The Kimberley Leaves Its Mark

Host: Kalyeeda Station
Written by Mariah Maughan

I can barely feel my hands as I contemplate whether I should choose a convincing C in the multi-choice or go for the trusty E: all the above. It usually turns out that the answer was in fact C, and E: all the above was just a ploy to see who really had no idea about the enzymes in the digestive system of a cat. It’s always a chilly day down in Perth at the time of my last university mid-year final and every year I find myself sitting in the exam hall wondering how with so many academics in one place some sort of heating infrastructure wasn’t able to be implemented.

What does make the numbness of my hands and the reality that I should have chosen answer C over E  bearable is the fact that in the next 24 hours I’ll be boarding a plane to Broome in order to remind myself what is feels like to be a ringer.

After I finished high school I was fixated on working on a station in the Kimberley and learning what it is to be what they call, a ringer. I seemed to catch the Kimberley fever as I soon found myself trying to convince people that a gap year can definitely be a plural thing which bought me another year enjoying the Kimberley living.

Eventually my plural gap years dried up and it was time for me to do my degree down in Perth. However, where there is a will there is always a way and this is how I found myself sitting in an uncomfortably cold exam hall dreaming about the Kimberley warmth I would get to experience for another mid-year break in just a days time.

To put it bluntly my first week back at Kalyeeda didn’t go to plan. It’s true that Kalyeeda leaves its mark on you and this year it seemed to come in the form of 2 injured eyes.

The days usually start with a 5.00 am breakfast. At 4.45am my alarm goes off and I make my way down to the kitchen to be greeted by Peter Camp’s ‘mmorningg’ coming from the head of the table and a nod from his right hand man Justin Cooney sitting at the other end. As I pour myself a cup of tea and slap 3 toasts worth of peanut butter on my bread I wonder how early they both get to the kitchen every morning.

On this particular morning my trusty 4.45am alarm didn’t seem to ring and I was abruptly woken by three knocks on my door. I must admit it is a terrible feeling when you look at your clock that’s well past 5.00am and you contemplate what tone Peter’s “mmorningg” will be today.

I made my way running to the kitchen still putting on my belt when I was abruptly ‘clothed lined’ as they call it across my face by a steel cable which put me straight on my bum. Whilst crawling on the ground looking for my socks, still half asleep and confused I recalled Peter telling us several times to watch out for the cables in the new shed shading the Dongas. I now found myself not only contemplating the tone of Peters morning greeting but how I could play this situation out in the best way possible. I summed up that walking into the kitchen like it was the same day as any was the best way to handle the situation in the hope that he would somehow not notice the ever reddening graze above my left eyebrow and the bruise developing around my eye.

I took a breadth before opening the kitchen door and tried to play it cool. I thought I had almost got away with it when Peters “mmorningg” was given with his usual tone until he added ‘Mariah’ on the end.

“Mmorningg Mariah.”

This was a definite sign that he noticed I was late however after a quick evaluation of his statement I concluded that he may not have seen the now bulging graze across my eye. Thinking I was in the clear I sat down eating my 3 toast worth of peanut butter when Peter asked –

“What happened to your face?”

There it was. I then had no choice but to resort to telling Peter that I had overslept my alarm, run into the cable he had warned me about, clothes lined my face and lost my socks.

There was a small pause before he burst into laughter along with the rest of the crew who all seemed to have trusty alarms. With another quick evaluation of the situation I concluded that I would never live this one down.

Although the unfortunate event that morning left a reminder across my left eye the man upstairs felt that it needed a friend. The next morning seemed to start better after setting three alarms and making a path to the kitchen far from the cables. Things were looking up.

We headed down to the yards and started loading trucks. Things were going like clockwork until I found myself between a heifer and a gate, and that gate made its way to my right eye. Again trying to play it cool I walked past Peter with blood trickling down my face.

“What have you done this time?” seemed to be his remark, to which I replied;

“Just evening up the eyes.”

With this came another pause and then Peter infamous laugh. I headed up to the kitchen where I found the Boreman’s wife Hazel who said she would fix it up. I soon found myself being a guinea pig for Zoe the cook, who was itching to learn how to put on butterfly tape. She was firmly told by Hazel that if I got an infection it was solely her fault. They then went on to discuss their opinions on antiseptics…

All in all I was patched up just fine and made it back in time to saddle up the horses for the mornings muster. Justin Cooney led the way to the choppers and cattle. I learned quickly on our musters that when Justin calls out;

“Right – we’ll trot on shall we?’’ He actually means “Let’s ride like a road train through thick scrub.”

With a huge smile on my face, I find myself loving my job. With blood trickling into my eye I watch the cattle hoping I get to chase one if it breaks and I think to myself;

“Life is good.”

IMG_1215 copyMy stockhorse and I.

When writing this blog I wanted to write about the things I love about the Kimberley and Kalyeeda that seem to always bring me back. Instead I found myself writing about my clumsy injuries as I try and get through my day as a ringer.

It turns out that the two are actually connected. Amongst the many things I love about the Kimberley, sitting at the top of the list is the good hard honest work which always brings me back down to earth. Instead of being wrapped in cotton wool you learn to have a good laugh over your bruises. This seems to be the way in the Kimberley. That’s the positive attitude and mentality of the ringer life style. As Justin Cooney would say, “Just trot on”.

That’s what makes you give 100% to your job, which always gives you 100% back. There seems to be no place like the Kimberley and no place that makes me feel more alive.

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