Written by Steph Coombes – Central Station editor
I’m known to my friends for my shocking lack of direction. And, in my old age I’ve come to learn to laugh at myself and the silly things I’ve done, rather than shrink away in embarrassment as I used to do. So, I’ve decided to share a few stories to demonstrate why you should never utter the words “just follow your nose” to me. Please note, I’ve taken a few creative liberties with this story.
Ever since I’d heard there were brumbies on the station I’d been obsessed with trying to see them. Abso-friggen-lutely obsessed.
The mustering crew had to go into ‘rough country’ to push out a mob of cattle, or so the boss said – “You an’ Leeanne just sit ‘ere and wait for the rest of us to bring the mob out ay?” he’d drawled over the two way “This is pretty rough country an’ we don’t want youse two sheilas gettin’ bogged on us now”.
Was he serious? Yes, he was.
“Fine” I thought to myself “If you want to pay me to sit on my ass then you do that” as I cut the engine and pulled out my hand mirror and tweezers. It hadn’t taken me long to realise the opportunity of being in natural daylight all day – I was going to be the best groomed jillaroo out!
Half and hour passed with the radio crackling sporadically as the Canadian backpacker and I listened to the jackeroos shout with joy as they ringed the growing mob. Then their voices changed.
“OI! LOOK OUT YER LEFT WINDOW! LOOK!”
“Awww yeah! Sick! Check out them brumbies!”
“How many do yer think there is?”
I looked across at the backpacker in disbelief and she looked at me in horror – she knew exactly how mad I was about to become.
“Must be 20 or 30 there aye?”
“Check out that stallion! Christ he’s HUGE!”
The obsenities started flying from my mouth as the backpacker tried not to stare openly. Then I sat in stoney silence until the mob came into view, with not a single brumby in sight.
Ever since then I’d become hell bent on seeing the brumbies and today was the day. I’d been on the same bore run four times throughout the mustering season and I knew exactly where the dam was that a mob of brumbies came to regularly, or so Mick said.
Muster was done and we were moving the camp back to the homestead- straight down the highway and right past the turnoff to that very dam. I had it all planned.
We’d left at 4 and 40 minutes later Mick pulled up in front of me “There ya go luv” he called out through his window “There’s ya track – straight down there for about 10km and you’ll see them brumbies at dusk aye.”
“Cheers Mick!” I called and waved like a mad woman as I drove down the track. This was it.
Just before the dam the track stopped. I drove for a bit and then cut the engine and jumped out to walk the last 50m.
Nothing. No sign of life at all.
Getting my Bear Grylls on I walked over to the salt bush and commando crawled through it until I was facing the opposite side of the dam. Then I waited.
And muffled my own screams as ants crawled all over me.
Then they came. They we’re incredible. Ok, well maybe not quite as incredible as I’d expected. I think the boss was right, they were “farked”. They had rough coats and they looked kind of stunted.
Still- as they wandered down for a drink I couldn’t help but think that I was only one of a handfull of people to have ever seen these wild (ok, feral) animals in their natural (well, introduced) habitat as they started to bite and kick each other, cantering through the water.
But after ten minutes I was bored and my stomach was rumbling. Right, seen the brumbies – time to go.
I got back in my vehicle and headed towards the track. Any second now, I know I’d only just driven off of it for a minute before pulling up.
Where was it?
No seriously, this was no happening again. The ground was so ripped up from the cattle camping at the dam I could only see boggy sand for ages.
I jumped out and started running around. That tree looked familiar right? Didn’t I pass it before?
There it was- the track! Thank-you-god!
The sun was starting to fade so I planted my foot down and started laughing- I couldn’t believe I’d almost gotten lost again.
Then I started hyperventilating. This was not happening.
I didn’t recognise anything on this track. Was that a fork in the road up ahead? I hadn’t passed one of those coming it, I was sure of it.
“It’s ok Steph I said over and over, then I remembered.
“Every ‘inney’ has an ‘outey’!” I shouted! This dam was had a second track coming off of it continuing on the bore run and that was the track I’d found!!!
But where the flock does this one go?
“Does anyone have a copy?” I grabbed the two way and kept driving. Surely with everyone moving camp someone had to be able to hear me.
“Does anyone have a copy?” I repeated impateintly – I thought if no one could hear me then I could call out as much as I wanted.
As the sun continued to fade I started to recognise parts of the landscape and realised that we’d mustered along this track earlier on in the season. Oh yeah, those were the yards where that ol’ bush cow had had all of the boys scaling the rails.
“Does anyone have a copy?” I repeated again? I still had no idea where the flock I was going and I could hear the panic rising in my voice.
“Does anyone have a copy?” I kept calling every minute or so. I didn’t want to risk the chance of someone coming into range and not hearing my calls.
As I approached a black tank I took a right- I was pretty sure that road led out to the highway, if it was the tank I was thinking of- I was denitiely going to talk to the boss about putting up some signage!
“Does anyone have a copy?” I kept repeating like a bird sitting outside your bedroom window at sunrise. I was not giving up.
Half an hour later I hit the highway. SCORE!
“Well look who knows the station roads like a pro,” I said to myself completely disregarding the fact I’d lost my designated track only an hour or two earlier.
Confident and calm on the highway I pulled out my iphone and cranked up the tunes. Wait until I got back to the homestead and showed everyone the photos of the brumbies!
Then I saw the a ute coming towards me, it was the bosses son.
“Hey, how are you going?” I flashed him my best smile hoping I didn’t have a dust monobrow and that the sheer panic had faded from my face.
“Why haven’t you been answering your radio?” Did he sound pissed? No, he was pissed.
“Ummm I havent gotten any calls?” I said with a sinking feeling in my gut.
“Well” he started “we’ve all been at the homestead listening to you panic over the two way for over and hour and we thought you’d been seriously hurt, where the hell have you been and what were you thinking?”
Seriously? This was not happening.
“You’re lucky muster is finished,” apparently he wasn’t done with his rant, “you’re not to take any of the station vehicles out of the homestead area anymore now, dad says you’re on kitchen duty until we finish up”.
“Oh ok… sorry” I tried my hardest to put on puppy eyes but he just shook his head, did a u-turn and drove off.
Surely he had to find some enjoyment from rescuing me… well sort of… right?