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Tales from the outback

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This story contains details of a medical intervention, and also another activity not included in the Human Operators Manual.
The Bucket strongly recommends that you seek professional medical advice before attempting either.

Prior to retiring from civilisation in 1983 I had an interesting but stressful four year sojourn as a part-time pilot with a pastoral company whose regional office I managed in the outback mining town of Mt.Isa.

The job entailed providing perishable foodstuffs and urgent supplies and spare parts for five huge cattle stations in the Northern Territory (to the west) and Queensland’s Channel Country (to the south).

(Alexandria Station, until resumptions reduced it’s size in 1965,
at 28,085 square kilometres was almost the same size as Belgium.
In good seasons, Alex can still carry 50,000 head of cattle.)

Today these stations have telephones.
During the early 1980’s they relied solely on HF radio transceivers for communication with the outside world.

As the company representative in town I had to keep a listening watch for 14 hours each day on the radio frequency allotted to us where we used the callsign “Four Alpha Juliet Whiskey”.
We shared this channel with several other users with different callsigns located in various other parts of Australia.

There was no shortage of entertainment on this HF channel as stories were overheard about alleged cattle stealing or the vicissitudes of assorted rural neighbours and the weather.

Our own 4AJW network probably provided more than it’s share of conversations reflecting the tragedy, drama and humour that comes with life in the outback.

The only situations we did not handle were serious medical emergencies. Station transceivers were equipped with an emergency button which would directly activate the Royal Flying Doctor Service frequency 24 hours a day.

We resolved other less urgent matters on our own 4AJW network.
Sadly one of these involved a young man who had committed suicide on a company property.
Others however were more entertaining conversations for all the eavesdroppers such as the following which started with an interjection from 4AJW Coorabulka;

” Hey GOF, I couldn’t help overhearing your last conversation with Alexandria about the difficulty you’re having with a constipated infant.  Over”

“Go ahead Steve, the poor little bugger hasn’t passed anything for a few days and she’s in pain. Over.”

“Roger GOF, an old sheila from down Birdsville way who used to be a midwife helped us out  once when we had the same problem with one of our kids.  Just get a sliver of soap and rub it on her rear end.  That will get things moving in a few minutes. Over”

And it did.  Either because of the soap treatment, or maybe Inga  the 6 month-old infant overheard the radio conversation and just let it rip out of sheer terror of what further assaults might be visited upon her rear end.

*       *       *       *       *       *       *       *       *       *       *       *

“Four Alpha Juliet Whiskey Alexandria calling 4AJW Mt Isa.”

“4AJW Mt Isa roger go ahead Peter. Over.”

“Roger GOF, we need some medical advice, would you be able to phone the hospital for us please. Over.”

“No worries. Go ahead. What is the nature of the problem Pete. Over”

” We’ve got a bloke who has been out alone for a few weeks on the grader doing the roads and firebreaks way out past Number 36 bore.  He just called in on his two-way radio to say that he’s got his penis stuck in a hole on the grader frame and he can’t get it out. Over.”

Thirty years later I am unable to remember exactly how the event unfolded from this point. For all I know there may still be a man located between Number 36 bore and Gallipoli Station happily (and perhaps sometimes painfully) conducting an intimate relationship with his road grader.

*      *      *     *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *

I have an enduring respect and admiration for all those men and women who live on Australia’s outback stations.
It is still a tough life full of disappointment and hardship and only the most resilient souls survive out there.

About GOF

"Life is like a sewer. What you get out of it, depends upon what you put into it." (Tom Lehrer)

23 responses »

  1. It’s like the “party line” telephones my grandparents used to have.

    And at least the unnamed six-month old (Inga) had a clean rear.

    And … I’d’ve radioed the guy back and told him to cut himself free. There might have even been a movie made about it!

    • Yep….exactly like everybody listening in to party-line conversations. We had the same telephone party-line thing rigged-up on little stations in PNG. Ring “three shorts and one long” on the handle to talk to Fred and everyone else picks up to listen claiming they “accidentally” heard the ring-sequence wrong. Yeah right! 🙂

      I still get goosebumps thinking about the guy and his grader.

  2. Once again I will say it……you need to write a book, GOF!

  3. Oh my!
    Let me know when the ex-six month old (Inga) gets on the blog to read this story. She may be driving a road grader down to find you, GOF! 🙂

    • I think I might be in a bit of deep shit here Lauri. Might be poor timing on my part as I’m trusting her to drive me around Victoria in a couple of weeks time.
      If you check out the emoticon on her comment it is exactly the same expression that was on her face when we applied the soap. 🙂

      I think I’m digging a deeper hole here….better go now.

  4. THIS is why I drink 😯

    A bit of soap may have helped out Grader Penis Man too, incidentally.

    • I must do some more research on what eventually happened…..whether soap or a hacksaw was involved….we still have occasional contact with the now-retired manager of the station.

      You can have a drink now…..your habit is entirely justified. 🙂

      • LOL!
        Don’t worry Inga….all parents have these stories! Not all have yet shared them on their blogs, however!

        I’m having my goblet of wine. Cheers! 🙂

  5. You have to know you’ve been too long in the bush when your grader starts to look attractive. My Dad used to drive a grader. Never heard of him having that problem however. I think I’ll let the Inga comment pass…and no pun intended.

    • It might be a sign that I’VE been living in the bush too long when I have to resort to writing about these things Snowy. Must be getting close to time for me to have another break from blogging.

  6. Oh GOF, that mention of Mt Isa brought back some interesting memories. I started going there in the early 90s and was there about a year ago. I don’t know what possessed me but the weirdness of the joint is just inexplicable.

    Re. the soap… I can personally vouch for its efficacy. My siblings and I grew up on that stuff whenever we have sewerage issues. Thankfully, these days kids know a bit more about the need for roughage.

    You know, I have Mt Isa marked out as a possible stop on my intended round-Oz flight.

    • The Isa is certainly an interesting place Ninja…..very multicultural and you have to get used to breathing sulphur fumes (and God knows what else) that spew out of the mine stack 24/7 ……and 40 degree + temperatures for weeks on end.

      You’re an excellent example of the efficacy of soap. No wonder Inga grew up to be a fine upstanding citizen of the world (with a fibre-rich diet). 🙂

  7. Talking about a man loving his work, but penis in grader, is going too far. They should have sent him out with a blow up doll as well

  8. A blow up doll was rumored to have taken up residence in the Single Mens Quarters in the Contractors at Mt Tom Price. It was a primitive existence back in the 70’s with 12 hour shifts and “hot swap” beds. For those unfamiliar with the term it is the arrangement of a worker jumping out of bed to go to work when the sharing worker comes off shift. Goodness knows what happens when someone gets sick.

    I still remember Pissy cracking us up when he wondered aloud how they decided who’s turn it was to take the plastic fantastic to the showers.

    • I don’t like the idea of “hot-swap beds” Pete….one would hope that conditions have improved these days, although I guess one could put up with a whole lot of inconvenience when one is being paid the extraordinary amounts of money being paid.

  9. Have never heard of soap but glycerine suppositories are still used for infants and adults (I’m told–not fooling, never tried it myself; probably should as I complain about constipation more than people should).

  10. Wonderful stories GOF. We had a party line well into my teenage years – it was amazing how often one could miscount those rings – I think we were 2 longs and a short. My friend out of Lightning Ridge still relies on the Flying Doctor service and her kids did School of the Air for a few years (there were funny stories there too…)


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