Thursday, May 30, 2013

Love or terror, it is still the Outback

Talking of the Outback and its perils draws me back to an experience I had working on a property out from Winton in the Central West. The owners, for some reason, let the property run down. The stock were poor and the fences had not been touched for repair for several years. The first day I started on this place I felt an atmosphere of despair from the boss, and it wasn't until some years later that I heard that he and his wife were breaking up and the property became the argument in settlement.

Of course that was not my concern, even if I had known about it at the time, I was hired as a stationhand when they seemed to expect a miracle worker.

The first morning the boss said to me, “Go and ride the fences in as many paddocks you can get through before dark and take some paper and a pencil with you to write down the fence condition as you go." Nothing else; no indication of where I would be likely to find broken fences, but he was the boss so I did as I was told.

Before I went, I went over to the cook house to get some damper, maybe some cold mutton and a bit of tea and sugar to keep the “worms” away during the day.  More depression as the Cook took almost half an hour before he appeared out from his room.
“Waddya want?” he growled, a scrawny, stumpy little bloke with dirty clothes and an appearance that he had not washed himself or his clothes for a long time. I had been given what he considered breakfast an hour ago, and he had fed the boss and overseer in the house and gone back to bed, which accounted for his grumpiness with me.
“I will be out all day and I was wondering if I could get some tea, sugar and maybe some damper and cold mutton?”
“Bloody young blokes, all they can think of is belly and what hangs from it.”
I knew that I was not going to last long on this place.
“Well are ya' going to get me some stuff or not?”
The miserable old coot came back with two slices of high-top bread, two slices of fatty mutton, and in his hand he held a mix of sugar and tea leaves.
"Where's ya saddle bag?” he mumbled.
Luckily I had a couple of small flour bags in my saddle bag and I took these in to the kitchen to find the food and tea dumped on the table. The cook had gone back to bed. I managed to scrape enough of the tealeaves and sugar together to make at least one quart-pot of tea. I looked around the kitchen to see if I could get a bit more tucker but would you believe every cupboard, and the refrigerator, had a solid lock on the doors. Ah well I thought, I will do this one bit of work for this boss and then get the mail truck to town in the morning, and they could stick their miserable property where it will do the most good.

It took me more than a hour to pick out a horse that I reckoned would be capable of a bit of work, and was still looking when the overseer came over and wanted to know why I wasn't out on the fences. I spoke to him about the condition of the horses and the poor bloke agreed with a sigh that seemed as though his world was ending.
“Come over with me, there are a couple of good stock horses over in the  stables that have been fed up and worked, you can take a pick form one of those.”

I didn't ask him why these horses were here while the others were starving and riddled with worms, with one of them with a weeping gash on its foreleg that looked at least a month old. When I asked him if he wanted me to do some work on the poor animal, his answer was, funnily enough, half expected.
“Na! I'm gunna take him up the creek later and put a bullet in his brain, the Boss won't spend any money on animals.”

So, full of glee and happiness at my new job on this bright and cheerful property - Yeah right - I rode out the gate on a horse that had that much oats and lucerne in its gut that it didn't stop fertilising the paddock for twenty minutes. And the smell! Even the flies hung back, but he did have a bit of go in him and I let him canter at his own pace for a couple of miles.

I should have taken a whole book instead of one scrap of paper. The fence line, including that part of fence that was a boundary, was a mess. My boss and the neighbour had been going at it for a couple of years about the boundary with the neighbour doing all of any of the repairs needed, but as cheaply as he could. There were holes under the fence every mile, some a lot closer, and diggings that left a tunnel for the pigs, dingoes, wild goats and station sheep to wander around the paddocks unchecked.

The first paddock was about ten mile around, making it around 6500 acres, and I reckoned that the horse would not be in real good condition, even with his feeding, as his muscles would shudder with use each time I pulled him back from a canter. No doubt, with a week's light work this horse would be in pretty good condition, but it had been standing and eating and wandering around a yard for the last month, and was like a primed up fighter with muscular dystrophy. It had plenty in the engine room, but the tyres were all flat.

We had finished the first paddock and had gone through a gate into what looked like it might be in a bit better condition. I could see a big Prickly Acacia and under its boughs the green that indicated water, probably a bore drain, I thought. The horse drank, and tried to drink some more, but I pulled back because it was only trying to fill the stomach that had been made a little hollow with the expulsion of all that good tucker.

Against my best instincts I kept the horse at a walk and continued up the fence line. I only went about a mile up and reckoned that I should get off this animal and give it a bit of a rest. I did, but I walked it around slowly as one would do a race horse after a big run, so as to let it cool down slowly. This horse had a good eye and was looking at me with a sort of apologetic look on its face, so I brushed the flies out of its eyes and talked to the animal, trying to reassure it, at the same time, trying to reassure myself.

We had come along the longest part of the previous paddock, and a mile or so into this one, so we were about fourteen mile from the station. My thoughts were with the horse now, the old boss could stuff his fence, I wouldn't be here tomorrow, and good riddance I reckoned.

I led the horse up to a taller gidgee tree and tried to find a bit of good grass for it to eat as it was starving for its feed bin back at the stables. The bore drain was only a hundred yards away and I resolved to take it over there for a feed when I had had a cuppa myself.
“Bugga it, horse, I think we might head home. You aren't in any condition to do a full days work, and to tell you the truth, I ain't either, not for this lousy property and its angry old men.” 
The horse agreed and settled down in the shade to have a bit of a nap.

As the afternoon wore on I led the horse more that riding it as we headed back towards the homestead. I had no intention of staying out until dark but I also had no desire to spend my last hours in the company of the miserable crew on this property. I doubted that I would be fed if I said I was quitting, and I only wanted to have a bit of a feed, a sleep and get onto the mail truck early in the morning.

We must have been heading home as the horse picked up its spirits, probably with the thought of the big feed that would be waiting for him at the stables. So I climbed into the saddle and let the horse move into a trot. I was standing in the irons and the distance was being covered at an easy rate. We headed due west, straight into the afternoon sun, and I had my head down out of the glare of the big round lump of fire in the heavens.

When I came too from the whack on the back of my head I was laying on my back, my rear end in the air and one leg up the side of the dog fence boundary. Five feet off the ground my boot and foot were inside a loop of wire that someone had put there away from roaming stock, a good idea gone seriously bad, bad for me that is. I had no chance of reaching up, pulling my body weight up to reach the wire, and what could I do if I could? My fingers were not pliers. I had nothing to cut the wire with other than the pair of fencing pliers in the saddlebag on the horse that was about a mile down the fence line, and still trotting.

I lay back and considered the predicament, I was still about ten miles from the station and I reckoned no one would come to look for me until well after dark, if at all. My foot didn't have the blood cut off with the wire as my R.M. Williams boot was good leather and the stirrup iron was also wrapped up in the wire, but I was effectively held captive like a sheep carcase hung up, one legged, of a killing gamble.

What could happen? I began to take the matter seriously, hanging like I was it would not be long before the crows and the carrion hawks would gather to watch proceedings, as I was not posing  much of a threat to them at this particular time. I could struggle and jerk around like a dingo in a trap,  which I did for a little while to no effect, or I could just lay there and wait for help; this was not very sensible either as I had no trust in the help that may or may not come.

My hat was still on my head as I landed, and it only left when I hit the ground hard, which knocked me out, for a time undetermined. I reached back over my head and felt the Akubra and pulled it forward, using it as a shade over my eyes while I took deep breaths to settle my nerves. I must have dozed off because I felt the nuzzle of the horse examining me with its soft and curious snout.
“Mate, me old mate,” I was very happy at the horses return, “Mate you came back?”
The horse lifted its head and looked back down the fence line towards home and the feed, but the reins trailed over my arm and I quietly took a hold of them, and the horse quickly submitted to its training and stayed quietly until I decided what to do.

I tried to get the horse to stand side on, but it kept getting a bit nervous when I also tried to pull myself up to reach the pliers in the saddle bag.  He pulled away each time, although I got to the point where I was actually hanging onto the saddle bag and was about to reach in for the pliers before he did a small side step that had me slam onto my back again.

It is not unusual for a man to start swearing at this type of thing as though swearing will fix the problem, but I felt fear, cold fear as my predicament reached deeply into my hopelessness, and I could not think of one swear word to yell.
“Oh well!” I moaned in my misery “I have had a reasonable life, short but reasonable. I would have liked to get married and have kids, maybe a property myself one day, at least I wouldn't let it get as run down as this lousy hell hole.”
The horse blew soft snuffles in my face and I reckoned it was thanking me for my kindness, as well as saying, 'sorry mate' I can't help you.'

I was guessing, and more than scared as the sun started to go below the horizon, and already the evening star shone in a still blue/grey sky. A large carrion hawk landed on the fence above my trapped foot, and I screamed at it “Chew that bloody wire if you want something to chew at.” I threw a handful of dirt at the beady-eyed, hooked beak gleaner of all torn flesh and it took off in a flurry of feathers as high-pitched whistle like squeals, and this startled the horse, and he lunged back, with me hanging tight to the reins, not knowing why, just not wanting the horse to leave me.  He pulled against the reins and I hung tight so that my body came up off the ground, which had me in readiness for the horrible thud as the reins broke or I let go.

Thud...wooof! Down I went flat on my back, the horse running backwards, and to my surprise, was dragging me after it. I let the horse go and it trotted off and settled down enough to stand still as I looked at the stirrup iron and my boot hanging on the fence, still. I jumped to my feet, one sore ankle but little else wrong, and I want you to promise you wont make a meal of this, but I went to that horse, that wonderful kind horse, and I kissed it full on its lips.

I was seventeen years of age, but the tears of relief cascaded down my face as I cogitated on the prospect of being dead, but saved by the thing that opened this Outback country up to the settlers, the graziers that let their land run down and became miserable at the fruits of their own making, but here I was, alive and young and with a story to tell at least.

I tried to tell that story back at the homestead but no one was interested, the Boss only wanted a report on the fence, the Overseer only wanted the horse back in the stable and fed, and I wouldn't even bother with the cook, if that was his title.

Early the next morning I went to the stables and patted the horse in a quiet good-bye, and he even lifted his head out of the feed trough to give me a bit of a nod and a gentle whinnie! Luckily I ended up heading down to the Barcoo River and took up work as a stationhand on Isis Downs, but that is another story …

[Peter Rakes Romance Adventure novel, The Outback Story - The Loves and Adventures of 'Tiger' Williams, is available now on Amazon]

Saturday, May 25, 2013

For those that know the feeling

There is no greater gift than the one that freely comes
To give your love, and receive in return the same
To feel the warmth and comfort of your companion
The melding of heart and body, the exquisite pain
The joy of knowing the thrill of finding the magic
Soft caresses, the gentle touch, the passionate kiss
Neither man nor woman should pass this life alone
No soul on earth should be deprived of this
The early rush, the heady lust, the excitement
The subtle change where words are not needed
Feeling a oneness, a fulfilment of bonding hearts
Where the casual eye, the gentle touch is now heeded
A look that others see and they smile knowingly
Holding hands on a long and happy walk in the rain
Laughing together at things you once never saw
Not feeling, weariness or at times, any pain
This joyful love conquers the ills of the world
It causes differences to fade, selfishness die
It changes the very meaning of your life's existence
It brightly colours things that we see with the inner eye
Once you have felt this love it never goes away
Although partnerships dissolves for whatever reason
One strong, passionate love is always in your mind to recall
Your personal shield against a bitter lonely season

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Why are romance and the Outback so entwined?

It is a good question as to why the Outback of Australia and the rugged areas of other places seem to draw themselves to romance.

Maybe it is the contrasts of harshness and soft love, opposites attract and soft love is not really a trait of nature when she hands out her lessons on life in the wide brown land.

I love a sunburned country
A land of sweeping plains
Of ragged mountain ranges
Of droughts and flooding rains
I love her far horizons
I love her Jewel-sea
Her beauty and her terror-
The wide brown land for me.

Dorothea  Mackella, in this second verse of her great Australian poem epitomised the love that one can feel for the Outback. It shows that the spirit of the land is not  only in the animals and the long born indigenous people, but can raise in the hearts of the settlers, the graziers, bushmen of all working codes, and it is soon felt in the hearts of the traveller if they let themselves be adopted by the Outback Mother, Nature herself.

In my own heart comes the feeling of wonder at nature's hand; how a land like ours can supply all that the rest of the world holds, and yet retain its own individuality.

I know that there is always the thought, when nature is good to you, that you could hug her, you could love her for her kindness, and that is how we develop true love for the women that gave us the opportunity to feel true love as was meant for man and woman.

I have been subject to some terror, things that I thought I would not come out of, and in the end, all the terror and fear had been washed away by a sweet girl, cotton wool soft, hair of golden strands and eyes so blue that I had ridden over my fears to accept the love, the surrounding place and the situation.

Having passed that test of returning from disaster, and being blessed with that beautiful angel, a bush girl, an Outback classy lass, I know why the Outback is an ideal platform for fair-dinkum, joyous love stories.

From photographer Tony Feder
I challenge you to seek the Outback , to sit at Emily's Gap, at the Alice, see the colours change against the rocks as nature practices her painting technique.  To fathom the Katherine Gorge. To stand on the Black Soil Plains and see an unbroken horizon in the full circle of land as though you are standing on a plate that could easily flip you off into the cathedral sky of the night. I challenge you to see these things and not feel a greater love for the person of your desire.

Believe, the Outback begs for love stories.

[Peter Rakes Romance Adventure novel, The Outback Story - The Loves and Adventures of 'Tiger' Williams, is available now on Amazon]

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Freda, an exceptional dog

An excerpt from Peter Rake's debut novel, 'The Outback Story - The Loves and Adventures of 'Tiger' Williams' ...

The three were still sitting in the vehicle as Brady strolled over towards them.
"I've got a dog," Steve said, hastily adding, "She can stay in the vehicle if you want, but she doesn't run about - won't get into any mischief."
"She's alright. Baker told me about her. Reckons she is something special, not like an ordinary dog, he said."
Steve looked at Lindy who was just a curious at the thought that her father would bother to explain a working dog to anyone when he had rang Brady Sands to guarantee the purchase if it transpired. Neither had realised that Mr Baker had been watching Freda very closely, and had made up his mind that she was no ordinary dog.
"I believe that she's a bit of a hero, and you too, young fella, but I'd like to hear the true story if you feel like it."
Lindy went around the ute and stood with Steve as he did a proper introduction, and Freda 'asked' if she could get out as well.
"Yeah she's alright, let her out," Brady offered affably.
Freda jumped from the seat, went to the front of the ute and relieved herself, out of sight of the humans and came around to sit at Steve's feet.
"Do you want to go over to the house with my missus, Lindy?” Brady asked.
"I'd rather see the horses, if I may," Lindy replied.
"Yeah that's alright with me. Come over to the stable."
As they headed off towards the horses, Brady made a comment.
"The dog looks well trained Steve. You haven't said a word to her and she is behaving as though she is on lead."
"Her name's Freda. Freda knows what to do. She learnt her lessons from Ian McLennan's dog, over on Isis. But I reckon that she knew what was what before she could run, just needed a bit of explaining from another working dog, that's all," Steve said. He did not feel that he was boasting, just stating facts.

Have you ever had a dog, or another animal, in your life who is smarter than people expect?

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

So Lucky for an Old Bloke

I am really amazed at this whirlwind spiral from a non-published writer to being able to feed my ego on the wonderful cover of my very own book.

'The Loves and Adventures of Tiger Williams' has been a long road, a road with many personal feelings and recollections of events, many of which are not in the book, but were evoked during the compilation of the fictional version.

Fiona Gatt, my Publisher at MetaPlume hit the Outback atmosphere nail right on the head with the cover of this story. The colours are the perfect depiction of the Outback at that time of the evening.

The sillouette of the loving couple and the dog are in perfect unison with the story, and the mystery of why "Tiger Williams" will hopefully create that curiosity of those that like a good yarn.

Fiona, I dip's me' lid to ya' girl.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Old and Getting There

I reckon that when you get old, as old is determined, like if you wuz the oldest bloke on the earth then you would be old, right? So let's just take a few categories down from the oldest bloke, who probably couldn't type, or use a computer as good as me who is only just down the page from the number one old bloke and towards the first few thousand, or so.

We could take that category as working out what happens when you get “old”,  ifn' ya' know wot I mean.

My number one usage of words at my old age, which is not yet from the dotage of my life, as I have no one that dotes on me, any rate my number one is “That never happened in my day.” My other number two is “We never had things so good in my day.” Actually, I can concoct many “In my day comparisons, cause that is wot ya' do when you get old. It is called the wisdom of age, so I am told by those older than me; and there are a few about, so I am told by those that are still about.

Any rate, I will borrow a few things that are attributed to old age, to the age of knowing what senility looks like, which is how me' mate looks when he can't understand wot I am telling him, especially when I tell him it is his shout. I know this, as he always comes up with the senile comment, “Wot again?”

And I know this, I know that there are two things that happen as you grow older, one is that you start to lose your memory, you know that don't ya', all us oldies experience that problem. The other one is...Geez! I can't remember wot the other one is.

There was a time when, with a bit of prompting from those I owed money to, that I went to try to have a memory rescheduling program (If you think I remembered all that, you are as bad as me). It lasted seven or ten weeks or so, and at the end of the twelve weeks, Doctor whats-is-name said “Give it a try for awhile and see how you go.” Bloody idiot, 'give wot a go'. Here I am spending a long time, and that is something I am running out of, and the doctor doesn't even tell me wot it is I should give a go to.

Me' mate did the same course, and he reckoned it was marvellous, his memory had improved 'out of sight'. Of course, I asked him if he went to my doctor or an eye doctor, but only because I am very clever and witty. But which went clean over the head of me' mate, 'cause he sees other things all right, well that's wot I think any rate.

Our other mate, thingo, wanted to give the memory thing a go too, so he said to the first mate, mate what is the name of this memory doctor you go to? Well mate, wot is the mate of both of us mates, just out of the blue said, “What's that flower that has the perfumed smell and prickles on the stem?”
Mate the mate of us both said, “Rose.”
“Yeah that's it,” and then he yelled to his wife in the kitchen, “Hey, Rose, wot's the name of that memory doctor I go to?”

There is a little test you can do to see if you are getting senile or summit, are ya' ready? It amounts to reading this bit of a yarn, but it is not in the reading, it is ifn' ya' understand it you are definitely about to go around the bend!

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Ordinary Country Folk

Trying to tell stories that suit all English speaking folk around the world is difficult in the fact that we have different terms for the one thing.

For instance, in Australia we say timber, in the US they say lumber, I believe that the Kanuks are also so inclined.

Also talking of timber, we say 4 by 2 and the others say 2 by 4's. So if you can get around the Aussie terminology for whatever, you may get a bit of a giggle outta 'me yarns.

I know a few country folk, folk that spent a lot of time working, and little time at schooling, but that is the way it is sometime in poorer rural families where Dad reckons that if you have one son in school, why bother sending the rest, as the frist bloke can tell the others what he learnt.

However, some of the rural folk have that loveable slowness in speech and in thought. These ones are the purely lateral thinkers. These folk are the ones that I love to hang around as it makes me look almost intellectual.

My best mate, Slow Joe Rolly and his dad, Joe Slower Rolly, had come into town, with the old Bedford truck to get some timber at the local timber place, wot sell timber and stuff.

Old Slower didn't like town much, and was not really eager to leave the truck, but this was for several reasons, one being that if it cut out he wouldn't be able to get it started again without a lot of swearing and bush type mechanisation applications, known only to the two Rollys. Another reason was that dad Rolly couldn't open the driver's side door and the third was he had trousers on that had suffered from a severe bout of ….Well you know what.

Young Slow Joe went into talk to the timber bloke. “Do ya' have any hardwood timber, mate?”

“Yeah, plenty of hardwood timber. What size do ya' want?”

“I'll go an ask Dad.”

“Dad said we need some 4 x 2.”

“Yeah! Mate, we got plenty of 4 x 2 hardwood, how long do ya' want 'em.”

“I'll go an' ask Dad,” said Slow Joe.

“Dad reckons we'll want 'em for awhile, 'cause we is building a shed.”

Now don't be unkind, it seems reasonable that 'how long” should indicate time. I mean if you are going out and your wife asks, “How long will you be?” do you tell her that you will be the same length when you come back as you are when you went out, right? Okay, so you will from now on, I see.

Eventually, young Slow Joe Rolly got a job in a saw mill out near the back of the place that they lived in front of, ifn 'ya' know what I mean. See, I told ya' it made me look intellectual.

At anyrate, not long after young Slow Joe started work he was in a hardware store in town and up on a shelf he saw a row of vacuum flasks, or as we call them Thermos flasks, Thermos being a trade name.

“What are those things?” he asked.

“Thermos flasks, mate, stainless steel Thermos flasks.”

“Gee! What are they for?”

“They keep hot things hot and cold things cold, and a lot of workers have them.”

“Fair-bloody-Dinkum, I'll get one then.”

The next day, Slow Joe was busting a gut for Smoko to come, and when it did he sat down with the rest of the blokes and casually opened his tucker box and pulled the Stainless Steel Theroms flask out and put it in full view of the other blokes.

They looked, they looked but didn't say anything, so Joe moved it around and about until one bloke couldn't hold his curiosity.

“What's that thing, Slowee?” he asked.

Joe was so proud, so happy that he had something that no one else had that he almost cried, but instead he said. “It's a Thermos flask.”

“Wot's a Thermos flask for, Joe?”

“Well,” the beaming Joe said, “It keeps cold things cold and hot things hot.”

“Fair-bloody-Dinkum,” chorused several of the other blokes.

“Wot ya' got in it, Joe?” they asked.

“An ice-cream and a cuppa' tea, that's wot.”

So there you go again, running poor young Slow Joe down for a bit of lateral thinking.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Tips from the Haughty Kulturist


If weeds have overtaken you garden, get rid of your garden.

If your lawn is looking poor and is not worth having, turn it into a garden and completely ignore previous tip.

If tree lopping a large tree, and it looks dangerous, get your neighbour to help you and you promise to hold the ladder really tight.

If your neighbour looks like he is going to fall, tell him to throw his wallet to the side.

Some people put cow manure on their strawberries, I prefer cream, but you can't account for all tastes, hey?

Leeks in the garden are a waste of time, not only do they smell after a while but they also cause problems at BBQs.

Leeks will also cure tinea if aimed at the toes. So don't invite guests to your BBQ if they have tinea OR any other social diseases unless they wash their hands after they try a leek in the garden.

You cannot grow canned pineapples, this is a professional secret, as is Supermarket meat.

Disposable nappies do not turn into compost. This fact has never been fully appreciated by those that are Tree Huggers, Ferals or mothers at the beach.

If you persist in the garden, grow herbs, the tall resinous type herb that can also be used to make bags out of. If you happen to over-crop, just burn some of it.

A mate has just told me of this new lawn material that is available in bags.  It consists of one part cement, three parts sand and gravel and two shovel fulls per batch of green ochre. Mate reckons that now that he has it spread all over the back yard he is gunna pull up a stump, grab a few tinnies and watch the stuff grow.