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.
Click here to read “Has anyone got a copy (Part one)”.
It had only been about 6 hours since the super hot single chopper pilot had rescued me. Only six hours, yet apparently the universe felt I hadn’t yet learnt my lesson.
By mid afternoon we’d built up a pretty decent mob, about 500 head of cattle and we were making our way slowly to the homestead yards. Slowly.
Having eaten all of my smoko and lunch (even the fruit snuck into my camel pack by the bosses wife) by 10am, I’d turned to my water bottle to keep me entertained.
Now I had to go. I really had. to. go.
I’d heard stories the night before about how some of the blokes just opened their door and went while their buggy was still idling along behind the mob in low four. Others just stood and faced the vehicle, no one could see anything.
The idea of squatting did not appeal to me. I am a lady for goodness sake! No matter which tyre I went behind behind, all I saw were different angles for one of the blokes to cop an eyeful and after the talk around the stock camp the night before I knew they’d already placed bets.
Then there was the risk of having the chopper fly overhead and cop more than an eyeful. I might be proud of my station tan, but I was well aware of where those tan lines ended.
No way was I going to announce my pit stop over the two way either. Not gunna happen.
I drove up next to one of the older fellas Howie – “Hey Howie” I called through his open window (like mine, his buggy also had no windows for “increased ventilation and dust inhalation”) “I’m going to pull off for a tic to go to the loo – cover my spot will ya?”. “Sure sure” he called back, moving up to the flank of the mob. I think he was a bit too excited to get off the tail really.
Typical. I had finally given in to my bladder and where was I? On a rocky flat with the most pathetic scrubby shrubs around for miles. But I really had to go by now. I pulled off about 100m from the mob and jumped out.
Feeling 100% better, I jumped back into my buggy and headed off to where I’d left the mob. Then I felt it – the flat tyre. “It’s ok” I tried to soothe myself “You’ve done this before”. For the second time I jumped back into my buggy and headed off to where I’d left the mob
I’d lost sight of them by now, but with 6 buggys and 500 head of cattle there were sure to be decent tracks.
Yep there they were – the tracks! I started following them thinking about how much of a better stockman I was than only that morning. “Proper bush tracker now”, I smirked to myself.
Then the tracks dissapeared. The ground turned to hard gravel, it was almost like bitumen. I stepped out of my buggy and I could barely see my own tracks.
I called out over the 2 way “Hey guys – I’ve lost your tracks – can someone come back and get me?”
Surely someone else had to have more tracking skills than me.
“Just keep heading west” the boss called out, “You’ll hit us eventually”.
West. Right. and west was where? I pulled out my iPhone and opened the compass app. No service. Good one Steph – really nice job there.
Ok, here goes nothing. I looked up at the sun. If it was around 4, and it was that low in the sky, I just needed to head towards the sun right? 20 minutes later and I hadn’t seen so much as cow poo let alone the mob.
“Hey guys, I still can’t find you” I called out, “hang on a minute” the boss called back.
Well if he could hear me it meant I had to be within 10km of the mob then, thats as far as the radio goes. Good sign.
“Hang on Steph, we’re ‘bout 3km out from the yards and we ’ave a few trouble makers. We’re gonna ‘ave to keep the choppers ‘ere incase shit hits the fan. You just sit tight and we’ll send someone once we’ve yarded up”
WHAT? I now I was going to miss my first yard up for the season. So not cool.
“Yeah sure… whatever” I called back with all of the casualness of a calm and collected jillaroo. If I couldn’t make it I’d be bloody faking it thats for sure.
So I sat. And I waited. And waited… and waited. I lay down across the two front seats and put my legs out the window. I took a million selfies and recorded a farewell video to my mum incase no one came for me. I finished my water.
Things couldn’t get any worse. That was until I decided to go to the bathroom again. It wasn’t until I was eye level with that tyre that I noticed it was flat. Two flats in one day? You’ve got to be kidding me. I only had one spare after I’d lent the other one to Huey at lunchtime when he got his 3rd flat, and I used it just before getting lost. Now I was really stranded.
“Hey guys, I’ve got another flat. Send a spare Suzuki tyre will ya?” I tried to sound almost bored now. No big deal guys, just come in your own time.
Eventually I ended up on the roof of the car. May as well catch the last of the sun right?
By the time the radio crackled to life I’d been waiting an hour. 3 kilometers sounded so close to the yards until I remembered how slow the mob was walking.
“Alright Steph send me some dust” the super cute chopper pilot called out.
Damn. “Um…” I called back hoping to sound sweet and innocent- “I kind of have a flat tyre”
“Right. I’m sending Huey to come find you, listen out for his engine”.
By this stage I was lying on top of the bugging pulling the two way out through the window – it just reached.
“Nothing, I can’t hear anthing” I tried to keep the panic from my voice.
“Hang on a minute, I see you” he said, “Huey take a hard right and Steph you listen out”.
It was like a bad game of cat and mouse. Plus my knight in shining armour was a 40 something year old bore runner in a beat up on Suzuki Jimny… though I was pretty happy to see his face 10 minutes later.
“Never again” I swore to myself. Never.
Ok. It did happen again. And this time I actually got in trouble. Tune in next week to see how I hit the trifecta in getting lost.