How Not To Make A First Impression

Host: Kalyeeda Station
Written by Hugo Rikard-Bell – Station Hand, Kalyeeda Station.

When Barbara Camp initially aired the idea for the 2016 Kalyeeda Station stock crew to write some entries for the Central Station Blog I put my hand up straight away. What a perfect opportunity to share with the world our experiences working on Kalyeeda Station and promote the rarity of the ringer lifestyle. Also, what a perfect opportunity to talk about the man who makes it happen – the boss, Peter Camp. I was looking forward to writing about Peter’s smiles of encouragement, the “Well done’s” you receive when you’ve done your best, and of course when he tells you he’s proud of you after a long day. Barbara however has informed me that this is a strictly non-fiction blog so alas this would not be appropriate.

At 8:30am on the 12th of May, my mobile phone rang for what would be the last time for a very long time. There’s no phone reception out bush. On the other end was the thick French accent of the hostel’s receptionist telling me that my ride to Kalyeeda Station from Broome had arrived. All my previous excitement of what the next year or two would entail had quick changed to steely nerves as I was about to meet my new boss and his lovely wife Cheryl, who I had already chatted to on the phone. I left my room at a firm sprint not wanting to seem lazy or careless upon my first meeting, I jogged straight out past the reception desk and onto the near empty car park. I was then promptly called back to the reception desk by Cheryl who was waiting there for me.

Surpassing my initial embarrassment, Cheryl laughed it off (nervously I might add), and took me to be introduced to Peter the Boss. Walking around the corner it had occurred to me that I forgot to put deodorant on and I had a brief mental battle as to whether I should apologise for that straight away or act like it never happened. Before I had time to weigh up the pros and cons of both options I was standing in front of The Boss. Big hat and an even bigger moustache – he instantly sky rocketed to the top three people not to disrespect (sitting comfortably between my own father and Mike Tyson, and soon the head-stockman Justin Cooney). Peter held out his hand which I shook and said “Hi I’m Hugo, sorry I must stink I forgot my deodorant”.

Peter didn’t respond to this instead he turned to a fresh faced girl with blonde hair and blue eyes and said;

“Mmm well, this is bloody err um Zoe, you have to be on her good side because she’s the new cook.”

I turned to Zoe who I could guess had already summed me up fairly accurately after witnessing the past five minutes and introduced myself (being careful of course not to comment on my body odour for a second time). Turns out Zoe is a German backpacker travelling around Australia, who loves all animals, is basically a vegetarian, and lives next to a famous German rapper in Berlin.

From Broome to Kalyeeda it’s a 5-hour drive. Plenty of time to show my new boss that I was young, keen and interested in his line of work . . .

An hour in, I was about to ask about his round yard dimensions when Peter turned on his CD player and played some classic country tunes with the volume slightly louder than I deemed necessary . . .

I took the hint. Zoe and I resorted to swapping stories about where we grew up and before we knew it we were only half way there. Between Broome and the homestead there are exactly 14 gates to open. Getting out of the car and smelling the fresh air and seeing the red dirt that we only ever saw on Russel Coights All Aussie Adventures or Getaway, was very exciting . . . for the first 4 gates.

When we finally arrived at the homestead we were greeted by a big, tall, baby faced Welshman by the name of Benji Kirk and his wonderful girlfriend Ffion Jones. Benji was asked to show me to my ‘donga’ which is a small air-conditioned room about a foot off the ground. Between the shed and the donga’s (which is about 25m) Benji and I reached the topic of Rugby and it was pretty clear we cracked from the same whip and were going to get on.

Ffion, Benji, and Tim (another worker from NZ) made it pretty easy to settle in and yet we were all eagerly awaiting the arrival infamous “Big Fella” – Justin Cooney.

4.1 copyThe crew.

The resident horse breaker and head stockman of Kalyeeda, Justin had seemed myth-like when Peter would tell us stories of him tackling mickey bulls and roping cleanskins at a gallop –  not to mention his saddle bronc riding and the fact he was a movie stunt man based out of New Zealand. So when he stepped out of Peter’s ute after being picked up from Derby we were all taken away by the sheer size . . . of his hat. Standing at 5 foot 6 with electric blue eyes and the same weight as his age (55), it is fair to say that the “Big Fella” had a lot to live up to and about seven minutes into our first muster he lived up to it all.

Kalyeeda isn’t the biggest station in Australia by any stretch but it is made up of some of the biggest characters that I have been lucky enough to get to know. Justin told me something once while we were saddling up our horses that I think sums up this place sensationally, he said “in the Kimberley, there’s something in the water”.