Big Sky and Red Dirt Country

Host: Koordarrie Station
Written by Sammi McCormack – Girl Friday, Koordarrie Station.

The challenges of nursing are endless and far beyond what any text book can fully make you understand. So after five years as a Registered Nurse, working in both the city and country I decided to tick a number off my Bucket List: to work on a Station. I have lived in and out of the Pilbara over the last eight years or so but I didn’t pretend to know anything about station life and believed that I possessed little to no skills that would be of use. However my stubbornness and determination kept me searching. It was actually through the positive side effects of social media that I came into contact with a ‘friend of a friend’ (who I have since had the pleasure of getting to know more). They then placed me in contact with Kristie (or affectionately known as Kricket) de Pledge up on Koordarrie Station, about 90km south of Onslow, WA. So after a few emails to and fro, we settled on a start date that would coincide with the start of spring mustering.

I tend to look at challenges more like adventures, so my first adventure was actually finding Koordarrie. With the help of an oldish WA north west map, Google maps, Kricket’s directions, and my not-to-shabby-sense-of-direction I ended up on the Twitchen road. With my fingers crossed that my four wheel driving skills were good enough, I set off to find the homestead.

4.1. Me at the North West Coast Hwy turnoff to KoordarrieThis is me at the North West Coastal Hwy turnoff to Koordarrie.

4.2. Driving on the Twitchen RoadDriving on the Twitchen Rd.

Having turned into the homestead after my first manoeuvre around a mob of cattle I found an oasis in the seemingly endless red dirt and spinifex. I was welcomed to the station by a little, vivacious, barking jack russell and that famous warm country hospitality.

I was a Nervous Nelly about two things: firstly what my list of jobs would entail (and could I do them well, achieving my boss’ expectations?) and meeting the mustering crew. The second of those worries was erased almost immediately when the crew started pulling in after the days work. Silhouettes in the sunset walked in from the outer machinery shed to our kitchen/dining area. Marking what would turn out to be my favourite part of the day, introductions were made and stories shared of the days endeavours.

4.3. Sunset at the station, near the sea container fitted out kitchen and enclosed dining area (partially pictured)Sunset at the station, near the sea container: fitted out kitchen and enclosed dining area (partially pictured).

4.4. Our BBQ nights were a favourite of mine (and of any cooks really)Our BBQ nights were a favourite of mine (and of any cook’s really).

Throughout the next seven weeks my jobs included cooking, preparing the Donkeys (a wood fire water heater) for hot water, cleaning, cooking, wood runs, looking after the kids, gardening, feeding the animals (poddy calves, chooks, and horses), cooking, the occasional stores order, trips to the neighbouring station Yanrie, and yes more cooking, as well as any other bits and bobs that Kricket needed a hand with.

4.5. Morning tea on the back of the wagon out at the yards.Morning tea out at the yards, set up on the back of the ‘Wagon’.

4.6. Muffin TimeMuffin time!!

4.7. Wood run country girl styleWood run country girl style.

4.8. Feeding the poddy calves was a favourite job of mineFeeding the poddy calves, who were all affectionately nicknamed, was one of my favourite jobs.

My time up at Koordarrie was potentially one of the hardest working periods of my life. Days were long, work was challenging, and I had to draw on many of my past experiences and skills (which I thought had no relevance) in order to become a valuable member of the team. But that is a huge part of the reason I enjoyed my time up North so much! I also had the opportunity to utilise my nursing skills, nothing too serious, but from a nursing perspective this was quite an interesting responsibility. And if anyone reading has been involved during mustering you will understand the potential for trauma, injuries, heat, and emotional stress are high.

4.9. My role as a nurse is varied and so were my jobs at KoordarrieThe role of a nurse is ever changing, as was my duties required on the station!

I felt I was extremely lucky at Koordarrie as not only did Kricket and Rory take a chance on me but Kricket always insisted that I get out of the kitchen and onto the land. For example: helping load trucks, wood runs, water runs, and one of my favourite experiences: walking a mob of weaners back out to their water point. Kricket and Rory’s stunning Australian Stock Horses were a pleasure for a novice rider to ride and work with.

4.10. Kricket riding Rezzie giving advice to me riding ReataKricket, riding Rezzie, giving some valuable advice to me, riding Reata.

Led by the focussed, determined, and hardworking Rory and Kricket, our 2014 mustering crew had personality, grit, humour, and the ability to make everyone feel integral to the team. I finished off my time up north caretaking the station with a station hand whilst the lovely de Pledge family had some time further south. It wasn’t until then that I began to feel a little of the isolation that is often mentioned along with station life. However this was just another chapter to the adventure and I felt a huge responsibility as well as privilege to look after the homestead. Kricket often said that being country was just as much what a person was made of inside as to where they lived. I had felt like such a city girl through mustering and it was only in these final couple of weeks that I allowed myself to believe my heart is very much country through and through.

4.11. Moonlight in the early morning. I am not a morning person but station life soon changed thatMoonlight in the early morning. I am not a morning person but station life soon changed that!

A big thanks to Rory, Kricket and their beautiful children, for allowing me into your home. We can’t wait to visit again later this year!