When Jennie and I were in Julia Creek, we were told about a guy in Cloncurry who has a pet bullock he takes everywhere with him. To the general store, for a walk, or even to the pub. Yes, the bullock gets tied up outside, but he is there all the same.
Imagine our surprise when as we left the Gidgee Inn in Cloncurry to head to Mt Isa, we looked up and saw the man walking along the road side heading towards us. We pulled off the road, parked the car, clambered through the fence and went to say hi.
What an amazing experience, to talk to the gentleman - a genuine quirky character, and his beloved Brahman Drought Master cross. A true gentle giant, the head butt he gave me was almost restrained. Pats and photographs all around and we were all on our way. It was only when I was back in the car that I realized, yes,I was wearing a red shirt.
Roxy ready for action.
Dogs are a key part of station life. Jim and Tommy have 6 dogs working the property.
Top dog is Crackles, a Kelpie with a leg lost through an altercation with cattle some years ago. Although she is three legged, she gets around like nobodies business, and teaches the other dogs how things should be done. She is a valued member of the team.
Crank, Crackles pup is only 9 months old. With a lot to learn, she has a big heart, and tries hard to keep up with her Mum.
Roxy, a Stumpy Tailed Cattle Dog, is a little more reserved than the others, but is a gentle soul. With legs shorter than the others she works harder to get through the lush scrub as it currently stands, but has no intention of being left behind when work or adventure is on offer.
Ferrett, a Border Collie Cross is the character of the bunch, named for her knack of getting into mischief. If something is up, you know that Ferrett will be in the middle of it. That said, she is lots of fun and buddies up with Crank for a regular game of rough house.
Nikki, the matriarch of the property is close to retirement. Jim's best worker and most reliable dog, she is a red Kelpie with a soft and gentle side to her. At 8 she is ready to have her last litter to provide a pup to take up the Keswick farm dog legacy. Extremely loyal to Jim, she likes nothing more than to snooze in patch of sunshine, with half an ear cocked " just in case" Jim whistles for her.
That leaves Cocoa. Named for her colour she is similar in look to Nikki. The most reserved of the crew, Jim is working with her to dispell a fear of motorbikes. With bikes and four wheelers essential transport on the property she will tolerate being told to jump on to go and work, however would choose to hide in her kennel if the choice is on offer.
Then there is Benny, a big old cream labrador, who is the home paddock dog. Almost 15 he is definitely in retirement, but is a big old sweetheart.
For me, the things I love most about the country life are the feeling or freedom and the delight in simple things. The fresh air, the sunsets, the animals.
I truly believe that our primary producers are the unsung heroes of our nation. They really do it hard, and it is difficult to see the challenges they face on a daily basis. While they might be property rich, they are often cash poor, and the Banks just don't get it. That said, these people would share their last meal with you.
I got to see the pigs being fed, fed the chickens, collected an egg, walked the paddocks, saw the shearing shed - in disuse since 2004when the last sheep were produced, slogged through the mud, befriended the farm dogs and finally saw cattle.
With the mud everywhere access was difficult, so it was only on our last morning that Tommy, the fiancé of Kylie, daughter number two, took us out on the quad bike to look for cattle. Success! Brahman cross cattle, they are suited to this land. Mimosa shrubs and grass are providing good feed at the moment so the cattle are in good shape. Can't say the same about Jennie and I on our return. Yes, mud everywhere, both of us though were smiling.
This city girl has lost her heart to the country. How could I not after spending the weekend on a cattle station just outside of Julia Creek in far central Western Queensland?
The Haynes family have been based on Keswick Station for over 30 years, and a more genuine welcome I am yet to find. Jim and his wife Jean are delightful. Treated like a member of the family, I joined in and got down and dirty, smiling the entire time. So thanks to Jennie for the invite.
With more rain than usual for this time of year, the paddocks were green, with glorious black mud ankle deep for negotiation. Gum boots were essential items of attire and I am now sporting toned calves and thighs after slogging through the mud for three days.
Driving into Julia Creek from Cloncurry there was water over the road in three places. We came into Julia Creek expecting to swap over from our hire car to the farm 4WD. Due to the amount of rain however (more than has been seen since the mid 1950's)we ended up overnighting in Julia Creek. Jean's Mum, Margaret, put us up for the night, so we took her out for dinner as a thank you. Julia Creeks "top pub" was jumping on Friday night, with half the community on hand for drinks, dinner and a chat.
In her 80's Margaret still drives a big Toyota 4WD around, except for a couple of weeks ago when she nudged another car. Just happened to be the local Policewoman, oops. Her home is a tribute to her life and family with photos of family members across the generations, handicrafts and bric a brac on every available surface. She truly is a classic example of the traditional country woman. Central to her family and local community.
Saturday lunch time we finally got the all clear to head out to Keswick Station. Hire car safely parked at Margaret's we piled all of our gear into the 4WD and headed out of town. Keswick is approx 40 000 acres, so as properties go it is not small. It pales into insignificance however compared to the family's other property in the Gulf country. At 248 000 acres Kuchera is massive. This is managed by Jim and Jean's daughter Belinda, supported by daughter Kylie, and her fiancé Tommy.
Lunch Saturday was a family affair, with oldest daughter Kimberley and her husband, and daughters, Peyton 9 and Kadence 5 joining us. Margaret wasn't given time to miss us, as she too came out for lunch. Lots of fun and laughter, good conversation, food and a game or two of cards. Perfect.