Host: Miss Jodie
Written by Miss Jodie – Jill of All Trades, Northern Australia.
Ladies and Gents,
Today we have something a little different. I would like to introduce you to my husband. A man of many talents. He is an excellent horseman, a patient cattleman, and a wonderfully supportive husband. There is potential that I could be a little biased, but you get the point. He is also a chopper pilot.
While writing these blogs he asked me “Why are you doing this? What’s your purpose?” It really sat me on my backside and got me thinking. What did I want from hosting Central Station for a week?
I wanted to inspire people to join the industry that has been the basis of both our lives. I wanted to give the people in the industry the small gems of knowledge I’ve been given from mentors to allow readers to be able to give their best at every opportunity; to back themselves; to support themselves; to allow them to perform at their very best, no matter the situation. I wanted to excite every reader and make them think “Heck yes, that sounds like an awesome industry!” no matter what their background . . . which has led me to thinking, there is no-one more inspirational to me (of course he doesn’t see it that way at all, and it has taken me feeding him a number of rums to agree to do this), and hopefully to others, than him. So I asked him – “Would you do an interview for me to put on Central Station?” . . . and here it is:
Me: So Hun, tell me about your journey. What made you want to become part of the northern beef industry when you were a kid?
Him: Reading Sara Henderson’s “Strength to Strength”
Me: What about it resonated with you?
Him: Million acre places and chasing cattle with helicopters and a world I’d never even heard of.
Me: So you left school when you were 16, and then you went to ag college. What did you learn there?
Him: How to drink grog and roll smokes.
Me: Anything else?
Him: Ahhhh . . . how to ride horses and about beef cattle and sheep . . .
Me: Because you came from a town background in southern NSW hey . . .
Me: Yeah cool, so after ag college, what did you do?
Him: Went to Scott Creek at the end of ’98, stayed there for two years. And then went on to other cattle stations in the NT, WA, and Queensland.
Me: What made you want to stay in the beef industry instead of pursuing a trade like many others from your school year group?
Him: The adventure and that . . . how it was a developing industry. I just wanted to be a ringer. I didn’t want to be anything else. Stayed in the industry for eight years and became head stockman and then assistant manager.
Me: So what made you want to be in the air instead of on the ground?
Him: . . . Developed an interest in it over time I s’pose.
Me: But why did you want to fly?
Him: I’d always wanted to fly and I’d felt that the years I’d spent on the ground would help in that aspect to become a mustering pilot.
Me: What were the challenges of chopper school?
Him: Doing the theory . . . Writing had never been my thing, but I had to study heaps. I had to better my reading and writing – no choice. The exams were tough, and making financial ends meet during the months of earning bugger all was full on. As it turned out, I’d bought an investment property a few years earlier which I had to sell to fund the licence. But we got through.
Me: Yep cool, right – moving along! In your experience, what is a highlight of your entire career so far that stands out in your mind?
Him: Cracking 5,000 hours and still being alive, just jokin’! (Laughs) Nah, for serious, when you put a mob of cattle together into a coacher mob and you get a few old bulls there, like scrub bulls, and the blokes on the ground have a bit of fun throwin’ them and that and you have a clean muster and everything goes well – it’s a good feeling.
Me: So I want you to be honest with this next one: What do you dislike most about being a pilot?
Him: I dunno, being away all the time. It becomes a bit of an addiction, I absolutely love flying. It gives you the sh**s that much, but you get addicted too. I love doing it but all the time you’re dreaming about being home and going to all the parties you miss, and spending time with your wife . . .
Me: What do you like most about being a pilot?
Him: Getting to fly helicopters and seeing all the different ideas in the cattle industry and what new things people are doing, from the rough stations to the fully developed places. For a person who was on the ground for a number of years, I find it really interesting to see how the industry as a whole is developing.
Me: So, where to from here?
Him: Dunno. I enjoy what I do. There are always challenges and differences to overcome, from the daily weather conditions, to landscape, to what the manager is after, to guiding newbies. Each day is different – one of the highlights in itself.
Fuel can’t always be dropped off where it’s needed, sometimes it needs to be slung into place.
Me: Alright, time to get serious – I want you to be blatantly honest. What haunts you as a pilot?
Him: When you hear of high hour pilots ploughed in as well as low hour pilots, it makes you think of what you’re doing and how you’re flying, and how vulnerable every pilot is. Every funeral hits home.
Me: I’m hearing that you love what you do. So for my final question: What would you say to a kid leaving school and heading north to try out station life as either a ringer or a pilot?
Him: Do some research into what place you want to work on, and if you get a job, stick it out for the full season before moving on, no matter how tough it gets.