Host: Kalyeeda Station
Written by Angharad Preece – Tutor, Kalyeeda Station.
As I wait in Broome for a boy I barely know to take me nearly 400km out of town and into the Outback, I’m pretty nervous.
Okay, so I know that James Camp is a lovely guy, I’m going to stay with a lovely family and I have an exciting few months ahead of me on their cattle station, but I’m still pretty nervous.
My older brother, Gareth, worked for the Camps for two years at Kalyeeda Station and Charnley River, which is how I ended up here at age 23, but I’m still rather fresh from the city and the snow of Britain, and only a week ago did I board the flight from London Heathrow through to Perth and on to the Kimberley. This is new territory for me, but my adventure is about to begin, and I have to smile when a huge Isuzu truck pulls up and out steps a cowboy, complete with his hat.
Fast forward five months and I have a hundred stories to tell; many good, a few bad, and most just crazy. Having arrived in early April, there wasn’t much cattle work to be done and I was to tutor Wave, the youngest of the Camp children, in her Year 11 work. This ended up being a lot of baking, horse riding (complete beginner here) and occasionally some school work. With Wave doing six Year 11 subjects through the School of Isolated and Distance Education (SIDE) she has had to put in a lot of hard work to keep on top of them, especially as out here you can never make concrete plans or work schedules in case a rogue Dingo scares a mob of weaners through a fence (or three in our case) and they mix themselves up with everything else. That takes a lot of undoing.
‘Mob’, ‘Weaners’, ‘Bullcatcher’, ‘Scrubbers’ and ‘Mickeys’ are just a few of the terms I’ve had to learn and use here and I’ve joined the infamous ‘Top-Rail Club’ a good few times. Life out here couldn’t be further from home, and before I got here I had no idea of the work involved. It’s not easy, and there are aspects of it which are hard to deal with, but everything here is done for a reason, nothing is wasted, and the cattle are genuinely cared for. A lot of time is devoted to drilling new bores for water, maintaining the land and accommodating experts, such as the Botanist to identify plants dangerous to the cattle and horses.
My first yard experience was not a good one and I learnt just how dangerous it could be out here. Luckily the beast that hit me was a pretty unimpressive steer, and it was a matter of me not being quick enough, but I got a twisted knee out of it and I haven’t made the same mistake again. Confidence comes with experience and it’s a lot less scary now. I’m learning. Processing the cattle was totally new to me as well, and it was intriguing to see. I thought I might struggle watching dehorning and castration, as it’s not something we see every day, but once I understood why it was necessary and watched how it was done it just became part of our duty in cattle maintenance, and I even learnt how to myself. There is always something you can be doing in the yards, whether you’re involved in the processing, drafting, or running cattle through the backyards or up the race, and everything flows better.
Rodeos are a whole different aspect of station life, and they certainly haven’t disappointed. Along with the various events you wouldn’t dare imagine in health and safety Britain, I’ve met some awesome people, raced through a station challenge, cheered on friends in different races and rides, bailed off my first Steer Ride and gone wild with phone signal (what a luxury).
As I watch the poddy calves on the lawn (the ones that Jaime and I raised!) and think of the idyllic bareback rides Wave took me on to Skinners Billabong (how very Australian) it’s hard to remember any of the tougher times I’ve had here. From calves who won’t drink to the long hours in the sun and occasional home sickness, full daylight days mustering and getting kicked by weaners as you herd them into the race, I’m still having a great time, learning more than any school could teach me and I think I’ll stick around a little longer.