Host: Anna Plains Station
Written by Helen Stoate – Manager, Anna Plains Station.
A day with “Mrs Plains”, Helen Stoate.
It won’t be the longest walk I take today, but the walk from the house to the camp kitchen will be my most important. The things that run through my head . . . Are the crew awake? Are the crew ready for the day? Is there Avgas at the yards for the chopper? Are the 2-ways charged? Are the vehicles ready? What’s the weather doing? . . . My head has started spinning and the sun hasn’t even poked it’s nose over the horizon yet. Oh, and where’s my hat?
Breakfast is usually quiet – everyone thinking about their role for the day, most thinking about why they are up at this ungodly hour. A final chance to go over the plan for the day. And then the chopper fires up, and suddenly everyone is wide awake and ready to go. We’re off.
The drive out to the cattle can be quiet, but quick. I’ll chat with my off-sider for the day. It’s a good way to calm the nerves and stop the spinning in my head for a brief time – there’s still a million things running through my head. It’s hard not to worry about a muster – I just want them to be smooth and safe.
The cattle are found, the chopper is buzzing like the flies that have found us, and it’s game on. We let the chopper do most of the work, but we have to be ready, and in constant communication on the ground to keep the herd together. In a cloud of dust the colour of rust, we point our livestock in the right direction. Hopefully.
After hours that are never counted we reach the yards, and the cattle will wander in, just how we want them. You’ll get the odd one that doesn’t like the look of one of the crew, or one that decides they would rather be out in the scrub, but most times, it all goes to plan.
With the cattle in the yards, it’s time for drafting. What to keep? What to send? This is all part of the yearly plan, and hopefully there’s enough to send into town. The yards can be busy– there’s cattle; there’s dust; there’s people; there’s more dust; the cows are chasing stockmen; the stockmen are moving the cows; there’s calm and there’s plenty to do . . .
But it can be totally peaceful, despite the roar. And it’s beautiful to watch. I have to be prepared for the worst, just so I’m ready if something goes wrong. It can be as simple as some equipment not working, to someone getting hurt. The whole time I’m on edge, just hoping for smooth and safe.
Crew and cattle love the lunch break. There is a wonderful sense of relief, and so much curiosity from the cattle. It can be strange watching a cow watch you eat. This is the time I get to sit back, reassess what’s going on, and think about what’s next.
The crew are amazing, working through until the sun drops and the temperature eases. The latter part of the day can be the most beautiful, but it’s when I need to be extra diligent as we are all tired.
If breakfast is quiet, then the drive home is silent. But my head is still spinning, because now it’s all about what’s happening tomorrow . . .
During a muster it’s usually the same as today, but there could be one or two surprises in store . . .