The following is an excerpt from the book ‘Ridgeview Station’, which you can purchase here.
Many of Peter and Kelsie Dalton’s friends thought they were crazy when they bought Ridgeview Station. But five years on, their hard work, help from Kelsie’s parents, and record rainfall have them in high spirits as the summer muster approaches.
Realising they’re going to need more help this season, Peter rings around the neighbouring stations to try and find a good worker. After a glowing recommendation, Alexi arrives to give them a hand – and is not at all what they’d expected …
Everything is going smoothly with the muster before disaster strikes and the Dalton’s find themselves battling to save their livestock, their property and their lives.
An entertaining yarn set on a vast outback property peopled with colourful and authentic characters, Ridgeview Station is about love, loss and the spirit of the bush.
Just after lunch, Bull walked into the kitchen to fill his thermos ahead of the day’s work. He and his crew were shifting to the next line, so they’d stopped by the homestead on the way past. He’d been here a week and a half now, putting in some long hours and wasn’t about to leave without his coffee supply.
To his surprise, the family was gathered around the table, arguing with a new fire officer. Bull didn’t recognise him, but he knew that Jerry had been called away the previous day. Well, Bull wasn’t sure whether he’d been called away or asked to be moved on after Kelsie’s dressing-down and subsequent arguments over letting the stock truck in. Either way, he seemed to be having the same effect as Jerry.
‘What good is this map of where the fire was yesterday?’ demanded Jack. ‘The west crew badly needed some guidance, and your bloody chopper was out drawing fucking maps!’
The new officer could only shrug, saying that it was a requirement from head office. Bull noticed that he was joined by a representative from the DCFF, Quentin. Bull knew the man from previous fires. The DCFF had a ground crew involved too; one of their properties adjoined the southern boundary of Ridgeview.
The two new arrivals had brought yet another map with them. They rolled it out on the table in front of Jack, Pete, Lisa and Kelsie. It had a section coloured in with red texta that covered most of the southern half of the station. Bull sauntered over for a look as he waited for the kettle to boil.
‘What’s this?’ asked Kelsie.
‘Our fall-back position,’ said the SFA officer. Bull made out the name ‘Richard’ emblazoned on a very shiny badge pinned to the man’s chest.
‘What do you mean by “fall-back”?’ asked Pete slowly.
Seeing the map, Bull had a hunch about what the officials were thinking.
‘If we can’t hold it, and the wind picks up to the south again, we’ll light up along the highway,’ declared Richard. ‘We need to protect that road. We don’t want to have to shut it down for any longer than necessary.’
It took a moment for his words to sink in.
Kelsie looked at the map. ‘That’s half the fucking station!’ she exclaimed angrily.
Bull, who had stepped back to the corner, said nothing. He wasn’t surprised by the plan – nor by the manner in which it had been announced.
‘We can’t risk the highway or risk the fire jumping,’ said Quentin. ‘If it jumps, it’ll be impossible to stop.’
‘You mean it’ll be in your place and become your problem?’ growled Jack. He was fuming and gripped the table hard.
‘There’s five thousand sheep through there,’ said Lisa, trying to reason with the two officials.
Richard turned to her. ‘Can’t you shift them?’
The look on everyone’s faces told Richard he shouldn’t have asked that.
‘You must be joking,’ Pete blurted out. ‘It takes weeks to muster that many in that country. We bloody near lost Ash the last time we tried that.’
Richard’s question was the final straw for Jack. ‘How the fuck are we supposed to put this thing out when we’ve got fuckwits like you two running the show?’ He pointed at Richard. ‘SFA, huh? Well, you know sweet fuck all about stations.’ He turned to Quentin. ‘And you! We all know who you work for – the Department of Cockups, Fuckups and Fuckwits.’
Bull coughed as he choked back a laugh.
Richard and Quentin started to protest, but Jack cut them off. ‘You light that up and you’ll end us for sure.’ He stormed out, followed by Lisa.
‘It’s only a fall-back,’ said Richard hesitantly. ‘We have every intention of trying to stop it before then.’
‘Pretty major fall-back,’ said Pete quietly.
‘It’s a pretty major fire now,’ said Quentin. ‘I’m sorry.’
With that, the two officials turned and left. Pete and Kelsie looked shell-shocked, and Bull didn’t think they noticed when he followed Richard and Quentin outside. ‘Fellas, can I’ve a quick word, please?’
The men walked with Bull behind his truck, which was loaded with the bulldozer. Goose and Chook stood by the cab door, smoking and not saying much. Both were covered in grease from servicing Chook’s dozer, and both looked very tired.
‘This plan of yours, whose idea was it?’ Bull asked, facing the two men. He towered over them and was almost as wide as Richard and Quentin combined.
‘Look, I know it seems hard, but . . .’
Richard never finished. Bull grabbed his collar in one hand and Quentin’s in the other. With a shove, he pushed both men hard against the truck’s cab and lifted them to their toes. Goose stood back, wide-eyed, while Chook just kept smoking.
‘Now, lads, you listen to me and you listen good.’ Bull spoke quietly. There was a low growl in his voice, the way a dog growls at another that gets too close to its bone.
Richard held his gaze, as did Quentin, but neither said anything.
‘First of all, never, ever do that again. Never tell a family at their wits’ end that you’re planning to burn out half their place for their own good.’ Quentin opened his mouth, and Bull lifted him higher. ‘Shut it. I’m talking, you’re listening. Secondly, these are good people. So, you do everything you can to get more crew here. And get them here now!’ Bull released the officials and stood back. ‘Any questions?’
Richard stared at the giant man in front of him. ‘Bull, we’re doing what we can.’
‘Do more. Less Chiefs and more Indians,’ said Bull and turned back to the house.
Behind him, he heard Chook pipe up. ‘You should see him when he gets angry.’
Want to read more? Purchase ‘Ridgeview Station’ here.
Michael Trant is a WA country boy just beginning his new life as an author, following a wide range of careers from marine draftsman to farmer, and pastoralist to FIFO pot-washer. Michael is now based in Perth, having grown up on the family farm at Eneabba, before moving to Geraldton then out to Yalgoo. His debut novel Ridgeview Station was inspired by his time on Gabyon Station, and he highly recommends a visit for those curious about life on a sheep station.
When he’s not writing, Michael can be found plucking away at his guitar in attempts to replicate his idol Tommy Emmanuel, or swearing at his beloved Fremantle Dockers. He still travels to Three Springs to drive tractors ‘just to keep my hand in,’ but despite the advent of autosteer machines, refrains from taking the laptop to write, as that would not end well for power poles, fences or trees.
Michael began writing with his highly successful blog – ‘A Farmers Way of Life,’ where he used humour and anecdotes to give an insight into life on a family farm. The blog is now archived, and he has commenced work on Wydjawanna Writer, taking the name from the original title of Ridgeview Station.