Host: Miss Hollywood
I’m hosting as a ghost writer this week . . . coming from the sparkling lights of Hollywood to the remote West Australian outback after twenty years in the film biz, the last six living and working in LA. A far cry from phone reception, fast cars, five star restaurants, valet parking and high speed internet, let alone the bitumen and the local latte at the coffee shop on the corner. To make this week special, my plan is to disguise the station I’m on and explore the incredible, glorious life that has been thrust upon me. After isolating myself from family and longtime friends, I emerged from the hectic LA industry/lifestyle/party scene to find myself cocooned by a sea of stars, crystal clear fresh air and pure spring water coming from the earth which threw me for a six with it’s clarity and first hand touch of nature. This is so easily forgotten with the distractions of city life. Primary production . . . a phrase I hadn’t used since school days, was about to provide the beautifully refreshing reconnection to the land that I had been craving. It’s cool how life sometimes just gives you what you need and lucky for me, my wish was granted . . .
Well, I’m deep into my third week now and I’m starting to get a handle on some things here on the station. The 4:30 alarm is now a welcome sound as the day’s adventure is discussed over a very welcome coffee and then the evolving darkness as the sunrises on the quiet drive to the yards. The gate opening on the way is not a chore but wakens up the body and also an exercise in etiquette as you await the other utes to pass through before closing again and continuing on, a favour you hope you’ll find returned at the next gate. Little did I realize today, with the arrival of our ‘reproduction specialist’, I was about to assist in something that had never crossed my mind I would experience in my lifetime!
The speed of drafting almost 1,000 cattle and keeping up with the tally, was the first task I was to undertake. I was a little overwhelmed, but as you have to out here, you suck it up and get to work. I guess the life lessons of the unpredictable film biz had prepared me for this, so I put my head down and focused on the count . . . “preg test, spey, bull, fat cow . . .” marking each one down as the cattle were worked through the gates and shuttled into the appropriate yard. Phew . . . that was intense. I have a feeling my count may have been a little off as mini me (Princess Feral) assisted her mum by repeating her calls making it a somewhat flustered count!
Making plans for the day.
That done, the sun down at about 10am, we pause for smoko. Always a welcome break with our station mum, “Burger”, the best cook in the Kimberley! From bacon filled corn fritters, ham cheese and tomato toasties or a sanga made with the left overs of the last night’s meal, meatloaf aka the giant sausage roll (a fave), you don’t waste stuff out here when the closest store is four hours’ drive. It’s another refreshing aspect of life on the station after the world of excess and waste that comes with catering of film location work. You’re technically not allowed to ‘re-present’ food after it’s been dished up once already that day. Understandably if someone were to get sick, however this also unfortunately results in large quantities of good fresh food going to waste, a problem there isn’t much of a solution to.
With bellies full, us ringers head back to the yards, the crush in particular and I suddenly realise what the rest of my day will look like . . . watching our specialist roll up his sleeve and cover his arm with a shoulder long orange glove, delving his arm deep in search of an unborn baby calf in the bellies and over four hundred cows! Glad we just had meatloaf!
I would have to say that this work isn’t for the faint hearted, nor anyone without a sense of humor as I joked with “The Gloved Arm” about the prospect of losing his wedding ring and how pruney his hands would be at the end of his work. I am happy to say that he goes ring free on days like today . . . and also tomorrow where we would find ourselves in a similar situation. This was a more labour intensive day as we were revisiting the shoulder depth, only to be fishing for fallopian tubes of the cows that had been set aside to spay. These ladies would be returned to roam free for yet another year, without the worry of falling pregnant and getting fat enough to become your Sunday roast. Yes, such is the life on a cattle station, the meat being your crop so you’d better thicken you skin if you’re an animal lover. I, like all my team mates here, do count myself as one of these, but I can now also appreciate where my meat comes from. I grew a mutual respect for the produce and the animal and I am happy to say I now eat with an educated conscience.
Princess Feral and Mad Dog.