Written by Elina Andersson Hellberg, former stationhand – Kimberley region, WA
Three and a bit years after moving back home there are still a few things about rural Australia that make my heart ache from longing.
I miss waking up whilst it was still dark, it meant that I saw more sunrises than I had done in my enter life.
I miss being the first one up and being greeted by hungry poddies. The milk bucket, me and anything else that could potentially contain or carry milk being head butted, making the whole process a lot slower. It could definitely get frustrating but with the milk safely in the feeder and the poddies lined up, leaning on each other wagging their tails, how could you do anything but smile?
I miss riding my motorbike out to the yards or the paddock during a muster with the sun rising through the dust of the person that insists on riding right in front of me (actually, that bit might be on the other list!).
I miss working hard all day, whether it’s in the yards drafting, tagging and working the backyards or on the bike mustering or moving cattle to a greener paddock. I miss finding a bit of shade to have lunch in and how incredible a simple sandwich can taste when you’ve really worked for it.
On the other list is losing your incredible sandwich trying to get that stubborn cow to turn around and having to ration your smoko to get through the day…
And yes, I miss cleaning troughs. I miss concreting for new fences, for solar panels and for rebuilding the yards. I miss fencing, fixing old ones and putting up new ones… although at the very top of the list of things I don’t miss are bush bees. I got over my massive fear of spiders in Australia, but bush bees are on a whole new level. And while you’re tying off a new fence line, you are a bit exposed to the elements. There’s a good chance it made me a bit quicker though.
I miss being chosen as the lucky one to go with the truckies to open gates and hear the best yarns you’ll ever hear (and sometimes even get a taste of whatever was in that slow cooker) or (maybe even luckier) to go back in the chopper to make a start on dinner, getting to see it all from above and realising it really is a big as it feels when you get lost in the bushes trying to get that surprisingly quick calf back to the mob.
I miss finishing the day going home while watching the sun set behind the endless horizon.
I miss having dinner with a great group of people, talking about the day, the little things and the big. I miss having an ice cold drink on the veranda listening to the boys trying to out-dumb each other on who got closest to getting trampled by that stubborn cow we finally got to turn around.
I miss brushing my teeth outside the toilet block, watching the stars and realising there are so many more than I ever would have known had I stayed at home. I miss not needing a torch walking back to my room because the full moon makes it bright enough. I miss falling asleep before my head has hit the pillow, feeling like I’ve actually done something with my day and being able to feel that in every part of my body, from my sore muscles to my head full of new skills and knowledge.
I miss my swag. I did bring it back with me though and I have used it here too but there’s just something special about having a shower in bore water straight from the pump or in a croc infested (freshies, it’s all good) river before laying down with nothing between you and the biggest sky there is, falling asleep feeling so damn lucky you’re right where you are.
I miss the days off too, usually well spent swimming, either in one of the gorges or in the stream past the homestead. Going into town for dinner or to the shop and feeling so spoiled having two pubs and a supermarket within a reasonable distance.
I miss the wet season and especially the very first rain when the dying land just seem to take a big revitalising breath and spring back to life. Does anything provide more hope than those first few straws of fresh green grass? I doubt it.
I miss being around animals every day. I miss the impressive cleanskins as well as the cunning cows and their adorable (but apparently pretty useless, shorthorn) offspring. I miss my piglet Rodney and his habit to stand between my feet as soon as I was still for more than a second (I’m sure he tasted great though…) and all my poddies even though some will always have a special place in my heart: Sasha, Lilly, Moose and my very first one Sally. I miss the dogs and the geckos (but not the toads).
Most of all I miss the endless skies, day or night, sunset or sunrise, with its dramatic clouds or just the brightest blue or darkest black. The horizon being the only thing separating the sky and the red, unforgiving earth with its spinifex and tumble weed making you feel so small and so insignificant and yet so unbelievably grateful to be there.
So, thanks for having me Australia, you were amazing. Or to use a more appropriate phrase (and to add the last thing to the list; the language), you were bloody unreal.