Yards rattle and the clamber of hooves up the concrete loading ramp into the cattle crates crack and rumble echoing across the large spread of the loading yards of Marrakai Station. Through the trees down the laneway and spreading out as far as the eye can see spreads a vast floodplain of snaking channels slowly drying up, buffalo wallows create dark divots & pandanus spikes from clusters of dry land.
On the high ground the dust is flying, scattered effortlessly by thousands of cattle in coolers, drafted off & ready to load for export. Through the rails peeks a brahman calf, its wet nose rubbing the railway iron stay as it runs along prodding to get through, bellowing for his young mother, an assumed heifer. Its the end of the dry season, the dragonflies are gone, the colours in the sunset are crimson and vibrant, the heat intense.. Build up is coming and cattle must be exported out before the station becomes and inland freshwater sea. The sun streams through the cattle crates, drivers holler and cattle prods buzz as dozens of triple Road Trains are loaded made for the port..
Marrakai Station, one of my many Station homes as a kid.. It was vast in size with only approximately 1/3 of its many hectares used, with the floodplain being used in the drier months to fatten southern cattle for export. It was a magical place as a kid, to grow up here with unlimited bush & adventures to be had i feel very lucky to have the memories i have.
I grew up in the front seat of a bull catcher next to my dad. Usually in a cardboard box, cut out for shade on the top. This was nothing unusual for territory kids, parents didnt stop the action and fun stuff when they had kids in the old days, they had to just keep up and tag along everywhere. Many of my oldest memories are in a machine perched up on a tucker box or asleep on the floor below my Dads feet. As the first child, i just had to adapt and fit in, like a pocket pet, id fit anywhere and sleep anywhere and survive off anything. I was born in Darwin, and we had a house block at Noonamah. From a young age Dad worked and managed many stations away from our family Station Shilo. We did a stint at Tipperary where Dad graded many roads and i vividly remember the brown rooves and cladded houses in lanes & the large open polocrosse fields and red dirt. My sister came along at this time and she spent her first years here, we'd play in the red mud in the back yard, with other station kids. I have very faint memories of the classroom there and doing School of the Air for my preschool year.
From Tipperary we went to Elizabeth Downs, sister station to Tipperary. The brick house was fancy, like the flash houses at tipperary and not like the little timber workers cottages we were in before. The house had dark stone type floors and a wrap around verandah. We would play out on the lawn and go to the yards and watch Dad work.. in every memory i have when i was little, id look up at Dads grinning face. His perfect straight teeth always in a cheshire cat grin looking down laughing, joking, yelling sometimes directions, leading, showing.. I watched every move, i took in every lesson.
If id say anyone has influenced me the most, its my Dad. Yes women are pioneers, yes we keep the home fires burning and children fed and well everyone fed. But my Dad. Well, without getting to emotional ill keep it as simple as his unwavering support and firm handshake, ill explain just a bit! Dad came from a huge family, and being nearly the youngest you can imagine what the territory was like in the 60,s, 70;s & 80;s, let alone today.. Its still the wild frontier, even with its growing suburbs and multiple sky scraper motels.. Its still wild, untamed, and calls all adventurous types to its borders..
We had the best childhood, and with my Dad at the realm of our lessons i learnt quick and fast and as kids we'd do a mans work.. Its the way of the world on a station, and the character & commonsense i learned that set me up to tackle this modern world is priceless. Hard work makes good kids, harder work makes better adults. We weren't in the least phased either, to be given responsibility, opportunity to prove ourselves, and lessons gave us a hunger for success, a thirst for adventure, and a good work ethic that i am sorry, we just aren't seeing in todays kids.
My Dads favourite saying was why have kids if they don't do all the hard work, but in a joking grin, we knew he was just rewarding our effort in a roundabout way, which meant "good jobs Jessie". Without my Dad, and his hands on knowledge & jack of all trades abilities there is much i wouldn't be able to do in succeeding in my n business today. Guts & determination if anything. to never give up, to try and try and try, and if it don't fit FORCE IT!
He's a regular old bushie, a ringer, a bush mechanic, a builder, a pilot, an airboat operator, a station manager, a bull-catcher, a machine operator, a grandfather and best of all a Dad. I hope he actually reads this, as he needs to know i love him very much. And that i'm proud to be his Jessie Belle, named after a bull catcher, wild, carefree little scrawny territory kid... Love ya Dad. xx