Kimberley Stories: Bush Yarns
Here's some stories from the Kimberley about; local military games raising alarms, a huge angry scrub bull defeated by a frail elderly lady with a billy can, what blokes in the Kimberley get up to in their spare time (only to seriously regret later), a uni-mog carrying 30 passengers bogged for 24 hours in the middle of nowhere, and the many uses for coolibah wine as discovered by a clever bushman. If you can't laugh at yourself....you shouldn't laugh at anyone else!
In 1989 the Australian army decided to stage a mock military battle called “Kangaroo 89” stretching through the whole of the Kimberley and Top End. There were two Sides, with the SAS called “The Camerians” – A ficticious country invading Oz! The aim of this pretend war was to train the officers outside of the military compounds in 'real-life environments'.
Many Kimberley locals were asked to act as spies for either side. This 'war' was supposed to end when troops from a particular side acquired the most territory and important resources such as telecommunication towers. The pub down at the old port was the main hang out for the officers, on down time in Wyndham.
One day one of the local 'spies' overheard some of the head officers from the OZ side talking very arrogantly in the old Port Hotel, (whilst drinking gin and tonics), about how they were sure to win. So this local spy got two candles and wrapped them in brown paper, an alarm clock with a loud ‘ticking’ sound, and put them in a shoe box with a lid. He took this box up to the bar tender of the old Port Hotel and said, “The officer sitting over there with all those pips on his shoulder just left this box in my taxi”.
The bar tender delivered the box to the officer. The officer looking surprised & confused muttered; "I wonder what it is...I don't remember leaving anything in the taxi...".
He proceeded to take the lid off of the shoe box and saw the two candles wrapped in brown paper (that looked like sticks of gellignite wired up to the alarm clock).
Naturally the officers hit the floor and crawled out of the pub on their bellies. Other troops from the 'Bomb squad' were then called in to dispose of the shoe box & it's contents some distance out on the mud flats.
What a waste of a good alarm clock
An aboriginal stockman by the name of "Grasshopper" was working on a cattle station up around Halls Creek. One day he got very badly mauled by a bull in the yards. He had to be evacuated off the station by the flying doctor. His injuries were so bad he had to be sent down to a hospital in Perth. THis poor bloke had never been to Derby, let alone Perth.
You can imagine the hospital staff's reaction when they asked him his name, and he told them it was "Grasshopper".
When "Grasshopper" finally got better, and was sent home, he was still proudly wearing his plastic identity bracelet on his wrist. When the other stockmen gathered around him on his return, they all broke up with laughter....It turned out the hospital staff in Perth had written the name "Mr G. Hopper" on his identity bracelet.
One Moonlit Night
Peggy Lawrence was a true icon of the Kimberley. Unfortunately she has passed on now into a great garden in the sky. Back in the mid 80's she was caretaking Mt Hart Station on her own. One night, she walked down to the first creek to make sure some blokes who had been working on the generator got out safely. Anyway, it was a bright moonlit night. Peggy never wore shoes or carried a torch and on the way back she stepped on a black whip snake. The snake bit her on the foot - she wasn't sure how deadly they were, but she knew they were venemous. By the time she got back to the house her foot was swelling up fast and was very painful.
Now there were no phones out here in those days, so she tried the HF radio but the static was so bad, she couldn't get anyone. Now she didn't want to die inside the house (because it could be weeks before anyone came out there). So she put her chair outside, took two panadol and a glass of wine.
So she's sitting there...wondering what's going to happen, on this bright moonlit night - not a cloud insight. Then all of a sudden it starts to get darker and darker and darker...Peggy thinks "That's it...I'm on my way out, my eyes are going first". So she quickly pours herself another glass of wine and drinks it. And by now it's pitch black...and she starts to wonder how long before she stops breathing? Then low and behold it starts to get brighter and brighter and brighter.
It turns out the only night she happened to get bitten by a snake, was on an eclipse of the full moon. Needless to say, by morning (except for a hangover) she was fine.
One day Peggy's daughter came out to visit her. So Peggy decided to take her up Mt Matthew Gorge for a picnic. She took a couple of pannikins and a billy with some dried tea leaves and some sugar wrapped up in brown paper, in an empty billy can.
And off they went hiking towards the gorge.
Peggy was first in line (not wearing any shoes as normal) looking were she is putting her feet..next thing before you know it she walks smack bang straight into the biggest scrub bull you have ever seen.
Peggy and the bull looked at eachother for a few seconds - the bull was ready to charge....so Peggy swings the billy can and hits the bull fair up the side of the ear, shouting; "Go on, get out of here..." Well luckily the bull (not liking this feisty woman shouting at him) took off at 100 miles an hour.
But Peggy was most contrite...not only because the bull had dented her billy - but all her tea and sugar had scattered across the ground.
Kimberley Stories: The Dumbest Bloke In the Kimberley
There was a bloke living in the Kimberley, who had this one great wish - to buy one of those little ultra light plane kits. So one wet season, while on holiday in QLD he goes and looks them up and buys one.
But...he didn't have enough money for the engine as well, so he throught he'd get the kit shipped over and assemble it during the wet season, then buy the engine when there's more chance of money coming in from cattle sales.
At the beginning of the dry season, a mate of mine calls into his station, to see about buying some bulls. This bloke comes to the door, and he's covered in bandages from head to toe. His arms and legs are in casts, and he looks like he has been run over by a road train.
So he starts to explain to my mate about this ultralight kit..."Well I got it built, and it looked terrific, but when I enquired about gettin the engine they said it'd be 6-10 weeks before delivery. Well, I kept lookin at this plane in the shed, dying to see how it would fly...."
"Anyway, I had this bright idea...I wheeled the ultralight out of the shed onto the road, then I got about 60 metres of rope, tied one end to the front of the ultralight and the other end to the back of my toyota station wagon. I got my wife in the toyota and I hopped in the plane. Took up the slack in the rope, and then started off and got up to 60kms an hour. That part worked alright. Next minute the plane goes up in the air, and I am soaring 60 metres above the ground. The problem was, my wife looks in the rear view mirror - she can't see me for I'm above her. So she thinks the rope must of broken and she has left me behind. So she slams on the brakes, and jumps out of the car. At that same moment, the back of the toyota just about lifts off the ground into the air, the plane came to the end of the rope and nose dived straight into the road....."
After the bloke finished telling this story, my mate said;
"...You must be the dumbest bloke in the Kimberley. I never let my wife tow me when I'm in a motor car, let alone in a plane..."
The Uni-Mog....or was that a Uni-Bog?
In 1986 while I was driving for AAT Kings tours I first met Ron and Viv Moon (who some of you will have heard about from their travel guide books). When I picked them up from the airport at Alice Springs for the start of the tour Ron's first words to me were "G'day Taffy...I really need some photos of a great bog..."
Well off we set, up the Tanami and on route to the Bungle Bungles. Now back in those days, there wasn't much traffic going into the Bungles and I used to go in the old Osmond Valley track (which has since closed), then come out on the Spring Creek Road. Well about 3 o'clock in the afternoon I was happily driving along this track in the uni-mog and there was a low branch hanging over the road. Now rather than get out and cut off this offending branch I dropped the wheels down off the side of the track to go around it. Next minute, before I could bat an eyelid those 2 wheels had completely sunk out of site in a blue green muddy swamp (this all happened in the middle of the dry).
As you can see by the photo it was there for quite some time. I got everyone off. Ron went off taking photos as happy as Larry.
So I said to the cook "You may as well get camp set up, and cook some dinner, we're not going anywhere tonight".
Her reply (after walking around the vehicle) was simply, "How?"
Not being in the best of moods I said, "What do you mean how, same as you always do...get a fire going and get some dinner on"
And with that she grabbed me by the beard and took me around to the bogged side where all the compartments containing the food and cutlery had completely disappeared out of site into the mud. Now at this very moment Ron and Viv came up to me and said, "Great Taffy...We've got some good shots of the bog, can we go now?!!!!!!"
So we unloaded the uni-mog where we could and I started to jack it up from the spare wheel carrier on the rear of the vehicle while the passengers carted logs and rocks to shore it up. We worked all night, and it took 8 hours before we could get the jack under the rear axle. It took a total of 24 hours (almost to the minute) before we got the uni-mog 2 metres back on the road.
We'd nearly finished loading everything back onto the uni-mog when the very first car we had seen in 24 hours came along from the opposite direction. It was an italian couple (complete with gold chains, and gold rings) driving a hire car. He wound down his window and shouted, "Get your truck outta de way".
My reply is not printable here, but it was to the effect of... "If you can't wait for us to finish re-loading then go around us..."
I hope he eventually got out of the bog...
When A Promise Was A Promise
(This story was kindly donated by Rosita Lovell) Throughout her life Rosita has always seemed to "accidentally" adopt animals. One time there was a baby goat that had been born out on a station and the station owner who could no longer keep it (because he owned an angry mule that had taken a disliking to the baby goat), asked Rosita if she would take it off his hands.
"But..." he said,"There's one condition...this goat is never to be killed for food, he must live a long and happy life..."
Rosita being a very motherly and kind person instantly took a liking to the baby goat so she promised the station owner she would care for it (despite her husband Sam's protests...)
She mothered this baby goat, and it grew into a very healthy animal, which she raised in the large backyard of her house in town. Sam thought Rosita mothered the goat too much, and that it was time for the goat to grow up, and stop following Rosita around everywhere.
One day their friends came around, and they all decided to take a trip out to Tunnel Creek. As they all hopped in their cars, the goat jumped up at the front gate and bleated loudly because it did not want to be left behind.
"There's no way we are taking that goat all the way up the Gibb River Road in the car to Tunnel Creek..." Sam said. But their friends, feeling sorry for the goat, picked it up and put it in the back seat of their car (much to Sam's distaste). So off they all went to Tunnel Creek.
When they got there Sam thought he'd finally got one over the goat; "There's no way that goat is going to want to come into the tunnel, it won't like trotting through all that water and sand in the dark..." he declared.
But the goat leapt out of the car and happily trotted off after Rosita, Sam and their friends all the way through Tunnel Creek with water up to it's chest. It stayed right beside Rosetta the whole way, and whenever it got scared it would gently nudge the back of her leg with it's nose for reassurance.
Some time later Rosita had to find a new home for the goat because they could no longer keep it in town. One day, she took the goat with her when she went to visit one of the old cattle stations, and in that time the goat grew very attached to an old aboriginal man's camp dog, whom it had taken to sleeping beside at night time.
On the day Rosita was leaving the station, and returning back to town she said to the old man; "I made a promise once to a man that I would never ever kill this goat, and that I would keep it safe, but I can no longer keep him, so can I please leave him here with you, but you too have to promise to keep him safe, and never kill him for food..." The old aboriginal man agreed, and he, his dog, and his family gave the goat a new home.
Some years later, that old aboriginal man's son was in town and he saw Rosita and told her about how his family had gone to a big corroboree - to get to the site of the corroboree they had to cross a river which was very wide, and up to their chest in depth. When the old aboriginal man got in the water and his dogs swam across the river, the goat stood at the bank bleating it's dissatisfaction at being left behind. So the old man told his son to go back, and get the goat. The goat was carried all the way across the river to the corroboree on the back of the son's shoulders. He turned out to be one very well cared for goat, that lived in the Kimberley, back in the day when a promise was truly a promise.
A Kimberley Xmas
This Story was kindly donated by Anne Koeyers from Drysdale Station. A fair few years back, a few days before Christmas, a neighbor with 3 kids went out to do the yearly ritual, and get a Christmas tree.
All three kids of course went along for the yearly treat. The game was always to get just the right one, nice shape, plenty leaves, right height, etc, etc. Being December the ground was very wet so off they went in a light suzuki 4WD.
The wife was working doing paperwork in front of a window with a view up the road. She looks up a while later to see her hubby and 3 kids walking back down the track. Out she goes and asks her hubby where the suzuki is? "Got it bogged..." was the reply, "So we're going to take up the toyota and pull it out".
So off they all go again. A fair bit later the wife again sees the tree hunters once again walking back down the track, all covered in mud.
Out she goes and asks, "What happened now????".
"Got the XXXXXX toyota bogged", came the reply. "Pretty soft up there, so we'll take the bulldozer up, and pull them both out, the dozer tracks will spread the weight better over the mud, should be easy this time...."
So away they all go on the dozer, the kids are having a ball by the way. A long time later wife looks out window to see hubby and 3 very dirty kids walking down the road once again, BUT this time hubby has the Christmas tree over his shoulder. So the wife goes out to meet them.
"Guess you got the dozer bogged as well ah????"
"Don't bloody ask!", was the reply.
A week of dry weather later (after Xmas and after much digging and many logs in the bog hole) all three vehicles finally made it back home.....Well it was a real nice Xmas tree and the kids had a great time. They all reckoned it was the best tree hunt ever!!!
An old aboriginal fellow went into town to buy a motorcar. He didn't have much money, and he ended up having to buy an old automatic falcon station wagon. Now he didn't like those "automagic" cars cause if they got a flat battery you couldn't push start them. But it was all he could afford.
Now years ago it used to be a practise of a few shonky car dealers to loosen the drain plugs so they car buyer would run out of oil and have to come back and buy more....
So this old fella is driving home and as he described it; "Everythink bin goin well..'em motor bin goin vroom...vroom, and 'em trees bin goin flashin passed me...then that motors still goin, but 'em trees bin goin past slower and slower and slower till they stopped..."
So this old fella got out of the car, and walked around the back of it and saw this long trail of oil going all the way down the road behind him. He gets underneath the car and sees that the drain plug out of the gear box is missing. He knows it's no good to go back looking for it - it could be anywhere. So he gets a mulga branch and hammers it into the sump plug hole with a rock. That's fixed the oil coming out, but there's none left in the gear box.
He has a look in the back of the car and finds he's got a jerry can of water, but that's no good cause it will "Make 'em go rusty"....He's got some engine oil but that's too thick and will froth up....Then he spots a 4 litre cask of coolibah wine and thinks to himself; "Now that won't make 'em go rusty, and you can shake 'em and 'em don't go frothy..." So he pours it into the gear box. And away he goes. And as he described it; "Them trees not goin past so fast now...but them still been goin past...".
He arrived home safely.
A couple of weeks later I said to him; "You bin puttin that propa oil in that gearbox yet?"
He replies; "No..No...my boy! Ive been tinkin maybe one day I bin out chasin kangaroo and maybi I hit somethin and knock a big hole in the radiator, and cook 'em motorcar. Maybe I bin a long way from home, maybe got no water to drink, but I still got 'em coolibah in 'em gear box. 'Em might be a bit warm....but 'em be right..."
(This story was donated by Sam Lovell) In 1948 Waltor O'connor and Jack Johnson were at the original Mt Hart Station run by Old Stumpy Fraser for Christmas. But they had to go all the way back to Mt House station to caretake it for the wet.
Anyway, they got down the old road, hit a rock and busted the sump of their car. When they found out it was leaking oil they pulled up and collected what oil was left inside. They took the sump out and soldered up the hole, then belted it into shape.
When they poured the oil they had saved back into the sump, they realised they didn't have enough. So they sat there for a while thinking how to get out of this mess. They were at least 3 days walk away from the stations. Not knowing what else to do Old Jack Johnson said; "Let's go and get a cow, and get some fat out of that".
After they had shot the cow, they boiled up the fat to make oil. They started the car to heat up the oil already in the sump, then poured the hot liquid fat in until they had enough....and off they went.
The only problem was every time they stopped the car to rest for the night, they had to drain the sump of the oil (while it was still hot), then heat it up again on the fire the next morning, then add it back into the car (to keep it in liquid form because cow fat sets hard).
The funny thing is these days most people who break down up here get straight on their satellite phone, and sometimes have to wait a day or two on the roadside for their mates to come and get them. But back then there was no other option, you had to find your own solution to the problem, because there weren't many cars on the road in those days and there probabally wouldn't be one for three months because it was the middle of the wet.
A mate of mine who had one of the adjoining Kimberley properties, was going out one night for a killer (going to shoot a cow for beef). He had this young jackaroo working for him who was wearing all the latest R.M Williams gear (the boots, the hat, the pants, the belt equipped with 20000 knives, and the shirt). This jackaroo asked my mate if he could go with him to get the killer, saying "I've even got me own rifle".
"Well Jump on the back then!" said my mate. And off they went to find a decent killer. It took them ages to find a decent cow. But then my mate saw a lovely roan heffa. The only other cow within a hundred miles was a skinny old short horn cow. They were about 5 metres apart.
So my mate shouts out to the young Jackaroo: "Come on, get the roan one quickly now..." He waits and he waits and he waits...nothing happens and this roan heffa is getting about ready to bolt.
Suddenly there's an almighty BANG and down drops the old skinny cow.
When the old cow dropped, the roan heffa took off and disappeared.
Well my mate, not known for his patience, shouts out "You useless ******, you got the wrong one..."
The young Jackaroo responds: "No I didn't...you told me to shoot the marone one"
Of course my mate, nor any one that lives up here has ever seen a marone coloured cow before...
Grader Vs D6 Bulldozer
One day at the end of the wet season I started grading my road. Everything was going really well for the first 12km. Then the grader sank in the middle of the road....right up to it's guts. After 1/2 an hour of futile digging, and jacking around carrying logs to put underneath it I realised I was going nowhere....
Now at the time, I was out at the station on my own, so it was no good waiting for help to arrive. So I walked the 12kms back to the station and picked up the D6 Bull Dozer. I walked the dozer back to the grader, backed the dozer up to the grader and connected the chain. Then eased the dozer forward...But nothing happened, it would not move. So I got off the dozer and got back on the grader and tried to release the suction of the mud by lifting and articulating it.
Then I got back on the dozer, put it into full revs and let the clutch out...But once again...Nothing Happened. So the next brillant idea I came up with was to get back on the grader, put it into reverse and give it full revs. So the grader is sitting there with the wheels spinning in the mud. So I jumped back on the bull dozer, and gave the machine all it's got, and...it worked...Only one problem, well 2 actually.
The first problem is a grader moves backward faster then a bulldozer moves forward. I had visions of the rippers on the back of the two machines, locking together.
So I threw her out of gear, and jumped off the tracks.
This is where the 2nd problem came into it. I've just had a total knee reconstruction, and I landed on my feet, but my knee gave way and went out sideways. I looked like a flattened crab.
Anyway...no time to waste, the grader was still coming backwards...Fast. The dozer stopped, and thankfully it was a long chain so I had time to run sideways to the grader (climbing back in wasn't much fun)...But I made it in time and stopped the machine just before they touched.
Someone I told this story to said: "You should of had someone filming it for funniest home videos."
I told him: "If there had been anyone there with a camera, they would of been driving one of the bl**dy machines, not filming it..."
I did another good trick one day. I was cleaning spider webs in the workshop, using the oxy torch. It was set on full ball (Does a really good job). The trouble was there was this one really big daddy long legs that kept running away, just in front of the torch. So I jumped up after him, with the torch. I was too busy watching the spider and then...next thing...I hit this can of "aerostart" (which is highly flammable) with the fire torch and BANG!!!! before I knew it the can had exploded and takes off the work bench and hits the roof.
It got rid of the spiders, but nearly burned down half the workshop....