Rough & Tough and Be one of the Boys

Host: Callanna Station
Written by Lucy Goldspink

I’ve only been contract mustering and yard building (in the off seasons) for the last 3 years, coming into my 4th. Through those years, at least 95% of the time it’s just been me and a bunch of blokes. Coming into my first season I was nervous, this particular place we were headed to for 6 weeks had a bit of a reputation for being a real ‘blokey blokes’ place. Owned by a man, managed by another man, complete with a team of men working there including the cook being a man! To be honest, I was shitting myself.

We got there late the first night and every one was already in bed so Tom and I toddled off to our room ready for a 4:30am brekky. We walked into breakfast the next morning, talk about being intimidated … momentarily. We ushered through the door to find the team skulling their coffees and downing their bacon and eggs ready to start the day. Everyone mumbled the usual ‘good morning’, which as you could imagine is all most people are capable of getting out at that ridiculous time in the A.M. To my surprise, no one even looked up or noticed me, let alone the fact that I was, dare I say it … a girl?!? You see, I had built up this completely imaginary misogynistic group of people in my head without even knowing them. I suppose that is something that has come from old history books and horror stories from women of a by gone era. It’s just not like that anymore.

After brekky, it was business as usual, we each loaded our bikes and were driving out in the dark ready to chase some tail. Sandhill after sandhill, salt lake after salt lake I began to relax. Then came the call from the plane. ‘Got a few over here, more over there and a heap in the middle. I need a few blokes’. We all geared up; radios, camel backs and a few cookies in the pocket just in case you missed lunch (which is very likely). We were set. Adrenaline pumping, I was determined to stay hot on the boys tail racing over sandhills to locate our cows. No way was I going to let them leave me in their dust!

The chopper taking off from camp with the bikes loaded.

Tom & I leading Brahmans over sandhills.

I always thought I had to prove to the boys that I could be as fast, as agile, as tough and as hardworking as they were. But it was only later I realised I was trying to prove that to myself. Not them. They didn’t care, I was just another person in the camp. I wasn’t measured against the fact that I wore a sports bra, I was measured against my work ethic and willingness to give everything a go.

Not one of them minded that I was a girl, if anything I think it may have been a nice change having me around (well, I hope). I was just one of the boys, just another person (except this person brushed their hair which for some reason mesmerised them!) I didn’t get special treatment and I didn’t want it either.

Me leading weaners, dry cows and sale bullocks over sandhills.

Tallying while Tom drafts.

When we are out at camp, (if the actual cook doesn’t come) I generally cook tea, because I genuinely enjoy doing it – not because I’m a girl and they expect me to. Everyone pulls their weight. I cook tea, another bloke will do the dishes, another bloke cooks breakfast and last but not least, another bloke ALWAYS has the job of making sure the beer is kept ice cold. Even if it means flying 80kms back to the homestead to get more ice! Come to think of it, I think the beer esky is larger than the food esky! Now don’t get me wrong, it isn’t always happy families and cold beer, oh no. We work bloody long days, 7 days a week without rest until mustering is over which can last weeks or even months. People get grumpy, yards bust, cattle get hot, and when you think you’ve only got 10kms left to walk with your tired mob, your GPS gently reminds you that it’s actually 16kms. It’s light-hearted there though, like when its 40 something and there’s still 300 calves to brand in the arvo, you’ve got to laugh when the manager tells you to cheer up buttercup because he’s going to put the air-conditioner on, which means turning the sprinklers on in the yard so you become soaking wet. But hey, at least us and the cattle are cool. Or when you’re walking a mob of 100+ by yourself and you’re still 5kms behind the main mob, so the bosses in the aircraft instruct the main mob to ‘hurry up and wait’.

Early morning coffee for the ground crew while the plane spots.

Coming into water after a 26km walk over sandhills.

This place that I was most nervous to work at, turned out to be one of my favourite places to go back to because no matters what happens that day, we always end up having a laugh and everyone is treated with respect. I have done around 6 musters with them now, some even without Tom. These blokes, who are rough – and like it that way, are also nurturing. (They would hate me calling them that!) But you know what? It’s true. For them, there is always time in the day to teach you something if you’re willing to learn. They have taught me to preg test, to cut calves, about grazing strategies, marketing options, appropriate and available certifications and animal behaviour.  I think the point that I am trying to make is that you can learn something everywhere you go, if you are open to it. Don’t make up your mind about something until you understand it fully. That’s how you miss out on opportunities and experience.

Jason and Tom trying to fix the earmarking pliers at sunrise.

Selfie in the chopper.

Trying to slow those Brahmans down!

Tom (right) & I (left) yarding up.