Wednesday, December 28, 2005


Dirk in comments on the last but one post, made a very good suggestion: That motorbikes be used to run a long otherwise impassable fenceline instead of 2 ringers on horseback.

Hmmm, good point Dirk. However, station policy (formed by the manager) was to maximise the operating life of everything mechanical via an astute policy of ringers not being allowed to touch anything with an engine. (There were boremen, a cowboy and a grader driver for that)

The one exception to this "no-engines-for-ringers" rule was the ubiquitous red body-truck of the outback, the Toyota D-6000. Deemed by many to be "ringer-proof" this workhorse always lived up to the faith shown in it by the Manager.

(pic expands nicely when left clicked)

Anyway, a discussion about bikes would have been academic, as the station did not possess any. Nor did it possess any staff capable (or willing) of battling on a motorbike accross a mitchell grass plain where the tussocks were the size of milk crates.

The merits of this were not discussed at the time. The boss gave the orders, we carried them out!

(Note: In Ozzi outback terminology the word for "gardener" & "houseyard helper" has always been "cowboy" - origins of the name are from the responsibility of looking after the station's milking cow. The term "cowboy" when applied to one who rides a horse & handles cattle is most insulting, although in an unrelated development of recent years it seems to have usurped "rough-rider" as the word to describe a rodeo competitor. Personal opinion:- "Rough-Rider" is a much better word)

Among the station's two stock camps there were only 3 men who had seen a motorbike used on a station. Two of these were the respective headstockmen, and also me. Coincidentally the 3 of us were also the only non-aboriginal ringers on the station.

Many of the younger ringers were related to the older ones, and were learning the trade in the same stock camp and under the tutelage of their uncles, fathers, cousins or older brothers.

Made of very stern stuff, most of these fellows were away from family for months at time working quite hard, for an amount little different to (or sometimes less than) what the "blackfeller sit-down money" which is available to them if they stayed in town (& "sat down").

Friday, December 23, 2005


The Wayside Tavern does varying degrees of business for 11 months of the year, ranging from rather quiet to very brisk. Then cometh December, the month of Bacchanalian revelry.

Trade at the Wayside Tavern accelerates from merely brisk to downright frenetic. Liquor leaves the bottleshop faster than would a rocket sled on a greased railway line.

The pace is such that Mine Host & staff feel an anonymous kinship with Florists (St. Valentine's Day), Bookies (Melbourne Cup), Accountants (30th of June) & others who experience a once-a-year logarithmic burst in demand for their services.

This season of crass drunkeness may be known elsewhere as "Christmas", and has its origins in a religious festival. None of this non-alcoholic explanation stuff applies for the townspeople who surround the Wayside Tavern. Christmas is nothing more than the rapidly forgotten first word of a party invitation.

"Christmas Parties" abound, though Mine Host believes that "Spew-Fest" would be a more apt term.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Damper for Two

Prior to leading his current easy life working indoors under a shady roof, Mine Host actually had to (ugh) work for a living.

Senior Stockman (pictured) and Offsider (later to become Mine Host) had been tasked with a long hot boundary ride. Why was this done on horseback, on flat blacksoil plains? Because the fence was accross tussock country. The danger of snapping a centre-bolt would have kept a Toyota to a speed even slower than a horse. The logistics (and cost) of maintaining graded tracks along every fence was not to be contemplated.

In a concession to the modern world, motorised transport had been used to drop "lunch" at an accessible point roughly halfway along the assigned fenceline. Billys and Damper were left. Offsider was sufficiently ingratiated with the camp cook to get his camera to be deposited with lunch, (without it being broken) thus enabling this Photo to be taken.

The dynamics of a young feller getting a gruff leading stockman to agree to be photographed are perhaps difficult to explain. But the day was long, the ride dull and tiring, the lightness of the task (keep an eye on the fence) refreshing, it was almost like a day off, the only disconcerting thought being that the headstockman may lose patience at the rendezvous that night, waiting with the truck to pick up the horses (and us).