Written by Hugh James, Living on GoGo Station, Fitzroy Crossing
I ended my honours field work with the Fitzroy Crossing Rodeo! My first rodeo. Somehow the ringers on GoGo talked me into putting my name down for the novice bull ride. Given my extensive cattle experience (I believe I had petted a calf once at a patting zoo) I felt I was a little under prepared for riding a bull, so as you do, I prepared myself. Sitting on the grass at the info centre in town I Youtubed how to ride a bull on my phone. Half an hour later and I was set to join the PBR…
Lets just say that my first ride was my best ride to date, 6-7 seconds with a minor trampling. It may have been due to my preparation during the rodeo weekend, lots of beer and rum, greasy food, dancing and socialising which might have put me off my game a touch and out of contention to join the PBR. But oh well, nothing ventured nothing gained.
My first rodeo ride, my second contact with a beast.
Finding the dirt.
During the rodeo the GoGo crew were all talking about their year and the muster and what plans they had for the upcoming wet and the dry to come. They made a pact to return to GoGo the following year and planted the seed that I should come back up and see what this Ringing business is all about.
So after spending multiple all-nighters at the Uni library writing up my previous 4 months of field work and doing literature reviews and analysing data I finally submitted a 100 page document that could put anyone to sleep. Honours done and dusted … what now?
The seed that had been planted by the boys had started to sprout and I thought I better bite the bullet and ask the Fords for a job on GoGo. I sent off an email that basically stated that “I might be as useful as tits on a bull, but what I lack in experience I make up for in enthusiasm”, it’s my favourite job application to date and one that I don’t think I will top any time soon. I got the job.
So once again I packed the Lux and drove North, this time Aneka came for the drive up to have her first look at the Kimberley and see what I was always going on about. Aneka learnt how to change a heater hose on the Oodnadatta track in 40+ degrees, how to change a starter motor in Katherine, and how to swag under the stars. I dropped her off in Broome and said I’ll see you at the end of the season. I made my way back to GoGo to start my Ringing career.
Broken down on the Oodnadatta Track.
Day 1. 4:30 am Breakfast, truth be told it was a bloody early rise, but admittedly I hadn’t really slept due to the anticipation of the coming day. Into the yards by sunrise and a very quick briefing on what to do and what not to do. I started working the back yards with the boys, they quickly showed me the ropes and the cattle quickly showed me the rails. 40 minutes later and Becky got her arm smashed within the draft gate and a pole as the beast kicked out of the crush. Rick raced her the 45km into town, and she was later on RFDS’s down to Perth. It was about 10 am by now and I had drunk my 5L of water already. What had I gotten myself into? We kept processing cattle until the sun was well and truly below the horizon and headed home. I sent mum, dad and Aneka a message, I survived …
Day 2-100. 4:30 am Breakfast – finish after dark.
My first day mustering was to be out at Mt Pierre station, part of the GoGo sublease. The boys had spoken frequently about these dinosaurs that lived out there, wild scrubbers that hadn’t seen man and man couldn’t move, “it’s like Jurassic Park”. I had had plenty of experience riding my postie bike around town and through the scrub during my honours year, but very limited experience with a clutched motorbike. Well that day I learnt to ride. From sun up to sun down my butt was on that seat, well apart from the times it was in the dirt after gracefully being thrown off by a random log or pushing the bike through soft river sand.
It was as I was questioning why I had decided to give up a cushy well-paying job at the Uni to come chase cattle in the middle of nowhere at the point of complete exhaustion I managed to get my bike bogged at the top of the river bank half in half out. At this point I was rooted. Proper. I stepped off my “parked” Honda and assessed the situation, try to ride forward? Nope. Try to ride backwards down the 5m bank then try get up again, maybe. Topple the bike down and pick it up and try again – more likely to involve less damage to myself, winning the argument at this time. Then Josh in a chopped dropped into a clearing only meters away and was pretty intent on something that was in the scrub just downstream from me. He suddenly gained some height and the radio blasted into life, scrubber coming your way! And there it was, easily 1000kg, horns on it to put the devil to shame and pretty intent on heading my way. I had two options, try take off on the bike – bike bring stuck, that not going to happen anytime soon … the other option a sapling about 5cm in diameter about 5m away. A quick dash and I put it between me and the dinosaur coming my way. I think the bull saw my predicament and wanted to help out, he tossed my bike out of the bog and onto the top of the bank without slowing down, I guess it was a red flag to a bull eh?. I was next. I figured my sapling friend wouldn’t stand a chance against my new assistant and decided it was going to be a game of chicken, left or right, which would save my day or end my day. Somehow in life I always take the left track, it normally ends in more adventure, this time I stepped to the left and he went right. A feeling of elation went through me as I turned around gave the bull the double bird. Feeling I had won that battle I picked up my bike (unscathed) and caught up to the rest of the mob. Of course this story get more and more wild as the years go on and re-enactments occasionally occur around a campfire.
That day pretty much summed up my time as a ringer, learn on the go, give it a go and Go Go Go (pun intended).