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Helpful hands in the bush

Pindathuna-Camp — 2000-08-10

I crawl with aching bones out of the tent in the morning and am welcomed by a bitterly cold wind which makes me shiver. I set the radio up with stiff fingers, turn it on and cry ‘Jo and Tom, do you read me?’ ‘Loud and clear’ crackles from the receiver. ‘Good, very good. We have a problem. We’re stuck out here in the middle of the bush, about 35 km behind Yalgoo, and the frame of Hardie’s saddle is broken. Could you get the telephone number of the community house or the Hotel in Yalgoo and ask for help?’ During the rest of the conversation, I give our exact position and agree to leave the radio on the whole day. A half an hour later Jo calls again. ‘They will send a car either tonight or tomorrow and pick the saddle up, then bring it to the workshop for welding,’ she explains to me in a happy voice. After finishing my conversation with Jo, I make my way back to the camp fire, telling Tanja the good news and warming myself by the flames. Tanja is busy mixing another batch of dough for a bush cake and 10 minutes later I pull the Bedourie back out of the coals, the fresh smell of baked cake in my nostrils. Just then Jo calls us on the radio, I jump up and run to the wireless ‘There’s been a change of plan. The councillor appears to be a bit money hungry so I’ve called the hotel manager, Toni Chinnery, instead. He is very helpful and sends greetings to you both. He gave me the telephone number of the Pindathuna Station, the boys there will come and weld the saddle for you in about an hour.’ ‘Wow, that’s great. Many thanks for your help, Jo.’ As it turns out, three men do arrive in approximately one hour, driving a ute and pulling a trailer. I take another bite of my cake and walk towards the car. Bill, Phill and John introduce themselves and without wasting even a minute of time begin to inspect the saddle frame. They find a pipe in their trailer, which Phill clamps in the vice and immediately begins sawing away at with a metal saw, until it eventually fits like a glove over the damaged piece of frame. All three men work hand in hand and know exactly what they are doing. Bill starts the generator and begins welding. It is nice to watch the men working and they prove themselves without a doubt to be professionals. Half an hour later, we are standing around the camp fire and drinking hot coffee. Bill, Phill and John laughingly enjoy a piece of Tanja’s bush cake as another car approaches.

I leave our camp once more and walk toward the four wheel drive, out of which an Aborigine by the name of Darren emerges and takes my hand in a friendly shake. He works for the Yalgoo council and was asked to drive by here and pick up the saddle on the way home. I explain to him that the three men from Pindathuna Station have already repaired the frame, ‘No worries’ he says with a laugh. We chat for a while and somehow come to the question of the diminishing Aborigine race. ‘We mix more and more with the white people and lose a little bit of our dark colouring each time. Take a look at me. My mother was white and I have the same skin colour as you,’ he says with a wrinkled forehead, then he changes the subject. ‘You should be very careful of snakes. Never leave the tent flap open or lie beside the camp fire at night. Snakes love the warmth and if you get bitten out here then no-one can help you.’ We could have talked for ages but for the men waiting back at the camp, I don’t want to appear rude and so I take my leave of Darren and head back to the other guests. Darren and I shake hands, then he takes off again in his car.

Bill tells me a little about himself and of the enormous stretches of land which belong to his family. ‘If I were to convert it from acres into kilometres, I would say the area has a width of 250 km and a length of 180 km,’ he says in answer to my questions. I learn that the family owns a number of Stations, which explains the huge expanse of land, and that they hold 80.000 (eighty thousand) sheep and 500 cattle, which are managed by an average of only 11 men.
After we’ve finished drinking coffee, we introduce the men to our camels and ask how much we owe them for the work they have done, upon which they shake their heads in unison. ‘We’re glad to have been able to help,’ Bill says with a laugh. We thank them profusely and see them off with a strong handshake. It is a wonderful day in a camp surrounded by yellow blossoming bushes. The camel bells ring almost the whole day, which means the boys are filling their stomachs non-stop with he tasty vegetation. Tanja and I sit by the warm fire in the clear, starlit evening. She reads me the letter that she has written to a girlfriend, then I get the laptop out and she listens as I type these lines. And so we pass these late hours as a harmonious twosome.

Day: 91

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