My time up north

Host: Yarrie Station

Written by Kristy Walters – Station Hand, Yarrie Station.

I don’t really know where the idea of going up north and working on a cattle station came from. When I finished school and people asked me what I was planning on doing next, I often got a surprised look when I said that I wasn’t going to Uni straight away. Most of the people being from Perth, it wasn’t a common thing for a 17 year old girl to go working up in the Pilbara straight after finishing school. So when I boarded a little mining plane to fly me up onto Yarrie station, I didn’t really know what I was in for.

Three and a half months later, I didn’t want to leave.

I had had an incredible experience working up on Yarrie, and met some of the most inspirational people while I was up there. Showing up with practically no idea what I was doing, on the first day they had me fencing along, and in, the De Grey river running through the station. Within a week I had been shown how to put back up the fences which were annually flooded, the complimentary barb wire scratches included, and I was slowly beginning to get used to station life. The early morning starts, the constant sweating throughout the day, and especially the sound of the dinner bell at night.

My first muster is something I will never forget. We were along the De Grey river, and I had absolutely no idea what I was doing. At times there were cattle going everywhere, with a chopper flying overhead making it virtually impossible to hear anything being said to you over the radio, but I loved it. I learnt very quickly that more times than not your horse will know where to be more than you, even if that involves in running you through an area you previously thought impossible to go through! At the end of the day I was tired, dirty and sore, but just being able to now say that I had ridden on a cattle muster in the Pilbara was an incredible feeling. As the musters went on, I slowly began to learn where to be, and where to NOT be, at the right times, and how to just grit your teeth and ride through some of the toughest terrain I have ever seen. I still managed to get lost occasionally, and the lack of descriptive features around me certainly didn’t help at those times, but I still loved it.

Once the cattle had been mustered, I found some of the days working with them in the yards afterwards some of my most enjoyable times at Yarrie. It was hard and tiring work, with dust getting EVERYWHERE and constantly having to be on the lookout for some rogue and not-too-friendly bull eyeing you off, but I loved being able to work at the crush and processing everything we had mustered the day before. Some of the things I saw in those yards, like an infamous heifer jumping the yard rails (which were taller than me!) to escape back into the river, or a particularly annoyed steer who seemed intent on eating the closest human being, I will never forget. Getting the chance to take part in a week-long stock handling course, I gradually began to learn how to work the cattle in the yards, from being able to push them up a race to working with the weaners. Just the opportunity to see how it all works really, from the cattle being mustered from their area to then being processed and loaded onto a truck destined for whether it be a boat travelling overseas, a southern abattoir or a feed lot further south.

Despite all the great memories, photos and friends I’ve gained over the experience, it wasn’t easy at times. Being so isolated meant that those you worked with, you lived with, and even at the best of times that isn’t the easiest thing to do. The days were long, often working from sun-up to sun-down, and some days it can all get too much, whether it was a cow kicking you in the yards to another flat tyre in the middle of nowhere. It was hard, but I found that over time, that just began to become another part to the appealing station lifestyle. I can easily see how people keep getting drawn back to being part of it, and one day in the future I can see myself doing the same. The land up north was absolutely stunning, and even by taking pictures of it up in a chopper just isn’t the same. It’s something that I believe you can only witness if you’re actually there.

Honestly, I still can’t believe some of the experiences I had whilst up on Yarrie, some that not even a place like Perth could have offered. Going to the Marble Bar Ball, watching the Marble Bar races the next day, fishing in the De Grey river, camping out and mustering on my 18th birthday (and still managing to get a cake!), canoeing across a billabong, riding in a chopper . . . I think that I could possibly make this list endless. All in all, the whole experience was incredible and I genuinely don’t regret a single moment of choosing to do something like this rather than going straight off to Uni.

I really didn’t know what to expect going up on a cattle station, and the looks I got from people when I told them that that was what I was going to do didn’t exactly help either. But now coming back with everything that I’ve seen and been able to do, it was probably one of the most life-changing experiences that I could have asked for.