Sunday, March 17, 2013

Wild Weekend, and Life at Wentworth

Finally, an evening to let my thoughts go and share another blog!

Lets pick up where we left off, before I get to tell you about what I got to do last week! (BRAND COWS!!)  So back to two weekends ago, where I didn’t even get to start, since that weekend in itself requires a blog!  I will give the shortened version…

So two weekends ago, on a Friday night, James (roommate) and I decided we were going to drive up to Longton for the weekend.  Longton is the station owned by Richard and Dyan’s oldest, Kelva, and her husband Simon.  The plan had been sorted basically the weekend prior, and it was a go.  We were so excited about it, and the plan was to leave right after work on Friday evening, around 5:30.  Late afternoon, it started to rain pretty hard, and the issue with heavy rain out here is – the roads often become so bad you can’t drive on them!  I got done work a little later than planned, and took Vinny (James’ Pit Bull) for a run, and the sky looked ugly, with shades of grey and green laced through it.  Not looking good for Amanda and James… It must also be stated that James took the entire afternoon off with a migraine.  While out with Vinny, we met Richard and Dyan on the road, and at this point it’s not raining, but it looks like at any moment we could be in trouble.  Dyan put a little guilt trip on James and said, “Well James, you know, it doesn’t look good, having had the day off, and now you’re going to party…”  Sooooo, we did a U-turn, and headed back, under the agreement that we were just going to go the next morning. 

Back at the house, we went in to Richard and Dyan’s place, and Dyan invited us to stay for a game of cards and dinner – “at least until it looks safe.”  In the meantime, it’s pouring at Longton, and there is a 90km dirt road from the main HWY into their station house, so it’s looking grim regardless of what time we leave.

Cards were fun, dinner was delicious, and the skies clear, so James and I decided we were going to just go. YOLO – YOU ONLY LIVE ONCE!  Into the truck around 9pm, Vinny in the back, and we were Longton bound!  Phone calls were coming in all night, asking us if we’d left, and what time we were due to arrive, and everyone up there was getting antsy for us to arrive and start drinking with them!  Sure enough, our adventure had really only just begun.  Smiles on our faces, new music loaded up on the iPhones, and a full tank of… wait. What? A quarter tank?!  That’s it?  James noticed this once we were over 50km from the house.  Between where we live and Longton, there is one place to stop, in a little hole called Belyando, just over half way.  Whutttt dduuuhhh… The decision was, go to Belyando, and see if we can get someone to turn the pumps on, and if not, camp in the tray of the ute (utility vehicle, aka tiny pick up truck!!)  We started to get a little weary about Belyando letting us get gas, and were banking on a sleep under the stars in the ute, and had brought our swags (outdoor sleeping bags) along for the weekend anyways.  When we got to the servo in Belyando, the servo side was shut down, no lights on.  Great… But we figured we’d go in to the bar side anyways, and it proved to be a solid idea, since they turned the pumps on for us!  The bosses’ daughter was working that night apparently, and was in charge of the bar and the servo that night, so she turned on the pumps for us! WIN!  There were about eight people hanging around the Belyando bar, two of which were shirtless men in Akubras, one sporting a star brand on his chest! Quite the bunch.  So, James and I were on some sort of high leaving Belyando with a full tank of gas, let me tell you!  We were pumped to be back o the road, and making it to Longton in about an hour and a half from the servo! 

The roads in the outback are long and dark, without houses lining them, and only rest stops every few dozen kilometers to break up a drive.  It’s common to drive an hour or more before entering the next town or servo!  Anyone who has heard of the movie “Wolf Creek” knows how terrifying the plotline is.   “Just when you thought it was safe to go hiking into the bushes of the outback again, along comes Mick Taylor.  Kristy, Ben and Liz are three traveling backpackers, all in their twenties, who set out to hike through the scenic Wolf Creek National Park, in the Australian Outback.  The trouble begins when they get back to their car, to find out that it won’t start.  The trio think they have a way out when they run into a local bushman named Mick Taylor, who seems to be friendly enough to help them out.  Wait until you get a load of what Mick has in store for them… their troubles have only just begun.  Well, lets just say that Mick killed a lot of backpackers.  So, when we started to get tailgated for kilometers on end, no matter if we slowed down or sped up, it was a little nerve racking – especially because you rarely have someone following you late at night in the outback.  We slowed down, sped up, and were hoping that these people would either take a hint, or just pass us.  Neither.  James sped up a but, and out of no where, there was a huge thump under the truck that we could feel up through the bones in our legs and into our chests.  The truck started to smoke, and the vehicle behind us started flashing their lights.  I. Was. Terrified.  I grabbed James’ arm and even he looked nervous.  I told him to forget pulling over, and just keep going!  Don’t stop!  WOLF CREEK ALL OVER!  But we both knew we had to stop.  I reached down into the side of the door and grabbed a pig knife of James’ and instantly felt a little better.  I tucked myself down in the front seat and tried to stay hidden.  I don’t even know if they knew I was there at all!  Out of the truck that was behind us jumped out two big burly men, covered in tattoos.  They had dog cages and Pit Bulls in the back, and swags and fishing stuff all over the top of the dog cages.  They both had pig knives in their chest pockets, and sleeveless shirts on!  James put his head light on, and went to see just who these two fellas were.  He left his phone in the car, and it miraculously had enough service for me to call Kelva and send a few texts so that people knew where we were and what had just happened – JUST IN CASE!  You never know!  So these guys walked around the truck mumbling to themselves, but ended up being pretty helpful, handy Aussie dudes. They legitimately seemed concerned enough to help us out.  We were on the side of the road, hearts pounding, for over a half hour!  My hand hurt from holding the pig knife with white knuckles.  Turns out the tranny plug fell out, and we had to have some road side work done!  The two guys managed to help James sort things out well enough to get us to the turn off to the Longton farm – again, still 90km from the house!  They left and said they’d follow us to the turn off, roughly 40km from where we were.  Oddly enough, they had our hearts racing double time again when they disappeared behing us, and then peeled passed us and left us in the dark again!  James just took it easy and we made it to the turn off to Longton.  We pulled off the highway, about 500m, and turned the truck off… Overnight under the stars!  At least we didn’t die, and I got to cross “sleeping under the stars” off my bucket list!  Even retelling the story doesn’t do justice for how fast my heart was racing, and how much I actually felt like shit was seriously going to hit the fan when we heard that thump under the truck and had to pull off the road!  It was terrifying, but we made it!  So James and I put the swags out in the tray of the ute, and fortunately the rain had passed completely.  We tied Vinny to a tree beside the truck and hardly slept a wink all night.  We had a few drinks and talked and laughed all night.  James is such a great roommate to have.  We’ve become great friends since my arrival, and we’re always taking the piss out of each other.  So the night could have been much worse!  It just turned into a legendary story. 

In the morning, around 6:30, Christ – who we call Chrisco – and Dyan and Richard’s son Bristow, made their way to the end of the road where we were, and helped us out!  They’d had a long night and had hardly slept, but James and I were so thankful they’d made it out to help us!  They fixed the tranny plug well enough to get us further into the farm road, then we dropped the truck off at a house near Longton where it stayed for the weekend.  (the guys found a bung nut for the tranny in the old junk yard at London so we could make out way home safely on the Sunday night!)  So James and I were exhausted, but had drinks in our hands before noon and were ready to go.  We hit a water hold with everyone for a swim, and played a few games, with music going all day.  The socializing and meeting new people was fantastic!  I loved it.  Great weekend, with lots of laughs!

A little more about life on the farm!  I’m thoroughly enjoying it!  My days are starting to be a little more split now, between outdoor jobs and mustering or handling cattle, and housework for Dyan.  I can’t even describe how much I love being a part of the work that goes on here, and I’m proud to be an employee here.  Mustering is one of my favourite things to do, plus I get paid for riding a horse!  Although it can make for a long morning or afternoon, it’s outdoors, in the sun, and in good company.  I get along really well with the other staff here, and it’s more like working with some friends than coworkers.  The rustling and swishing of the grass under the cattle, and the snorts and whinnies between horses puts a smile on my face.   

For a week and a half, Dyan and Richard had some company from Canada!  Their names are John and Sue Simkin, and they are from Consort, Alberta.  They are ranchers, and were an absolute delight to have around Wentworth.  They came mustering a few times, and were great company after the workday was done.  They were here when we had two cattle trucks come, called road trains!  They are HUGE!  I got to go down to the yards and watch them load cattle up in the trucks, compartment by compartment.  The trucks have two levels, and the ramp that gets the cattle up to the top becomes a floor on the front of the compartment when it rises with hydraulics! So neat.  They separate the compartments on each level and put equal numbers of cattle in each for proper weighting.  Each cow is scanned electronically by their ear tag as they walk by a scanner getting on the truck.  The load was taken to a feedlot where they’ll stay for one hundred days to fatten up before slaughter.
On Thursday, we branded some calves.  (The next post I put up will be an elaborate response to some comments made on a picture I posted.)  I even got to brand some and I helped move calves between pens, while recording numbers of bulls/heifers.  It was a good day, and I learned a heap!

On Saturday, Dyan invited me to a High Tea event for Quota International!  There were nearly 200 women there, and a speaker named Julie Cross, who was fantastic and extremely inspirational was there too.  She had us howling! She was so energetic and funny, and had everyone in the room’s attention.  The High Tea was a fundraiser for CQRescue, a helicopter emergency airlifting company serving a large portion of Queensland, and an organization called Life Education.  Some ladies were dressed up really fancy, and the audience ranged from ladies in their late teens to ladies nearing 90 years old!  There were prizes for best tea pot, best tea cup, prettiest tea cup, biggest tea pot, best dressed, etc.  It was a lovely afternoon, and I’m so thankful for the invite! (

Next weekend, I’m joining James, Sonia and George when they travel to the Capella Campdraft!  Campdrafting is an Australian sport, involving horses, cattle, and a rider.  In an event, a rider is on horseback, and must “cut out” one of the cows from a mob of several.  They yard they ride in is a long rectangle, and using their horse, the rider must move the cow back and forth without allowing the cow to pass or escape the rider’s control and return to the mob.  They must turn the cow back and forth a few times to show the judge the control they have, and then take it out of the yard through a course around pegs in a figure eight, before guiding it through two pegs called the gate, which ends the time – must be done in less than 40 seconds!  James, Sonia and George are all riding in the event, and George is even taking several of his horses down.  We are all taking swags and camping there for the weekend!  I’m exciiiiited!

There is always heaps I want to write about, but I can enver remember every detail.  I will try to write again soon, and will be sure to fill you in on the campdraft weekend!


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