RSS Feed

Tag Archives: outback

Tales from the outback

Posted on

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.