Host: Kalyeeda Station
Everyone makes stupid mistakes. We’re only human – it happens. Unfortunately living and working remote means that what might be a minor error can turn in to a pretty big deal. If you forget to buy coffee when you live in town it’s not so much of an issue. When you forget to put it on the stores order on a station and don’t realise until you get back from an eight hour round trip this can cause a bit of a problem. Station work involves working closely with a small community of people who – apart from being really grumpy without caffeine – are usually keen to exact punishment for small errors.
Enter the birth of what I will call for the sake of polite company the idea of the Stuff Up Jar. It’s a fairly simple idea – and functions a bit like a swear jar. On the sideboard at Kalyeeda next to the industrial sized bottle of sunscreen and insect repellent sits a large jar that contains a load of coins and notes and a few crumpled IOUs. Next to it is a book with two columns – One labelled Crime – the other Dubious Excuse. It’s a standard fee for an oopsie. That’s $5 that goes into a communal bar tab whenever we get time off for a night in town or a rodeo.
Looking back at the stuff up book there have been a range of crimes – not to mention some humdingers of dubious excuses…
The most common one is the standard ‘bucked off my horse/motorbike’ …
CRIME: Bucked off Cowboy the stockhorse. Again.
DUBIOUS EXCUSE: Can’t ride Cowboys.
Also included are some truly bizarre ‘how on earth did you ever think that was a good idea?!’ situations…
CRIME: Sprayed himself in the eye with a gas-powered drench gun
DUBIOUS EXCUSE: Looking to see why the nozzle was blocked…
CRIME: losing an entire wheel from the ute while out on a bore run
DUBIOUS EXCUSE: I could swear I’d tightened these wheel nuts…
And then there’s the endless ‘bogged this or that piece of machinery…’
CRIME: Bogged the dozer while getting carried away making a creek crossing.
DUBIOUS EXCUSE: None – he’s the boss. You don’t laugh. You just don’t.
Most of these ‘crimes’ are fairly minor and – in hindsight at least- pretty funny. Sometimes, however a small slip of the mind can end up with big repercussions. I will never be allowed to forget the time I had a blonde moment and took the wrong turning with the horse truck when heading out to pick up the mustering team.
Unfortunately while I blindly assumed the road would be suitable for the height of the truck it was not.
Unfortunately in the argument between low-hanging branch and truck crate the branch won.
Unfortunately that crate and truck parted company. That was the only truck we had suitable to transport the six stock horses home.
Unfortunately we were quite literally a full day’s ride from home.
When you have to explain to half a dozen ringers who are saddle sore and tired from a week of hard riding and camping out in their swags that they will not in fact be heading back to the homestead for a proper shower and bed but instead have another days walk ahead of them you are not a popular person.
Five bucks, Barb. And then some.
Mustering and yard work are hotspots for these little slip ups that become a big deal. The biggest culprit?
“Who left that gate open?!”
When working cattle though the yards the basic idea is quite simple. You start with a huge pen full of all of the different sorts of cattle that make up your paddock – herd bulls, breeder cows, calves, youngsters ready for weaning, cattle ready for selling and so on. They are slowly filtered down into smaller yards and sorted out one at a time into different pens with their peers and tallied accordingly. This is a time-consuming job that we aim to have done as quickly as possible in order to minimise the time the cows have to be stuck in the yards before they can go back out into their paddocks. On a good day you might get through a mob of 800 head before smoko.
Picture the scene – you’ve been up since 4am to start drafting on daylight, and sorted 800 head of cattle into six different lines intending to walk the first mob out to their new paddock after you’ve gone up to the homestead for smoko. Everyone is tired and keen for a feed and a cold drink, so you pack up quickly and jump onto the Toyota to head home. Unfortunately, someone has not latched the gate between two pens properly and one of the curious little weaner heifers has gone so scratch her head against it… It looks like we’re re-drafting.
Variations of this situation crop up again and again. It’s bad enough when its just two pens mixed up but just imagine when you are set to truck out a thousand head of cattle at daybreak the next morning and someone has not chained the gate out of the yards properly last thing at night. Or even after spending the whole day with choppers, horses, bikes and bullcatchers cleaning out a paddock only for someone to leave the gate open for the next vehicle coming along behind to close. No one does. The next day all of the cattle are back chilling out around the water hole and everyone is denying being the last though the gate.
Stuff-ups will always happen and they say experience is the best teacher. Once you’ve messed something up and paid the price – whether its scraping yourself off the floor after stacking the motorbike, digging a vehicle out of a bog hole, or living another week without any coffee its great to know your mates will be there to fine you for it. Hey – at least you know next time you go for a night out there will be a few drinks waiting for everyone on tab.