~A Woman's Lot~

Written and Posted On-line 21st February 2011

Ever wondered what it is like for women living out on stations located in the middle of the remote Kimberley of North West Australia?

Well up here in the middle of the Kimberley the act of performing “simple household domestic duties”, like weeding your vegetable garden, is just like a scene out of an action adventure film you watch at the movies.

Let me tell you about one time I tried to weed my veggie garden at Mt Hart...

This fertile patch of fresh vegetable production is located on the other side of a river bed. I had not been able to get over to the garden for about 6 weeks, because the river had flooded so much with the heavy wet season rains, and I was unable get across the creek.

So after there had been a couple of sunny days, I said to Taffy;

“I want to weed the veggie garden today, the river has dropped – we can get across now, can you come and help me?”

I did not want to go on my own because I knew the weeds would be 6 foot high, and it would be too much for one person alone to tackle.

So we took the “Hilux” over to the veggie garden - which was this suped up Toyota Hilux Ute we had bought especially for the wet season, with the morass of bogs and creek crossings which come with monsoonal rains. We put all the weeding gear in the tray of the Toyota. By the way folks…we’re not just talking about weeding with a gardening fork, a spade and some pruners here ….I’m talking about weeds (wild grass) 6 foot high, and saplings growing up in the middle of the rows of tomatoes and egg plants….

Basically, after 6 weeks forced neglect, we knew we were in for some ‘serious back breaking weeding work’ so we loaded a pick, a shovel, a brush cutter, and the rotary-hoe into the back of the Hilux Ute…We crossed the creek (the water level was only ¼ of the way up the tyres) and made it safely over to my veggie garden. And, we got stuck into the weeding, whilst watching out for meat ants and snakes. Interestingly, at one stage we noticed the creek sounded a bit louder… but we thought the wind must have changed direction, making the sound of the creek louder to our ears, so we kept on slaving away at the weeding.

Then after deciding the muscles had had enough, the two of us got back into the supped up Toyota, and headed back to the beer fridge...

We drove down the track to cross the creek again to get back home. As it turned out there had not been any rain over us whilst we were weeding, but there had been big rains, completely unbeknown to us, up in the hills, at the creeks source, miles and miles upstream. And the sound of the creek getting louder, was actually the sound of the creek rising in a flash flood.

We said between ourselves; “There’s no way the creek could have risen that much in the short time we have been weeding…surely?”

And because we were in the suped up Toyota ute, with raised huge tyres, Taffy calculated the risk of driving through the creek, and decided to go for it…But the U-Beaut Hilux Ute got stuck half way across…

So there we were now stuck inside the ute in the middle of what used to be a creek, but was now a raging river. We could not open the doors due to the pressure of the fast flowing water which was now the same height as the windows on the car. Logs and debris were flying past us like scud missiles. To make matters worse, the ute was filling up with water very quickly and was starting to tip and drift down stream. Taffy climbed out of the window, and then luckily found a snatch strap in the tray of the ute. He then struggled in the furious waters, to tie the snatch strap to the bull bar of the car. Then he slowly, with great difficulty, edged his way across the river using the snatch strap...step, by step, by step.

When Taffy finally made it to the other side he yelled across the roaring river to me;

“Come on over Kim…your turn now…”

So I grabbed the snatch strap and started to try and ferry myself across like Taffy had done, but the force of the river was too strong for me, and I lost my footing. I started body surfing off of the snatch strap, like a sailor slipping off the spar on an old wind jammer. Meanwhile the car was moving more and more from the pressure of the water, and was tipping in a really ugly fashion.

Taffy was holding onto the other end of the snatch strap real tight, but he was getting pulled down with the weight of me dangling off it, along with the pressure of the river, so he yelled;

“Put your bloody feet down…”

His yelling at me over the roar of the river, made me regain my shocked senses and I managed to get my feet down on the river bed somehow, and I eventually made it across to the other side…. Taffy stood there bracing and steadying the weight of the car with the snatch strap, like some world class strong man act…

I ran home and jumped into the front end loader, and drove it down to the river, in a thundering belch of diesel & noise.

With this we towed the precious Hilux u-beaut ute to safety out of the river. The engine of the car had filled up with water, and it took us 2 weeks of bush style mechanic work to pull the engine out and apart, clean all the water out, and then put the engine back together again.

You know, as a woman, I love it out here because we are isolated – I love the solitude. Yet that day made me realize how really alone we are out here. I mean, don’t get me wrong, 99.9% of the time it is great being alone out here during the wet season, and I wouldn’t change it for the world. But that day, it was really just “US”. Two lives in the middle of nowhere stuck in the middle of a flooding, raging river. There was no one to ask for help when we really needed it. We had to cope. We had to survive. No matter what - Failure was not an option.

This is why I can understand what it must have been like for Taffy out here all these 20 years on his own. He has Lived out here in the middle of nowhere, and built up this place from a derelict mess. He seriously believed that when it was his time to move on, after living through the dramas and high times, The Department of Environment and Conservation would respect, honor and pay him for all that he has achieved. When he needed help during the wet season to do the building work on the capital improvements that The Department of Environment and Conservation wanted done, there was no one here to ask for assistance, because no one could get in or out. He just had to get in and do it. For if he did not, there would be no facilities for the tourists to enjoy during the dry season months, when the place was open for business.

That’s what it’s like out here – you’re on your own, so you do everything you have to do, in order to survive, because you have to keep going…no matter what. That’s just how it is. For people like myself who live in the Kimberleys - for those of us who understand what it is really like to live in this country, the disrespect and trivializing, by The Department of Environment and Conservation, of Taffy’s 20 years of servitude, is just sickening.

I see the hurt in his eyes, as only I can, as he holds a brave public face. “I Know” for I know the man, and this is a hurt I then too share. For this is a wilderness woman’s lot...