Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Two Zero One Four

One day out from New Years Eve I wonder where the hell the year went. It seemed to go so fast. And it seems to be pretty quick to sum up too.

-          I went from casual to full time with a four year contract in my NTG job.

-          I’ve moved three times.

-          I started the year with three dogs: Roy, Monty and Kip. Roy went off to a station to work and after much mix up and frustration he’s now on a different station with more caring people and is doing quite well. Monty hung himself on a fence playing with a water leak and passed away. Despite him being nicknamed “Arsehole” by a friend of mine he was making good progress in the behavioural department. Kip is still by my side, loyal and loving.

-          There were many people myself, my family and friends have said goodbye to throughout the latter part of the year. I lost three friends to cancer and a distant family member to old age.

-          While three friends lost their battle with cancer a family member has just begun hers.

-          Despite thinking that I was going to fail a second subject in my law degree, and had I have done so I would have thrown in the towel, I miraculously passed. I will now continue my studies with added focus.

-          I bought a second car, a Prado. The windows are electric, it’s air conditioned, it has a long range fuel tank, I look after it slightly better than the Landcruiser and up until I went down the Gundegai Road one too many times I had a fully functioning stereo. The rough road killed the CD player so now I am limited to just the radio.

-          The latter half of the year has seen me caretake four different properties, at one point 3 at once.

-          The seriously dry conditions of the year saw Ruby lose weight for the first time in the three years I’ve known her and Charger lost so much weight he got turned out into a paddock that was growing hay under a pivot. Chargers weight regain was slow. As soon as the rain started Ruby stacked it on again.

-          I bought a bare back pad for riding early on in the year. Using it on Charger resulted in me hitting the dirt in a rather dramatic manner. The bare back pad never got used after that.

-          With the bare back pad being a flop (literally) I bit the bullet and put a deposit down on a hand crafted Geoff Newton saddle that I am steadily paying off. I have been without my own saddle since a bad fall in early 2011.

-          The bank account went ouch in vet bills for the first time since I lost Chief in 2010. Charger had a series of treatments for malignant sarcoids. A condition still not fully treated and probably won’t be due to its nature. Ruby was treated for laminitis in one of her front legs. X-rays showed nothing and there has been no other clear cause but the lame area was narrowed down to around her fetlock. The lameness often reoccurs, sometimes conveniently after being caught for whatever reason!

-          I had a good year with my cattle this year but unfortunately I didn’t get to see them as often as I would have like to due to one of my caretaking jobs. I sold two heifers and one steer for a good price to the Indonesian export market. Capone’s first progeny landed on the ground this year with the calving rate meeting the industry standard.

-          After being a nomad since arriving in the NT 12 years ago I have finally decided to put some roots down and am now making a serious effort to save a deposit for a block of land north of Katherine. Failing that, I will buy back home on KI instead.

Monday, 24 November 2014

The Sweet Forgotten

I know I’m about to sound like the biggest hypocrite on the planet BUT it’s explainable.

Woolworths is the place all Katherinites dread. It’s where you go to buy vegies that have expired their shelf life, catch some kind of illness that’s not bad enough to stay home from work but bad enough that you think you should go home from work before spreading it to everyone else and it’s where you go to stand in a queue while eating or drinking the things you’ve plucked from the shelf to pass this time away so that by the time you get to the counter you’re handing over an empty packet or bottle to be scanned through before the checkout chick puts it in the bin for you. It’s not the place you go to be presently surprised. But the other day I was. In fact, I was so surprised I did a little happy dance. For there on the shelf was something I had not seen nor tasted for a very long time.

I travelled to America in 2009. It was the trip of a lifetime. I met people I had been friends with for ages online. They showed me their America. Undulating, rocky outcrops covered in sage bush dotted with grazing cattle to the North West. Big houses on green acres only minutes from the inner city that hosts baseball stadiums and giant blue landmarks to the East. I travelled up the West coast with a mate. I’m sure he wonders how he survived my panic attacks in mid-traffic in the bustling cities of Los Angeles and San Francisco.

Being in another country, no matter how familiar television had made it, there’s still plenty to discover. I found Denny’s to be the only restaurants that served food I would actually eat. McDonalds wasn’t savoury, it was sweet. Costco was a jumbo sized supermarket and everything in it was jumbo sized. Food outlets are rated according to cleanliness, not food quality. And the processed food was far more processed than Australian processed food. But my one little joy I discovered amongst the super-sized and extra sweetened was a Texas made, iced tea drink called Snapples. It came in a huge range of flavours. There’s little “Did-You-Know’s” under the lid. And I hadn’t drank one since I flew out of the U.S. So to find it on the supermarket shelf had me cuddling the glass bottle all the way to the checkout where I excitedly stated “Snapples!” when I was finally served.

“Yeah! It’s back!” replied the checkout bloke. What the hell did he mean it’s back? I never even knew it was here in the first place!... Meh! I had Snapples. And I savoured it. Just in case Woolworths, in their capitalism wisdom, took it away again and it would be another 5 years or trip to America before I could drink it again.

Saturday, 22 November 2014

Australian Made

I copped strange looks as I threw bag after bag of frozen peas back into the supermarket freezer. Made in New Zealand. Made in USA. Packed in Australia using imported ingredients. Why can’t I find brand name Australian products? I was forced to go against principles I’ve had in place since 2011 and buy Woolworths brand frozen peas.

For me, shopping is tedious. I don’t cook, I really only eat packaged food. I’m lazy and eat because it’s necessary not because I enjoy it. Except for good pasta. I enjoy that. So, my shopping has me checking the back of every packet looking for the words “Made in Australia” or bear the Australian Made symbol. As Australian made products slowly diminish, creating and keeping jobs in other countries rather than our own I wonder, do people really not care where their food comes from? How many of them give enough of a toss to think about checking?

Earlier this year SPC Ardmona nearly went bust and needed a government hand out to survive and keep their factory in Victoria open. Meanwhile, Italian brands flourish because their 20cents cheaper. SPC Ardmona do canned vegetables, in particular canned tomatoes (diced, chopped and whole).

Late last year Spring Gully did a Facebook call out asking for consumers to buy their products and keep jobs in Australia. The South Australian company manufacture relishes, pickles and sauces. Their corn relish is brilliant on a corned beef sandwich.

As far as I know, San Remo, another South Australian company, is doing okay. Their specialty is pastas and sauces. But that doesn’t mean we should get complacent.  If people keep buying home brand or some other brand they’ll be in strife too.

Consumers blame the government for not supporting our food industries but really, the only group we should be pissed off with is ourselves. It’s up to US to keep jobs here in Australia. It’s up to US to check the back of the packets, the signs above the vegetables, the stickers on the meat trays to know that what we are buying is going to keep fellow Australians employed. So next time you head in to the supermarket think before you buy. Even better, avoid the supermarket altogether. Buy your veggies from the grocer and the meat from the butcher. If you live in the country head to the farmers markets. Just, for goodness sake, BUY AUSTRALIAN!

Saturday, 25 October 2014

Recipe: Tastes of Iran

The brilliant thing about Australia is that the people within it are so diverse. Last night I sat at a dinner table with two Brazilian brothers, an Iranian couple, a Belgian, a Dutchwoman and one other Aussie.

Earlier in the evening we smoked a shisha (what others may know as a hookah, or to the less educated “a big, giant bong with a hose on it”). But don’t worry folks, this shisha wasn’t packed with pot. My stance against illegal substances still stands! What it was packed with was grape leaves soaked in apple essence heated by chunks of burning charcoal. There’s no side effect, it’s done for socialising more than anything. And despite the apple essence it is actually more like liquorice. It gave way to lots of fun and laughs and I think by the end of the night the boys had smoked the whole packet.

Our hosts for the evening was obviously the Iranian couple. They had left their home country due to the opportunities and freedoms that Australia provides. But their journey hasn’t come without some interesting experiences.

A common misconception about Australia is that every animal wants to kill you and the place is filled with crocodiles, sharks, spiders and snakes. The couple were renting a house in Adelaide when a strange creature had made its way inside through an open door. Catching sight of it the pairs’ immediate reaction was “Crocodile! Crocodile!” They rushed to their neighbours’ house and asked him if he was able to do something about the croc. A little confused he obliged only to find that the invasive reptile was in fact a blue-tongued lizard which he effortlessly scooped up and put back outside in the garden not holding back his fits of laughter.

Mr and Mrs Iran have embraced the Australian way of life but certain traditions, just like the shisha, they have kept alive and in this instance it’s food! She made tzatziki and a tomato based sauce to accompany the Persian kebabs cooked over the barbeque by Mr Iran. The kebabs aren’t what would normally be thought of in terms of chunks of meat on a stick. The Persian way is to use very finely minced beef mixed in with garlic, salt, pepper and very finely diced onion. The prepared beef is encased around long, flat skewers that are about an inch and a half wide. When cooked properly on both sides the meat is slid off the skewers to be served.

The Persian kebabs were accompanied by Mrs Iran’s sauces, tossed salad, warm flat bread, tomatoes also cooked on the skewers and rice sprinkled with saffron grown on Mr Iran’s family farm in the mountains of Iran. Dessert was chocolate cheesecake (traditional out of a Sara Lee packet) and semolina cake made by Mrs Iran. And there’s nothing like a good night with full tummies and good friends.

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

The Day I Tolerated Children

It was horrific. Borderline nightmarish. They were everywhere. I took my seat, petrified. They moved erratically and noisily. I was surrounded by them. Only the introduction over the microphone could quieten them down. Moments later, the man, who entertained millions of children across Australia since the late 80’s, bounced on stage with such enthusiasm, wearing a shirt that probably also began its career in the late 80’s. It was of course Peter Coombs and if you couldn’t tell, I was at a children’s concert filled to the brim with bloody children. I have only myself to blame. I should have known that there would be hoards of them.

The mother’s sat down, their hair all done up in a practical fashion. Their children running riot on the floor in front. They weren’t really here for the kids, for these mothers, just like myself, grew up listening to the sounds of “Juicy, Juicy, Green Grass” and “Quirky Berserky the Turkey from Turkey”.

I sang along where I could because I was told once that singing or humming whilst on a fresh horse will calm ones nerves. I wasn’t on a fresh horse but this was close enough. I watched the children have little spacky fits. I don’t know how else to describe it. They thrashed around like a druggie trying to drag out his hit. These children must have been on eccy’s too because they were pretty happy to be there.

Once the little children got in to the swing of the concert, they crept closer and closer towards the stage, like a virus spreading. It was bad enough at one point that even the seasoned entertainer expressed concern. At one stage I was questioning whether the children were louder than Mr Coombs, especially when one nearby child wouldn’t stop shrieking. This was the same child who kicked off his shorts with panache to indicate to his mother that he would like to visit the bathroom facilities. Either that or he was really, really happy.

After all the off-key yodelling and out of time clapping from the children, Mr Coombs sang his finale, my favourite, “Mr Clickety Cane”. We all sang along to the nonsense of washing our face with orange juice and cleaning our teeth with bubble gum till the song ended and it was time to go home.

Seeing Peter Coombs in concert wasn’t on my bucket list but it sure did make my day!

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Welcome Back Hughie

Normally we wait, complaining endlessly about the heat, the humidity. We make bets, even the local newspaper holds a competition “When’s it gonna rain?”. October drags on, like a big, old, nasty oven. November is like a sauna except there are no old geezers sitting around in just a towel. And then December rolls in with Hughie at the helm. All darkness and thunder, lightning and rain. The Wet season finally arrives. But this year, oh, this year is a wonderful exception…

It’s mid-October and we Top Enders have felt relief already. What stations are getting rain are skiting about it on Facebook, joyous in that hopefully this year won’t be as bad as the last. The townies are loving it too. It’s soothing and refreshing.

I was quite happy on the Monday night to watch sporadic raindrops plop on my windscreen after I finished having dinner with a friend. Another friend turned on her wipers due to rain whilst on the dirt tracks of a station on the Sturt Plateau. Then a post on Facebook lifted my spirits when the station owners where my cattle are agisted announced that some places on the property had 20mm.

And why, do you ask, are we so bewildered and delighted with the rain? To a Southerner it highlights dreary weather that can’t be enjoyed, only the farmers appreciate it. To us it is life.

I’d been watching the rain build up in the clouds while down at Mataranka checking fruit fly traps in mango orchards. As my colleague and I left the area, I watched as the clouds got too heavy and dropped its load directly on top of the station my cattle are on. I did a happy dance every time I looked back in the car mirror and sung about it in the worst, off-tune fashion I could much to the annoyance of my colleague (who deserves to frequently be annoyed by the way).

Katherine was still building up, still waiting its turn. It took a few hours but by 6:30pm it was done and down it came. Heading down the highway I noticed two horses galloping towards a tiny clump of trees where 15 other horses had already beaten them to it. They didn’t care, their tails were in the air and their ears were forward and their heads held high as they maintained their stride. For them it was an exciting time too.

On the road home it was like a disco. The puddles reflected my headlights into the trees and the lightning broke the darkness. Every drop of rain that fell into the wheel ruts sparkled as the lights hit them. Steam rose from the bitumen. I had strobe lights, a disco ball and a smoke machine all gifted to me by Hughie. Pity the CD player carked it last week! A bit of Luke Bryan and Jerrod Niemann would have topped it off just nicely with their party/country anthems.

Despite the fact that I had a strong feeling that we were going to get rain in October I didn’t trust myself enough to believe it. Part of that strong feeling included that we might not see rain again until December. A mate, ever the optimist, told me there was a sixty percent chance of rain this week and I doubted him. “Only sixty!” I pointed out.

I’m hoping that the second part of my strong feeling is off and that we don’t have to wait well over a month for more rain. I’m hoping that it comes sooner. Because it’s got us all excited now. The green pick can start to come up. The brolgas will start dancing. The cattle will fatten. The wildlife will reappear. The waterholes will fill. The creeks will flow. The country will clean itself. The landscape will come alive. The Territory will be new again.

Thursday, 14 August 2014

Memories, Dreams and Skies: Part Two

Something beeped and woke me up. I was getting quite comfy there too but I had a feeling I’d missed out on my biscuits. I looked out the window and below me was the East Kimberleys. River and creek systems wriggled their way everywhere. Tones of grey and brown. I could see a big turkey’s nest near a salt arm with cattle camped up in the corners of fencelines and wondered if we were directly over Legune and what I was looking down on was Salt Paddock and all those green patches were paragrass. Maybe we were over Bullo River, Carlton Hills or Newry. I don’t care, I’m going to keep thinking it was Legune.

As we came in closer to Kununurra old memories came flooding back. Last time I flew in here I was surviving on pain killers from a broken back and I’d just been to see the surgeon in Darwin and have MRI’s.
All the little farms looked like a patchwork quilt. The Ord River Irrigation Scheme stretched its way providing water for the farmers to grow their crops. TFS had taken over with their sandalwood trees. All the rock formations stood proud. The town was built around them. Not them smashed down to make way for a town. It was good to be back there. It had been 5 years since my last visit. I drove from Willeroo to Lake Argyle and checked out the Durack Homestead, watched the rodeo, camped the night and drove all the way back again.

The airport had changed. There was now an industrial estate (or it was way bigger if it had always been there). Weaber Plains Road was full of sandalwood trees. I pointed out to places along the roads and told my workmate “that was where the bus driver kicked us all off because the blokes broke out into a fight. Then the fight continued on the lawn and then the psycho cook pulled a knife and we all hid in BP until the cops came to arrest him. He was a frigging psycho. He got fired a week later”.

After the meeting we went to the Hoochery which I didn’t know existed until a few weeks back. It’s annoying that when I was at Legune our town trips were focussed purely on partying and nothing on site seeing and making the most of the town. Everyone must have thought I was a nut for taking so many photos at the Hoochery and getting so excited about it but it was a gap that needed filling and this would be my only opportunity for a while. Don’t worry peeps, I took a photo of a chia crop as well!

On the way out of Kununurra I felt like we were moving in to the future and I don’t just mean because of the time zone issue. In my mind I was moving from 2004 to 2007 to 2008 to now. I pointed out the Buchanan Highway “that’s where Kidman Springs is, down that road by 80kms” and the western boundary of Willeroo “it starts here and it’s on either side of us”. I pointed out Mt Alice from where it takes two days to walk the cattle to the yards and a gate that leads to another set of yards. I pointed out Augusta’s Crown, the homestead, the hill with the most awful name, Mt Leonard and the eastern boundary. “And my mate owns this place and sometimes I come out here to work or get away from town”. Every boundary change I changed the UHF channel to match, just for the hell of it. Nothing but static. Everyone had knocked off for the day. The station horses were chilling out in the Driveway Paddock.

By 8pm I was home. One whirlwind trip over and done with. Much achieved and learned. Much remembered and learned. Much changed. And for the better.

Memories, Dreams and Skies: Part One

“I always have this nightmare that I’m late for an exam or have failed an exam or not prepared for one” Our plane had issues and we were asked to disembark so we filled the time with random chatter in the airport lounge. It was unbelievably surreal as my recurring dream is missing my plane, losing my suitcase, passport or ticket, forgetting my suitcase, passport or ticket. There’s always some reason in those dreams as to why I can’t get on the plane, why I can’t fly. I have yet to have a dream where I am in an airport and actually embark the plane. I only get these dreams when I’ve been feeling a little lost in life, when I’m not quite sure I’m on the right path or I feel like I’m being left behind. I haven’t had them for a long time. The situation was made more surreal when I realised whilst sitting in the lounge that just before we got on the plane the first time and I was heading down the walkway ready to board I was thinking that I really felt that my life was finally going in the right direction, piece by piece, step by step.

I have a sense of freedom that I hadn’t felt for a long time. I don’t answer to anyone. My weekends are spent how I want to spend them. I have a job that is secure and pays well. I know where I will be sleeping almost every night. I have goals and ambitions that aren’t being pushed back and back and back. They’re being achieved. People’s opinions of how THEY think I should live my life are being ignored. I am answerable to myself, not to them. I will choose and walk my own path. I make the decisions. I choose to keep my Landcruiser. I choose to keep my original cows. I choose to live so far out of town. I live with those choices and I don’t need to justify them.

Finally the call to re-embark the plane came over the speakers. Conversations about university, camping and crazy people at work came to a halt. Before too long we were taking off, heading West and I was falling asleep to a sound I’d been hearing since I was in my mothers womb.

Thursday, 7 August 2014

What's In It For Me?

In late 2011 I was excited when I heard that the Country Women’s Association was reopening its branch in Katherine. I thought it was a fantastic way of giving back to the community so when a friend handed me a membership form I signed up and paid my $30 straight away. Being a new branch we were seeking plenty of women to recruit to be part of the cause. I’d ask my friends if they’d like to join and I got plenty of excuses “I don’t have the time for that sort of thing”, “I’m not a bake-y, crafty type”, “isn’t the CWA for little old ladies?” et cetera, et cetera. But the one excuse that pissed me off was “what’s in it for me?” Well, why the hell should there be anything in it for you? That’s not the whole idea of CWA. CWA is about giving back, not bloody taking!

But, if you did happen to wonder “what’s in it for me?” then I’d think you’d find there’s plenty. Making new friends for a start. That was why it was formed. Lonely farmer’s wives sick of their own company banded together and gave themselves a social outlet. Another reason would be an opportunity to learn new things. Whether it be off fellow CWA members or from a master class. The warm fuzzies when giving back to the community is a good reason. Money raised from events have gone to various causes like local sick kids, the Kintore Street School’s new bus, the Australian Outback Baby Project and the International Women of the World Association. That’s the best bit. Being able to help someone out that is less fortunate than ourselves.

And yeah, okay, it might take up a bit of time. I mean, heaven forbid, we have one meeting a month which takes up a whole of one, maybe two, hours. And then if we hold a stall members might be asked to put up their hand to volunteer to man that stall which might take 3 hours or more if you’re willing. But really, in the bigger picture, it takes up bugger all time. And the help required might not even be volunteered by actual members. Take the Katherine Show this year for example. We had a wonderful girl put up her hand to volunteer for a shift, my friend Kerrie who was up from New South Wales cooked and served customers all Friday despite going through the hell that is chemotherapy and I managed to rope my Dad to help pack up at the end of the weekend despite him having driven how many thousands of kilometres to see me and put up with me dashing off to do my shifts and fill gaps on the stall. And not to mention the sweetest cops who also helped us carry stuff to our cars upon packing up.

Taking the time out to be part of something better is fulfilling and rewarding. Soon, I’ll be adding spending time with the elderly to my list of philanthropic activities. But I don’t do it for the glory and recognition. It’s something I feel everyone should do at least once in a while. Help out. It won’t hurt you. And you never know, you might find there is something in it for you!

Monday, 9 June 2014

Recipe: Tastes of the Torres Strait

Back in my concrete truck driving days I lived with a woman for a while who hosted an international night. So many people came to the dinner and brought a plate of food that originates from their home country. Us native Aussies were a bit stuffed though. Meat pies and pavlovas were the best we could pull off. However, a well-known Filipino lady brought a wonderful rice dish, there were spring rolls, lovely desserts, all traditional foods of other countries, made by people that now call Australia home. But there was one dish that stood out above all others. It was called Sop-Sop. This sweet stew hails from the Torres Strait and was cooked up by a woman whose family migrated to the mainland when she was a child. It’s a simple dish and you could be forgiven if you thought it was a dessert. I had only eaten it once but its unique taste lingered. When I discovered a friend of mine also knew of Sop-Sop I got very excited and she was who I turned to when I had forgotten half of the ingredients. With the complete recipe now in my head I was able to knock it up for myself and didn’t it go down a treat!

The recipe as extracted from my head:

2 Bananas
1 Small Sweet Potato
2 Large Potatoes
1 Brown Onion
2 Cans of Coconut Cream

Chop all ingredients into 1 inch sized pieces. Put the lot into a slow cooker or pot and pour over both cans of coconut cream and give it a bit of a stir. If using a slow cooker, set it to auto or low and cook it for 7-8 hours stirring every couple of hours. For a pot on the stove, set it to the lowest temperature possible and cook it for 3-4 hours (or until the potatoes are cooked) stirring it every hour or so. This should serve about two people.

Sop Sop in the slow cooker all ready to eat!

Sunday, 18 May 2014

Katherine Races in Numbers

10 Nails painted red. 45 minutes and 21 bobby pins for my hair to be done. 1 phone call to the taxi company. 30 minutes waiting for the taxi. 2 more phone calls to the taxi company. 5 more minutes waiting for the taxi. $18 fare. $15 entry. 200 metres of walking to the pavilion whilst trying to stay upright in 3 inch heels. Thousands of people. One obscure friend. 2 champagnes. Countless photos. 3 single ladies on the prowl who found the hottest guy at the races (a RAAFie so it turns out). One well-dressed teddy bear named Kerrie. 8 blokes in powder blue safari suits, one of which is carrying a stuffed Alf toy in a baby sling. 1 bloke in a cream-coloured safari suit. 3 blokes in brown velveteen lederhosen. 1 bloke wearing a blonde wig and a black cotton lederhosen. 9 entrants into the best hat competition including one child. 10 entrants including myself in my heat of fillies fashions on the field. 10 in the following heat. 8 in the last heat. 6 finalists. One winner dressed similarly to my friend (except for the hat). 11 entrants to the mares fashions on the field. Statistics in Pip's words: 25% of people dressed in high end fashion. 50% of people dressed nice for the day. And 25% of people who should have reconsidered what they wore. 1 stockhorse race. 6 standard races. 10 trainers. 7 jockeys, 4 of which were female. 25 horses. Lots of drunk people. One bloke making a display of taking a piss on the race track... while there were numerous children around. 4 trashy women laughing about it. 3 single ladies that decided it was time to go home. 2 drop-offs in a taxi before my turn. $35 fare. One welcoming couch. Two sore feet. One throbbing headache.

See it all at:

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Community Capers

Now that I’m a dweller of regional suburbia I’ve decided, since the coffers somewhat allow this time round, that I’ll take the opportunities that arise to participate or attend community activities.

I’ve attended the opening of an art exhibition which made me a little sad because I couldn’t afford the price tag on any of the pieces although I know exactly where, in my future house, that I will put them. I walked around with a friend, sipping a glass of champagne, admiring all the efforts of NT artists and their creativity.

The following day I participated in the annual “Women Walk the World”, where normally I would sit back and ‘man the stall’ or just be out bush fixing a fence in the blazing sun. There was only a mere 5 of us eager enough to pound the pavement; our new International Officer for the CWA, her friend, our Secretary, our President and me with my dog, Monty, in tow because he was busy peeing on everything or trying to escape that ‘scary’ truck that just went past. I also had to be watchful that he didn’t pee on my friends’ pram. The other, less energetic members and their friends, ate scones and sweets and drank coffee in the hall while we were gone.

But the community event that had me in my element was the Great Nitmiluk Toad Bust at the national park, hosted by Ranger Claire, as part of Parks Week.

There were bloody kids everywhere. Squealing and talking loudly to ensure they are heard over any other possible noise, asking questions like only a bloody kid can. And I was going to make sure I wasn’t going to be outdone by a bloody kid.

My friend, Jac, and I had an agreement. Since she didn’t like toads but wanted to be there, she would shine the torch on them and I would catch them. And catch I did. Every time one of us saw a toad, whatever I was carrying made a sudden exit from my hands and I would leap and bound and jump and slide and climb and slosh and ignore “Please do not walk here” signs till I had that slimy toad in my hands then into the sandwich bag.

Our outcome was good. A team effort though Jac often did question my eye-sight on occasion. We caught three big toads and one smaller toad and prevented an innocent frog from being picked up as a toad by someone who is more blind than me. Though really, my eye-sight is not that bad, this fellow just lacked a torch to see what he was doing but had enough common sense to ask us if “that little one is a toad?”

At the end of the evening the bloody kids, who worked in a noisy, squealing pack with a few reluctant adults in tow, caught plenty of toads. And I even willingly shared our catch so the littlest kid didn’t miss out on being in the group photo.

Catching toads sent me back in my memory bank to my college days, where I would torment toads and people alike. My favourite trick was to tie sinkers to the feet of toads then hurl them onto the roof of the dorms. They would then proceed to hop across the roof, if they hadn’t already fallen off, dragging the sinker behind them with a clankity, clankity-clank. Not everyone thought I was as funny or clever as I did. Take Michael for example. It was above his room that I would normally throw the toads. He got cranky about it. But at the same time he had no problem with being dared by fellow students to sit on a toaster to see if his pubic hairs caught on fire. Go figure.

"Help, I've been put in a sandwich bag by a mad woman!"
Back to the present. I’m sure there will be more, mature activities I can do here in K-Town that don’t involve toads. You never know, next art exhibition I could be throwing my working class poverty into the wind and buying works of art to hang on the walls of my yet built home.


Monday, 24 February 2014

My Uniform: In a Gym

My uniform (ie: you’ll rarely see me in anything different) is jeans and boots, depending on the occasion as to whether I wear a nice shirt or a work shirt. If I’m ever in just shorts and a t-shirt it’s because I’ve either just had a shower and am about to head to bed or it’s Saturday and I can’t be arsed getting dressed. So as you can imagine, I rock up to all sorts of things in jeans and boots, even where it is not quite appropriate... Like the gym for example.
I don’t know how she does it but she does. Rinda can talk me into anything. So there I was, waiting patiently in the foyer of the YMCA, after paying $15, for Rinda to stop being late. When she finally arrived she looked at me sideways.
“Is that what you are going to wear?”
Well, yes, jeans and boots and a work shirt. I’ve done more exercise (and got paid for it) working cattle or building or fixing fences in the very same outfit I wore this day. So, yes, the gym? In my adequate attire? Bring it on!
I had never been in a gym before, nor do I want to repeat this event. Other than what’s on TV and in movies I didn’t really know what to expect. So when Rinda swung the doors open I wondered where the rest of the gym was hiding. Grey besa brick walls shape out the weights area and the contraption area. There was music playing from the TV but the wall fans were so loud they couldn’t be heard. The weights area was full of blokes, many of whom were full of themselves. Nope, I didn’t want this area. Rinda convinced me to step on a contraption.
“I don’t like it, it’s weird, it’s making me exercise” I’m such a spoil-sport.
So she popped me on a fake bike that doesn’t go anywhere. I peddled nice and slow and lazy because on this thing there was no destination to reach. I noticed it had a screen though. So, like a kid, I started pressing random buttons.
“This thing won’t work. It’s broken!” and Rinda came back with a bemused look on her face.
“Peddle harder, trust me”
“But I don’t want to peddle harder”
“Just do it!” Bloody Nike ad she is! But I did it and suddenly the screen was working.  She played around with a few things including telling it I was a male and that I wanted to ride up and down many fake hills.
I peddled easy then hard then easy then hard according to all these hills that I couldn’t see. And then the screen went black.
“It’s broken again!”
“You weren’t peddling hard enough” shouted Rinda from some contraption that looked weird.
Damn. This gym business is annoying. So, I hooked back into peddling, reset myself as a male wanting to ride fake hills and got back into it. 20 minutes later the fake hills had finished and between the two stints on the fake bike I MAY have burned off ONE piece of chocolate that I ate before I came in to this crowded room.
Of course, this effort was not sufficient in Rinda’s eyes. She expected more from me though I refused to take any of it seriously.
“Try this thing” she convinced me to stand high up on this thingy that helped me fake doing some chin ups.
“Five times or I won’t let you down”... I did three. She knows better than to argue with me.
She made me sit in a contraption and push some padded bars out.
“Five times!”... I did two.
“No, planking is stupid and isn’t fashionable anymore”
“Hold it for 30 seconds” she reckoned. I couldn’t hold it for any, I was too busy laughing and perving on a bloke.
“That’s not going to help your stomach muscles!” Liar, I could feel the burn... from laughing so hard.
After a bit of mucking around and “spotting”  Rinda, which I was doing way wrong much to the Haymakers disgust (apparently I’m supposed to stand behind her and help her or something) we left. With an amused smile on my dial, my jeans and boots marched on out... vowing never to march on in again. I think all the other gym users were hoping that too.

Saturday, 11 January 2014

Never Just a Horse

They’re your workmate, they’re your teammate, they’re your best mate. But they are never just a horse.
They put their heart into what they do. Always willing to please. So long as they’re treated right.
They’ll lap that break-away cleanskin through the timber for you. They’ll stand tall and proud in the arena for you. They’ll get first place in the barrels for you. They’ll stand there and put up with being hugged, kissed and petted for you.
And when they finally leave this world, they leave the emptiest of places in your heart. Only a hoof print is left behind.
To say goodbye to a much loved horse is a heartbreaking thing. Recently my friend said goodbye to her beloved Toby. As I headed down to the horse paddock to tie up the loose ends all the bad memories of saying goodbye to my own horse, Chief, came flooding back. I knew exactly what she was going through and it was nothing but pain.
But opposite to the heart ache of saying goodbye they can bring us so much joy too. For a Saturdays entertainment, a group of horsey strangers descended on one of the most well equipped horse properties in the Katherine area. One girl was unable to bring her own horses in so I brang in my Ruby to ride for myself so she could ride old Charger who was coming in anyway for an appointment with the vet.
Most people don’t think all that much of Charger. He’s done the hard yards, he doesn’t come from any kind of special blood stock, he’s missing half of his nearside ear and these days he works as hard as he feels like. I was waiting for his condemnation which is what I usually cop from males. Instead he received nothing but praise. He did everything she asked of him. She loved her mount and he loved his rider. What it boiled down to was she was glad to have a horse to ride for the morning and he was glad to not be flogged around a paddock trying to keep cattle together from sun up to sun down.
Charger did me proud. Ruby on the other hand, I’m starting to think I have bitten off more than I can chew. She had a massive dummy spit when being saddled, did not like any other horse other than Charger going near her, her canter (which is normally very smooth) was a series of unwanted pig roots and while I took Charger to the vet I expected to return to find dents in the stable walls and scratches and cuts all over her (thankfully the infrastructure was fine as was she).
Ruby might be an arrogant handful but I still love her. I’ve definitely got my work cut out for me. At least I still have my Charger by my side to balance it out. And as my Territory Mum and I watched him in the afternoon zoom around the house paddock, roll in the mud and whinny at the fence it had us thinking.
“Territory conditions aren’t meant for horses”, she said.
I agreed but added “If it wasn’t for the horses what would the Territory be? It was built on the back of the horse.” Just like the world we live in. It was a horse by the human races’ side helping to make it all happen. Doing their silent bit. Wars have been won and lost on the back of a horse and cities built.
Between the tears and the memories of writing this piece I’ve struggled to find the words that do justice for the horse. I feel that to call them a noble animal is an understatement, to say they are beautiful or graceful is an understatement. All quite simply because they are never just a horse.