The Observations of Donal Attenborough – Part 1

Host: Donal Sullivan

I have had many opportunities to observe station life over the years I’ve spent living and working on the land. As an avid documentary watcher, I’ve often wondered what one of the greatest naturalists of all time, Sir David Attenborough, would think of our lives and the characters that work on cattle stations. I have written some of my observations down, and have split them over two days of my Central Station hosting for you to read – on one condition! That it is remembered these pieces are written entirely as a joke/satire, and anything that sounds illegal is not in any way based on true events or real people. Enjoy!

“The Ringer” – Feralius Stockmaniei

A female ‘Feralius Stockmaniei’.

Some of nature’s strangest creatures can be found right here in Australia. As part of my observations this year I have studied the behaviours of Feralius Stockmaniei, colloquially known as a ‘Ringer’.

These creatures live in remote locations across outback Australia in small tribal groups called ‘stock-camps’, so called because of their remarkable habit of chasing livestock. The ringers seem fascinated by most forms of livestock, particularly the Bos Indicus bovines, and will pursue them all day with great excitement sometimes accidentally knocking them over with vehicles in their eagerness to pat them.

The bovines tolerate this for some time before becoming exasperated with the relentless pursuit and forming a massive herd in an attempt to discourage the Ringers. This generally only fuels the tribe’s excitement and they gather the whole herd, sometimes thousands of bovines, into an enclosure. The Ringers then proceed to let each animal out one by one, giving it a pat as it goes past. After a few days of this all the cattle have been released and the Ringers celebrate the patting ceremony with fermented barley or sugar cane which makes them very giggly or do silly things. The next day they realise all the cattle have gone and set off in search of more.

Though chasing bovines seems to be a large focus of their existence, an even more important ritual is consuming fermented barley in beautiful golden cans (or fermented sugar cane with a polar bear on the label). They drink from the golden cans to celebrate just about anything including the sun going down, a successful patting ceremony, relocating their camp, large catastrophes, and breaking equipment.

The Ringers mainly communicate with a collection of drawn out vowel sounds such as “Yeeeaahhh naahhh”. A commonly used sound is “fark”, which appears to have many uses, depending on how it is expressed. It can mean anything from “Ouch! I jammed my thumb” to “I don’t believe you” or even “I find my current life choices/career extremely frustrating at this moment”. Ringers often travel vast distances, usually inside a giant bullbar with a small tank on wheels underneath it known as a ‘toyoda’.

Sometimes, when they tire of the company of their tribe, the Ringers shave off their facial hair, spray themselves with deodorant which smells like angry meat ants and migrate to a random location where they congregate with other strange Ringers and drink from the golden cans until they can’t stand up whilst watching the most foolish of their species try to ride bulls and feral horses. These congregations are an important part of the Ringer’s life cycle and often the only chance they get to reproduce thus competition for females is fierce. The females are fierce too, and often the Ringer’s have to resort to tapping an opponent on the chin with a closed fist travelling at high velocity in order secure a mate.

‘The Camp Cook’ – Violenticus Chefiei

A female ‘violenticus chefiei’ and her food stores.

A symbiotic relationship which rivals that of a shark and its pilot fish is that between Violenticus Chefiei, commonly known as a ‘Camp Cook’, and a tribe of Feralius Stockmaniei (“Ringers”). Camp Cooks are unable to form groups with the same species because they are a throwback to an ancient line of homo sapiens who are obsessive compulsive hunter gatherers. They feel compelled to provide for their tribe and if they group with other Camp Cooks they force feed each other until they all explode. However Camp Cooks in outback Australia often attach themselves to tribes of Ringers, providing the stock-camp with food whilst fulfilling their obsessive compulsive desire to feed people. This is also beneficial for the survival of their species as most are either raging alcoholics or are more insane than a rabid dingo eating a 1080 bait in a meat ant’s nest and a tribe of only Camp Cooks would result in a group of spontaneously exploding assault victims.

The Camp Cook’s remarkable hunting and gathering skills allow them to turn tins of tomatoes and raw meat into stews and casseroles and kilograms of weevil infested flour into little hard rocks with charcoal bases called ‘scones’. When they travel with the Ringers to urban areas Camp Cooks gravitate to the nearest Woolworths, which is quite a bizarre ritual as they despise the premises with their entire being. They then use their specially evolved comfortable shoes to prowl the aisles in search of ‘Specials’, much like a lioness will prowl around herds of prey, searching for weak and injured animals. This unique form of hunting may take several hours and a few temperamental trollies to complete. They then guard their catch ferociously, nurturing the chilled produce known as ‘cold stuff’ in colourful treasure chests made by God himself called ‘eskies’. They then hasten (often several hours drive) back to their camp where they carefully stash the collected bounty around their camp, sometimes pausing to frolic and roll playfully in piles of fresh vegetables and uncooked rice.

An extremely volatile creature with a temper similar to that of a pregnant mule, Camp Cooks have notoriously wild and violent mood swings which can be triggered by the smallest things such as Ringers turning up late to eat, soggy bread, mixed up food orders, food orders that fall off utes, windy days, and forgetting to grease a cake tin. They vary widely in size, both vertically and horizontally, though the superstitious Ringers often believe the small, skinny ones are in league with the devil and not to be trusted. This is probably true as Camp Cooks mainly survive off leftover food prepared for the Ringers, thus if there isn’t many leftovers the Camp Cook may be force feeding some of the crew and it’s likely a few of them may spontaneously explode whilst out chasing bovines.