The Beginning of an Adventure

Host: Horsemanship Linked Learning
Written by Shorna Ross

I’ve read with interest the blogs written by hosts of Central Station over the years and am inspired to share a glimpse of my adventures related to the Pastoral Industry with readers. At this moment, I am actually in a vehicle driving across the Nullarbor, headed for Victoria to begin the next chapter I have planned. After finishing year 12, I left Victoria for the Pilbara, Western Australia to work as a Jillaroo on a cattle station for a season. Ten years later, my life has come back full circle. To me it seems only fitting to share as my initial blog for this week, my story as to how I ended up working on stations and a little about the man who started it all.

Ashburton Downs from the Air, photo credit Clancy Ross.

Beau Dickinson was our neighbour in the country sense, he lived a few properties away, 15 minutes down the road from my parent’s small merino sheep and beef cattle farm in East Gippsland. Beau had known my Dad since he was young and features predominantly in my early memories with horses, dogs, sheep, and cattle. He was there telling me to shorten my stirrups on my first pony, judging the hunter classes at a local gymkhana, turning up with mouthing gear for me to use, and showing me how to do it when I first broke in a pony, picking me up from school to attend the local horse sales, and he was often around at home when there was stock work happening and people to chat too.

Beau was a true old stockman and drover. It was around our kitchen table while drinking black tea that Beau used to spin interesting, dusty, sweaty tales. He told stories of coacher mustering, droving, whip making and leather work, wild cattle, great horses, tough and daring crew, special dogs, bull catching, skilled plane and helicopter pilots and bronco branding. Every mustering season Beau would be gone, to WA, for the mustering season. His tales largely featured Meentheena Station and Ashburton Downs Station. The owner of these stations had grown up in the Heart, around Sale, Victoria and this is how they knew each other.

Beau and Boss at Meentheena Station, photo credit Geoff Harrison.

When Beau spun intricate webs of station stories I was captivated. For a kid and then teenager who was horse and stock mad, it created a longing in me to go explore these places, meet these people and live this way of life. So, one day sitting at our kitchen table when I was 15 I asked Beau “Can I come with you to WA?”. His answer was “Yes, but you need to finish school first”. So from here on in this was my plan; I’m going to finish school, go work on a station for a season with Beau, then go to University.

However, at this point my dreams and reality collided. In 2007 when I was in Year 12 and completing my Victorian Certificate of Education (VCE), Beau headed West as was normal. But then he came home early. He had gotten sick while at Ashburton and after visiting the doctor in Tom Price had been given some bad news. He had cancer and within only a few months of coming home was in hospital and had passed away.

This rocked my world in more ways than one. For a month I spent almost every lunchtime and sometimes class time at the hospital which was within walking distance from my school. Then one of my biggest friends was gone and my plan had turned to dust. I was at a bit of a loss and trying to come up with another one when I received a written letter. It was from Andrew and Christine Glenn and basically said “Beau talked about you coming to Ashburton with him. Out of our friendship with him, would you still like to come? We would like to offer to pay your flights for a visit and/or there is a job here for you if you would still like it”. Needless to say I was a little overwhelmed, yet super excited and grateful. In early 2008 I flew to Paraburdoo, WA to start work. I had an Akubra on my head, Beau in spirit looking over my shoulder, and a set of his spurs I was gifted in my bag.

Beau’s Spurs.