Sunday, 19 February 2012

The Last Supper and The First Siren

So my time in town has ended prematurely. All for the better or all for the worst only time will tell. But there was no way I was leaving without having a Last Supper. So text message by text message I invited all of our little social group for my last town dinner down at the club for what may be quite sometime. Town has given me the opportunity to meet so many great new people and create new friendships. I reminded everyone that the gates to Providence will always be open for them and I hope one day that their tyres roll across our grid as they come visit and say g'day.
On the Saturday I headed North, instead of South-West, to Darwin to catch up with my best friend for her second to last weekend in the NT. We have known each other so long that we can't even remember meeting and neither of us were fully toilet trained at that point either. In Territory terms: We go way back! We dined out in the city at a resturant in Mitchell Street, picking up where we left off last time. With the food piled in front of us the conversation kept flowing. There seemed to be a steady stream of people stop to chat to the couple at the table next to us and one person in particular caught my eye. No, he was not tall, dark and handsome. He had big, sticky-outty ears and a short back and sides haircut but he chatted to this couple for a while and I had to do a double take.
"Lucy!" I tried my best to whisper which is a bit hard in a busy resturant. "Look to your left at the table next to us!"
And there he was, the face of the Liberal party, leader of the oppostition, Mr Tony Abbott. We were no more than 2m away from him!
As the night wore on and we could eat no more so we got a doggy bag and headed back to Lucy's apartment.
Earlier in the afternoon when I first arrived and I pulled my swag off the back of the ute a small cricket jumped on me and some potting mix sprinkled out onto the ground. I thought nothing of it as my swag had been parked next to two dead pot plants for months. When we returned from dinner there were two crickets hopping over the loungeroom floor till I ushered them out onto the balcony.
"Roll your swag out anywhere," Lucy offered so I unclipped the first strap and set free a dozen more crickets into her apartment. I seemed to have been harbouring gryllidae in my swag and goodness knows how long for. And that potting mix? I'm now more inclined to think it was cricket faeces...
In the end I didn't roll my swag out, it got banished to the balcony instead whilst trying to stamp on as many crickets as possible in an effort to get a good nights sleep and avoid the horrid chirping that crickets can omit. But that night I slept like a log in a double bed. I rolled over and discovered I had all this space I'm not used to having. Not sharing the bed with junk or Damian and his flayling limbs supressed my usual 'Princess and the Pea' sleep.
This Sunday though marks a dark day in the Northern Territory's history. On the 19th of Feburary 1942 Japanese Air Forces flew 242 bomber aircraft over the Darwin area and conducted two air raids which killed 250-320 people, wounded 300-400 people, destroyed 23 aircraft, sunk 10 ships and damaged a further 25. Japanese losses? Just 7 aircraft. The first warning came through over the radio at 9:15am from Melville Island and the message was disregarded as the return of 10 American Army Air Corps planes who had to turn back to Darwin after experiencing bad weather. The first air raid siren was not sounded till 9:58am when the Japanese bombers were first sighted over Darwin. The raid lasted 40 minutes, sunk 18 sea vessels in the harbour, killed 21 wharfies and did damage to the RAAF base, civil airfield, Army barracks and oil store.
The sirens were resounded at 11:58am for the second wave of enemy planes and in two formations they attacked the RAAF base again. Defective fuses prevented Australian gunners from defending the Darwin sky. 9 Australian and American aircrafts were destroyed, 2 badly damaged and 6 RAAF personnel killed. A smaller raid killed 11 people that were on board the Don Isidro North of Melville Island and 4 on the Florence D off Bathurst Island. The survivors of this raid made their way to Bathurst and Melville Islands or were rescued by HMAS Warrnambool. Half of Darwins population fled as a result of the raids including many servicemen who misinterpreted a command and looting occurred in the presence of chaos.
The exact number of deaths is still being disputed today, the highest estimate being 1500 people. The numbers of the wounded being less debated and as a consequence the 1000 or so people said to be dead as suggested by some is held in contrast with a low injury level. Australia's North coast was bombed a further 62 times by the Japanese until the 12th of November 1943.
I had slept in and missed nearly all of the commemoration events throughout Darwin so I decided to follow through with my idea that I had on my way up and that was to stop in at the Adelaide River War Cemetery on my way back down to Katherine. I stopped for maybe half an hour to wander through the headstones. To remember those fallen when the frontline was on our shores. Remember Great Grandpa George who enlisted in the RAAF building airstrips alongside the Stuart Highway in the Top End but was brought home by Great Nanna Wesley's constant nagging at the enlistment office in Adelaide (he served one year). Remember Grandpa Alexander who served in the Army as a Private in the 27th Battalion from March 1941 to April 1942. Remember Grandpa Haby who served from October 1942 to December 1945 as a Leading Aircraftman working on the PBY Catalina Flying Boats at Melville Bay in Arnhem Land, NT. Remember. Not only today but everyday in silence we remember.

 File:Darwin 42.jpg

Oil storage tanks exploding from the first Japanese air raid. HMAS Deloraine unharmed in the foreground.

Photo from the Australian War Memorial Collection Database Image Number 128108.

Sunday, 12 February 2012

The Kamakazee Roo

During our usual phone chats during the week Damian informed me that the NT's biggest fire for Feburary was sitting just over 10km north of the station. On the drive home Friday night down the Buntine Highway I could see its glow illuminate the smoke. As I turned onto the beginning of the driveway I kept my eye on it so I could get an idea of the front on it. By the time my tyres rolled over the first grid onto Providence I had begun to think it was alot bigger then I had first imagined as straight ahead of me was a massive orange glow. All I could think of was "Oh no, Calvin's Paddock is on fire!". The last thing I wanted to do after working all day, running errands all afternoon and driving for three hours back to the station was fight fires all night. As I continued past Bob's Paddock turn-off it became apparent that the orange glow ahead was not a fire but in fact the moon. Set so low in the night sky it radiated the colour and intensity of the fire. It was absolutely mesmering. I was hooked on it... till something else caught my eye.
"JESUS!" I slammed on the brakes and "BANG!". I eventually came to a stop. I had hit a roo and he wasn't little either. The bullbar took the impact as he jumped straight in front of the car. I turned the toyota around to look to see if he was dead or alive and there he was in my headlights trying to get up. I'd paralysed him. I uttered another curse word as I turned back and kept heading for the station.
5 minutes later I pulled up at the house and marched inside to the bedroom and flicked the lights on.
"What?" he whinged, trying to get used to the sudden, rude light.
"Is the gun loaded?"
"Yeah, what do you want the gun for?"
"A buck"
"A what?"
"A buck, a big f*** off roo!"
"Yeah, alright, be careful," he said as he rolled back over to sleep. Umm, whatever.
I went to the gunsafe to find only cobwebs. Well, that was money well spent. I figured since the gun wasn't in the safe it would be in the station toyota so off I went back down the driveway in a car a little more comfortable than my own. By the time I reached the kangaroo again he was already dead. No need for the gun after all. I dragged him off the road and apologised to him for hitting him. When I got back in the toyota Lacey was very enthusiastic about my testosterone scented, bloodied hands.
The next morning Damian inspected the damage and reported to me "You're not going to like what you see". The roo had smashed my dodgily installed bullbar into the bonnet in two places, he'd smashed off my main indicator on the drivers side and the indicator on my bullbar on the passenger side.
'Good timing you prick of a roo', I thought. Registration was due to come up on my car and in the NT with a car older than 5 years it involved a roadworthy inspection. This WAS the one year I thought that I didn't need any work done on it till now. I've got dents to smash back out and two indicators to replace. Thanks alot you kamakazeeing, death-wishing roo! It's times like these that I'm glad I drive a Landcruiser!

Thursday, 9 February 2012

Smell That?

Smell that? That's the smell of the campfires lit by the Longrasser's on the banks of the town's river. Reminds me of dinner camp on mustering days. Horses hobbled and tied to trees. Maybe waiting for the first mob of coacher cattle to come in and the billy's on the boil or maybe it's just lunchtime and everyone is starving enough to hook into yet another corned beef sandwich.
See that? That's a piccaninny sunrise.Someone's ordered concrete early and alot of it across a good distance. Reminds me of a 4am wake up and breakfast of a nosebag for your horse before breakfast for yourself. By the time the sun is emerging you're out in the paddock, horses already saddled, waiting for the cattle, throwing your jacket in the toyota and braving the cold morning wind while fighting for a spot in the small amount of sun.
Smell that? Sitting behind a fully loaded road train of cattle at the lights, poking their heads out over the top deck while kicking out poo onto the road. Reminds me of weaners drafted off their mothers, living in a big yard, getting fat on hay, pellets and copra till they're tailed quiet and branded and ready to leave the yards for their new paddock at the end of a week. The smell of the yard while they're in it, sloppy poo from a sudden change in diet.
See that? Red dirt road that the council hasn't got around to bitumising yet. Reminds me of my driveway home...

Monday, 6 February 2012

Motiva... Nah, Can't be Bothered

Motivation fades in me quickly. On the Wednesday I was really keen to get to Providence and run the station horses in and trim their feet. By Saturday morning when it came to the crunch all my eagerness had faded away to "Oh, I'll just check on them and see which ones actually need doing". Turns out two should be done within the next couple of weeks while the other two will get by for at least another month. On the list for next weekend...
Thankfully though, I gained motivation to get other jobs done. A visit to Capone who was chilling in the opened yards with Hoppy under the shady trees brought my attention to all the gamba grass that had sprung up from unclean hay. This particular grass is the one in which Professor David Bowman has suggested an introduction of elephants and rhinoceros to the Top End to control it as they are accustomed to African Savannah grasses such as gamba. Quite frankly I love elephants and I would think it pretty cool to see them thumping around the NT but not so much thumping down fences and such and becoming unmanageable. Back in the day when Africa was becoming "colonised", the elephants would trample buildings if they were in their migration path. Imagine them trampling kilometers of fencelines that backed onto no-go zones like a national park or untrustworthy neighbours? A whimsical idea but not a practical one. But at least, on Providence, I decided to do something within reasonable means about the gambe we had. After finishing mowing the lawn (my usual weekend task it seems to have become) I headed off back down to the yards with a garbage bag and pair of scissors. Capone, his usual friendly self, came up to me as what I initially thought was to say hello but instead he decided to make it known to the garbage bag swinging off my arm that it was not welcome on his turf and proceeded to try and headbutt the bag but unintentionally me as well. I've never felt the need to run away from Capone before as I had hand raised him and he knew who is mummy was and that I gave him pats and scratches and cuddles but on this day I did my best duck-back-suck-back to get away from him before he unknowingly did do me some damage. Seems it was safest to ditch the bag at which point he gave up trying to kill it and sat down under the tree to chew his cud. I then went about peacefully cutting off the seed heads of all the gamba, making trips with handfuls of it back to the garbage bag. But my rounds of the yard revealed another pain-in-the-butt weed. Sida. And this stuff is not easy to kill! So in addition to cutting off the seed heads of the gamba I went around chopping off the sida at the base... till I became a little overwhelmed. Different inexpensive, organic measures need to be taken so I decided that before my next trip home out to Providence I will go to DPI (the Department of Primary Industries) and see if they still dole out Calligrapha Beetles which eat the leaves of the sida. Sida needs its leaves to go through photosynthesis to be able to grow. The Beetle eats the leaves and the plant cannot grow and therefore prevents flowering, seeding and spreading. A nice, cheap and organic way to control sida considering that herbicides only seem to hamper growth but not stop it and $1000's can be spent trying to control it to no avail.
That's not to say that I don't want to spray the weeds that I do know will die from a bit of herbicide. After finishing off the gamba I dosed up the spray unit and Damian reconnected the lines on the pump and I set off to the Cooler Paddock ready to get trigger happy with the spray gun... till I discovered the pump wasn't working. Motivation... FADE! Even though Damian tried to figure out why the pump wasn't working I had already reached the point where I just didn't care anymore. Another task for next weekend...
But to prevent anymore spread of gamba I took the garbage bag of seed heads back to town with me along with kahki burr that was growing by the back verandah (without the burrs thank goodness) and put them in the wheelie bin where they will be smothered by 5,000 other peoples rubbish in a dump that already has these weeds and then some.
What really worries me though is if we keep getting unclean hay then the weeds are going to keep popping up to the point where every morning during the Wet in following years will be spent spraying just to keep it under control. We're also getting the dozer in sometime this year so I'm really hoping that it gets cleaned before it arrives or the motivation for a hissy fit will be high!