the thought ever cross their minds that down in all that emptiness beneath them, lives are being lived, jobs being done, life and death issues are being dealt with in the small towns and on the stations, that people are earning a living down there in all that nothingness.

I love the fact that Kilcowera is open for visitors so they can see firsthand what it is like to live and work in our fairly harsh environment.  But these visitors usually have some idea about life in the bush already, they have travelled all over Australia looking at, out of the way spots such as ourselves and they keep searching out more places off the beaten track to go to.  The majority of Australians live on the coastal strip and never drive over the big hill and I reckon it ‘s these ones who would be surprised at  how much is going on beneath them as they wing their way over the continent.  Lucky ducks!

Kilcowera airstrip

Just in the last month in my area we have had major bushfires with many spotter planes and water bombers in the sky, the Royal Flying Doctor has been called in to airlift an injured volunteer firefighter ( a young girl ) to Charleville hospital and 2 vehicles have been destroyed in the blazes. Many people spent Christmas day and New years day and all days in between, out in the heat, day and night, 24 hours non stop, trying to stop the fires.

Other people are on the ground on motorbikes and horseback mustering sheep, cattle and goats, the road trains are driving back and forth with their loads of stock or freight for the towns and stations.  There are also hundreds of oil workers in the outback at any given time.

The kids are back on holidays from their boarding schools or hostels, they are on their ponies, or motor bikes or driving around in something on the place, cause all station, and most town kids can drive by the time they are 6 or 7.  And these kids are out helping Mum and Dad with the fencing, mustering, checking the waters, climbing and oiling the windmills, cleaning out troughs and wells, changing tyres and working on the cars and machinery.  There’s always plenty to do.

Spare a thought for all the people down below toiling in their gardens just to make a little oasis in the outback for themselves and their family and all the other inhabitants of the Outback – there is plenty going on down there!  Happy New Year!!

Our house at Kilcowera Station