Saturday, June 29, 2013

A Forgotten Title

I tend to forget some things,
Well, I tend to forget a lot
I forget the important things,
Like---I forgot what.

I remember what I can.
which isn't very much.
I try to recall the necessities
Just to stay in touch.

My brain is overflowing
With things of long ago
But who I met yesterday
I often do not know.

I will never forget what's 'is name
Or to wind up the cat,
To put the clock out at night
And things like that.

So don't be too hard on me
Don't give up just yet.
I am improving all the time,
And, Ah!....Sorry I forgot.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Animals of the Outback

It is probably difficult to think of animals as purely working machines like the tractor, ploughs, Chain saws and the like.

In the current age we have folk that breed various animals, but these animals are more likely to be known by name, in a sort of 'part of the family' situation.

I like horses, I like, and have a certain sympatico with most animals of trade, but, of course, unless you are from New Zealand, you cannot have a close relationship with a sheep, for instance.

I mean, if you are droving three and a half thousand sheep, how can you pick just one out to be your favourite without upsetting  the others.

In the 50s and 60s, an era that I know about in Queensland, animals were largely a part of the economy of the country, they were treated according to their suitability in the over-all working team needed to run a property with the  utmost profit return as against having a lot of useless mouths to feed for the sake of some sympathetic feeling for an animals welfare.

A horse was a horse, but more than that it was only considered as a working  horse.  Never was the working  horse of the Outback called "Old Billy, the kids pony."  The station horse had numbers, most times, and were given names by the stationhands for the time of the work needing these horses.

Horses were given a fair work out in the shearing musters, or musters for crutching, drenching, lambing and the Like.  Cattle properties had to select even better horses to work cattle in rough country, and at the camp when the branding work began.

All these horses were of the best quality that the station could afford, and many of the show type breed that are around today are from that stock.  The ASH societies, having bred 'pretty' Australian Stock Horses,and including some American Quarter horse lines, rarely use them for cattle mustering.  The ASH of today is judged a lot on looks, and conformation, where-as the Stock horse of old was judged on its ability to stop, turn, gallop off the  mark and be of general assistance to the cattle man.

The Waler, so called because of its breeding from New South Wales stock of some of the draught animals that pulled ploughs and mixed with English blood, developed into what was called a 'clumper' in the days of sheep droving.  This faithful, kind minded and gentle horse did just as its description suggested, it plodded along without fear or fright,  without shying at any little movement that the more warm blooded  horse of the cattle ranges  would dislodge the unwary with a side step that any Rugby League player would die for.

The horse is legendary in this country, from the Snowy Mountain horse to the the long distance horse of the Outback that could trot for half a day without any sign of weariness.

It goes without saying that with all the animals of the Outback, the horse was the most sought after         piece of working equipment that any property could acquire.  It was the most looked after animal as well for that same reason.

Coming after the horse was the good working dog, and animal that was only  fed on the days it worked, the rest of the time it was chained up near a half of a drum for a kennel.  These dogs only received food and a pat from the owners, and only when they have 'Dun good'.  A stranger was not welcome to pat someone Else's working dog.

This work and be fed regime might sound a bit harsh in these times, but imagine trying to work a dog all day long after it had been given a full belly of tucker, it would be looking for chloroform trees all day long to sleep under, not the tail end of a sheep to chase into a mob.

A good working dog was as good as two other men on a droving trip, or where mustering sheep for the many things sheep were mustered for.  In the yard they were far better at getting sheep up a drafting race than any frustrated station hand.

The rattling when shaken inventions of the stationhands, which consisted of sticks with tobacco tins nailed onto them, and the tin filled with things that would rattle were called "Tin Dogs" but never fully replaced the real thing. Of course, the Tin dog is seen as a musical instrument in many a bush band, and I must admit I have not seen a working dog used as a musical instrument.

Sheep: Well you will hear how dumb they are, and there appears to many reasons for this.  They will run in a circle as a mob if frightened, they will run into a grass fire, they will  lay down, head flat on the ground in a give up mode, then if you should leave them, as soon as you are past, it will jump to its feet and take off, usually back into the mob that it first departed.

Sheep do have a high pain tolerance, and will survive where other animals would die of the sheer shock of injury.  Not the 'bleater', I have seen sheep riddled with maggots still trying to get a feed.  The pain  in these circumstances must be horrific as the only indication that a sheep will give to pain is the twitching of the nose, then you know that the poor dumb animal is really suffering.

The Outback is not an office, there is no air conditioning, no cooling fans, no water cooler to stand around.  The Outback is harsh reality, and it has to be worked with the same harsh reality that it applies

Try to be soft in the Outback and  you will fade away like  your dreams of an easy life, succes in your endeavours and plenty of filthy lucre.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

The dog in the outback

The place of the dog in the outback, that great friend of man, was most recently centre-stage with the success of the movie Red Dog. Why do we relate so well to stories of mateship between a man (or woman) and their dog? Perhaps it's that we all want friendship. We want someone, or a dog, to choose us as their respected companion.

Dogs often feature in Peter's writing, and I happen to know he has two great doggie mates in his life at the moment.

In this story called simply 'The Pup', the harsh realities of a dog's potentially short life in the outback are explored:

"This particular 'day of rest' seemed to be much longer than others I remember, but I was well aware that the pup's life hinged on getting some indication of his worth as a working dog. Maybe, some would think, I could just take the pup out into the bush and leave him, much like some city folk do when their Christmas present pup becomes a bit of a problem. If I was silly enough to do that, and so increase the wild dog population, I would never be welcome, or find work, in the Outback again.   Something that I reckoned equal to an "Unforgivable Sin"... whatever that is. 

I was getting a bit nervous about this whole the responsibility that I had in a duty of care for being a dog owner. Was I going to be strong enough to fulfil the law of the bush and dispatch the pup, which is a polite way of saying shooting him, or would some miracle happen, and he would show signs of being worth the money and effort to suddenly become "Pup—The Wonder Dog". I didn't think so, but I did have one more try at proving his usefulness."

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Really Fair Dinkum Stuff ... a bit more of a bit more

I 'spose that you are the type of personage that wants me to spell everything real proper. Okay, I'm sorry about the last attempt at 'Fiar'...Ya' didn't notice, Well! That'll do me.

Anyrate, I'm here to pass on some more about little Brucie Clermont Forterskew. There is nothing wrong in a little bit of littleness in someone that is not very towards the largish size, is there?

Brucie, has an uncle that was very fond of his little nephew. Flash Fred Forterskew the ferret f...f...fancier of the far western table lands in the downs country often took young Buricie out with him when he was rabbit hunting, when the rabbits were bad. Big bad ugly and very angry rabbits can play hell and heaps of havoc on ferrets, I am told.

So, when the ferrets balked at going down the hole, Flash Fred would call Brucie over and send him down to fetch the ferrets and to move the buck rabbits out of the hole, where flash Fred had Rodger a rough looking hound dawg that would put his front paw on a rabbit and hold it down until Flash Fred clouted it with a hard wood club. Well the dawg wouldn't let go the rabbit if he didn't give it a decent clout.

All right, I asked the same question me'sef', why didn't Flash Fred Forterskew the ferret f...f...fella' send little Brucie down the hole in the first place and save all this story tellin'?

Think about it; you know what kids are like with little furry bunnies. Brucie, like any kid, would stay down the hole for hours playing with the litters of kittens, which suprised me 'cause I thought they were after rabbits, not cats.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Really Fiar Dinkum Stuff...a bit more

Eventually, so I am told by my very reliable bloke, wot tells me things that I rely on to be fair dinkum, but not eventually does  he tell me but apparently, eventually young Forterskew finds a horse that he can actually  sit on, and wot's more, he can get onto by his'sef.

However, just as he was ready to gallop off to go mustering the ckooks in the chook pen,  the station carpenter comes up and takes the horse out from under the jackaroo, as it appears that he needs it to saw some timber on.  Usually the chippie is a chipper chappie, except when some sprout comes and leads  his saw horses off to chase chickens with.

Looks like another day in the saddle, for Forterskew...Sorry, saddle bag, I meant!

Phil Osophy, me' old and Wise Mate, Sez.

One has no greater wisdom than he who takes advice from someone wiser then himself.

If you have no shoes you suffer from where you tread, if you have no wisdom you suffer from what  you said.

Lance Armstrong took drugs and won seven Tour de France. I take drugs and can hardly wheel the bike out of the shed.  Now where is the wisdom in that?

Having wisdom is not being smart, being smart is having wisdom but not showing it unless someone is being smart.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Really Fair Dinkum Stuff

Brucie Clermont Forterkew was a very spoilt and protected young bloke before he came to Boney Downs which was out from Aramac, which was out from Longreach as was the norm as most of these places in the Outback were out from somewhere or other.

Even the dunnies were outback in the Outback, thankfully, as it is not a real welcome to arrive at a place out from Winton, say, to find an outback dunny out front.

But I digress, which is rather a unusual matter in so far as story telling on my behalf, and as this story is not on my behalf, but on behalf of the story teller that told me the story - he often digresses.

Fer' instance, this bloke told me that Brucie was that spoilt his mother had a window put in her stomach so that Brucie could have a womb with a view. Of course, I thought that could very well be, as the advances in medical science had gone ahead in leaps and bounds, well, ever since they had been using kangaroos for guinea pigs to experiment with.

And talking about kangaroos, who can hold a new joey in the womb for a few months if a drought was on, or the brother or sister of the new little mite were still in occupation, this bloke told me that Brucie's mum was so frightened to let her babe out into the world, she held him up for several years, and only let him out when he was ready for high school. It was a bit tight, but Brucie wasn't any more than about five stone at that age, or seventy pound ifn' ya' still in the boonies.

When the doctor told her husband that he had to put in twenty-four stitches, he groaned, “Ya' gotta be joking, it only takes nine stitches to sew up a wheat bag.”

T'anyrate, Brucie ended up on Boney Downs, ready to become a big time manager or an overseer or summit. We reckoned that it would be summit that would win the day, as the overseer had to tie Brucie's shoes laces every morning, but, ya' know, I don't really believe that, I know for certain that the overseer couldn't even tie his own shoelaces and wore only riding boots that had no such things, and this was a good reason for thinking that Brucie would only learn summit, but not much, ifn' ya' know wot I mean.

We tried to get Brucie up onto a horse, but the ladder kept falling over, and it was only a Shetland pony anyway, finally, as it was up to the overseer to see that Brucie was properly trained,  he grabbed the lad by the scruff of the neck and flung him into his saddle bag, doing up the flap so the kid wouldn't fall out, and Brucie could tell his mummy, that night, that he had been out mustering with the men, all day. Stupid really, as you couldn't even put the kid down and get him to bark at the sheep.

I've got no reason to think that any of this is not Fair Dinkum, as I have told some stories that were like this, but in my case a lot more Fair Dinkum, that's why they all call me Truthful Pete, amongst other things.

I'm still in touch with this bloke, so if there are any more Fair Dinkum stories, I'll let ya' know, orrite?

[Want more Australian humor? Try Pete's short story, Notty: Targaroo's Disgrace Bar-fly, bludger and sneak-thief turned unlikely hero]

Monday, June 10, 2013

Q&A with Peter Rake on Book Goodies

Ever wondered how Pete comes up with the stories he does? What's his writing process? Does he talk to his characters? Find out in this interview on

Sunday, June 9, 2013

From Henry Lawson

One of our great Australian wordsmiths, Henry Lawson, had a special way of describing things that, if you had ever been in the Outback, you would understand immediately.

I quote from a compilation of Lawson's stories titled "Joe Wilson's Mates" and a story called "At Dead Dingo".

'Along, drowsy, half-hour passed - the sort of half-hour that is as long as an hour in places where days are as long as years, and years hold about as much as days do in other places.'

That, folks, explains the boredom of a long, lonely track, among other things in other places (pardon the wit).

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

What would an Outback blog be without a story about a dunny?

Entertainment at an Outback property in the mid fifties was often concocted by the practical joker, or by some event that caused enough excitement to have a good laugh and then a greater laugh in the pub at the retelling, with embellishments attached to that retelling.
There was no television to supply comedy skits. There was the occasional traveling show that told the same old jokes and performed the same old party tricks—that would raise a bit of a snigger because of the money it cost to go to one of those shows.
Best of all though was the completely unrehearsed happening that would cause gales of laughter for many days—happenings that you could not write a script for, and a happening that no one could possibly predict. This is one of those happenings …

A hole for a drop dunny that is three feet square, a bit under a meter and ten feet deep (three meters in modern currency of measuring stuff) will last a family of four for ten years. This being so, new holes had to be dug from time to time to replenish the availability of the station 'Library'.
On one particular station I was extradited from the painting gang to the dunny digging gang, as the painting of the Ringer's quarters could wait but nature is relentless in its call.
This drop dunny required a hole twice the size of the depth of the one mentioned for a family of four, so it was a sizable hole to dig, but the digging in this downs country had one most favourable condition—never was there rock to dig through, just clay.
The outhouses had been constructed by other stockmen who had been seconded to the job as we were. For this exercise there would be two, side by side dunnies, on this one hole.
The digging kept the gang in close proximity to the cook house, so there were side benefits as we would have a lavish smoko, midday meal and afternoon smoko as well as the night meal, so there was no rush in progress on the hole.
The work was also a welcome break to the usual day to day work on the station, and its progress was followed closely by all and sundry. The cook was the main 'sideline overseer' and his comments and directions were taken with little or no interest. However the cook did have one promise for us diggers—he was going to be the first one to use this facility, which would put him in a position of a claim to fame in years to come as the dunnies reached capacity,
“I wuz the first one to use these dunnies,” he could say.

The big day arrived; we had reached ground zero, or more to the lingo of the time, we had dun the job proper and the establishing of the new, galvanised sided dunnies were to be placed in position.
Logs were supplied to sit the dunnies upon. Sheets of tin were used to cover the area around the outer perimeter of the dunnies, and over any exposed holes and the clay was then back-filled over the tin and, with a cursory patting of the dirt the job was completed, right on the midday meal time, announced by a ringing of the large triangle of iron hanging outside the meal room door.
Cookie was very excited about his claim to fame and asked us if we had used the dunny yet. We promised him we hadn't and saw the relief on his face and the extra dessert in our plates.

What followed was the unexpected, the unscripted, the impossible event to guess.

After lunch there was one of those sudden 'skuds', as they were called, the rain storm on a sunny day that would drop inches of rain in a few minutes, and in this case, two inches (50mm) in twenty minutes (twenty minutes metric as well).
The Jackaroos housekeeper asked us as the time neared for afternoon smoko, “Have you seen the cook?” and as always some smart Alec said, “Yeah! He is that bloke wot cooks our tucker.”
It appeared that the cook had not been seen from a little while after lunch by anyone on the property.
A search party was organised. This was considered urgent as it was getting towards afternoon smoko time and eventually we arrived in the near vicinity of the new dunnies.
All that could be seen of the new outhouses was the top few metric feet, the rest had dropped the drop of these drop dunnies after the 'skud' struck; washed away the clay over the tin allowing the logs to role out from under the new facilities to plunge to almost the bottom of the hole.
“Help! Help!” came the plaintive cry of our chief chef.
After removing the roof of one of the dunnies we extracted the cook from the depth of muddy water in which he was immersed in and sent him off tho the kitchen.
Men rolling on the muddy clay-pan of the Outback, holding onto ribs and bellies that were in a fit of bursting from ribald laughter is a very laugh-producing sight in itself and of course is how we got our laughs in those good old days when we made our own fun, or waited for circumstance to provide that fun.
On threat from the cook, a threat that no man would care to challenge, we promised not to tell anyone about his drama ... well not until we got into town and the pub, that is.