So, I've created a Kickstarter page, which is here, and this post is to provide a sample of the book. Namely, the first bit of Chapter One, Wydjawanna Station. If you like it and want more, well, you'll have to pledge a few bucks so I can afford to get it edited, and then printed. All I can say is the dozen or so people who've read it loved it, and the reason I chose them to is because I knew they wouldn't blow smoke up my nether regions. Even my Mum (she never let us win board games, ever). So without further waffle, please enjoy the first bit of Wydjawanna Station.
Jack Simmonds leaned against the bonnet of his Landcruiser as he smoked, and waited. Grey hairs poked out from under his cap, and his trousers were stained with a mixture of red dust and black grease, a result of sliding around the workshop floor earlier that morning. He stared silently into the horizon beyond the dirt airstrip, his gaze only interrupted by the bush flies seeking refuge in the corners of his eyes, and a wave of his well-worn hand to clear them. His neighbour, John Harris from Nanoo, a sheep station some fifty kilometres away, was due here shortly with their new backpacker working man. John could’ve driven, but he never missed a chance to fly, a man much after Jack’s own heart.
He took his eyes off the skyline long enough to admire the landscape around him. A kangaroo stared back at him, grazing on the edge of the strip. Jack would have to watch him as the plane came in, otherwise things could get messy. It wasn’t like the roo couldn’t graze elsewhere, they’d just come off the best winter seen since moving to Wydjawanna Station eight years ago, and from talking to the previous owners it was the best in over fifty. The result was spectacular. Wildflower season was finished, the sea of white and purple everlastings gone, and the lush green mulla-mulla bush and wanderrie grass dried off, but to Jack the resultant feed it created was money in the bank. Not only did it provide for this years’ livestock, but should the following winter be a dry one, the earlier soaking meant the saltbush, cottonbush and other shrubbery and perennials could still feed their animals well into another season.
It was one less thing they had to worry about, and their livestock was in magnificent condition. Soon they would begin the trapping and mustering program, harvesting off any saleable stock and marking the young lambs that were abundant in every mob they saw. Now was a good time to be in the sheep game, so much so that his daughter Nola and her husband Roy had decided to put on two extra casual staff to help.
Jack grinned to himself, recalling how earlier that week Roy had consulted with him about the staffing requirements as Jack toiled away in the workshop, servicing their mustering bikes. Aside from flying, Jack was always happiest when swinging a spanner or driving his beloved road grader. He was crouched beside one of the five motorbikes parked in a line on the concrete floor when Roy had entered, wheeling in his latest flat tyre. Tall and lean, Roy stooped to keep his hand on the wheel as he rolled it along. Jack looked up from his work, a half smoked cigarette hanging from his mouth.
‘How’d you go?’
‘Another flat, but the waters are fine,’ said Roy cheerfully. ‘How about you, are the old girls going to make another year?’
Jack had cast his eye over the motorbikes. They were all the same model, Suzuki 250 Ag bikes, but it was easy to see some were more senior than others. Beside the first three bikes were a small pile of sprockets, spark plugs, guards and bolts. Jack was working on the fourth and hadn’t yet started on the fifth, the newest one in the line up. Around him there was a scattering of spanners, screwdrivers and the ever present can of CRC, the magic aerosol lubricant relied on so often to loosen rusted nuts.
Jack sighed as he answered. ‘Number three and one are tired, Roy. Three’s burning oil and blowing smoke when she gets hot, and one’s starter has seized. But the kicker works, so just don’t give it to any little riders you get this year.’ He pointed at the other bike. ‘Five will be fine and the other two just need a service. I’ll get the parts ordered and Lisa can pick them up when she gets the food stores.’ Lisa was his wife, Roy’s Mother-in-Law. ‘That just leaves the truck to service, a few welds on the stock crate and Nola’s ute. Then we’re good to go.’
Roy nodded, pleased. Nola worked alongside them doing most things, but mechanics were not her strong point. “I drive it, you fix it,” she would say. No, Nola was much happier working with four legs over four wheels, but on two wheels she was almost unbeatable. The only person who had been able to match her was Kev, their old stockman, but he had retired in the last year, much to his reluctance.
‘If we can get a couple of good mobs sold we can replace number three. It’ll just have to hang in there. Depending on who we end up with, we can put a slow rider on it,’ Roy started working on the tyre. ‘Young Bobby and Gav went alright last year, didn’t they?’ Jack shook his head, passing Roy a tyre lever.
‘You’d have to ask Bethany, I think their mobs are blueing at the moment. But either of the boys are good if they can’t work together.’
Bobby and Gav were two local aboriginal teenagers who’d both been out to work for them more than once, and Bethany was one of the local elders, the go-to lady for any station looking for temporary workers. She always knew who was where, when so-and-so would be back and who couldn’t work with whom for reasons known only to themselves. She could organise staff at a drop of the hat and Roy and Nola liked using the local lads. A lot of the boys’ families had grown up on Wydjawanna and surrounding sheep stations, and they seemed to enjoy being able to return, albeit only for a few weeks. They’d tell stories of antics their fathers got up to, proudly showing off fence lines and troughs their relatives helped construct.
‘I’ll get Nola to give her a ring tonight. What about you, you up to riding this year?’ Roy knew Jack would resent the question, but he had to ask. While Jack’s skill on the bikes as a musterer was not in question, Roy noticed he had been starting to slow down a little. The decades of toil were catching up with him, and it was beginning to show.
Jack stood up, puffing his chest out. ‘You just tell whatever young kids you get to follow my dust,’ he growled. ‘I ain’t completely useless yet.’
Roy back-peddled quickly. ‘Course not, just thought you might prefer flying this year, I can ride if you want.’ He started working at the tyre with the levers, not wanting to look at Jack.
Jack mellowed a little. ‘Well, I would, but…’ he paused, placing a boot on the tyre for Roy. ‘Me eyes aren’t what they used to be. I’d probably miss a few. I ain’t completely useless.’ He repeated. ‘But I ain’t a hundred per cent either.’
Roy could see this hurt Jack to say. He was a proud man, and the thought of losing his ability to do the things he loved scared him. Jack looked at his son-in-law, and his eyes started to twinkle as he spoke with a sudden grin.
‘Besides, you on a bike would slow us down too much.’ He was hinting to Roy’s well-known preference to four wheels over two. Roy gave a snort as he pried away at the rubber. He didn’t mind the good-natured ribbing, it was a sign Jack hadn’t taken offence to his poorly veiled suggestion he was showing his age.
That same night Jack had listened in as Nola rang Bethany. ‘‘ello?’ she answered. ‘Who dat?’ Nola could hear people chattering in the background.
‘Bethany, it’s Nola here from Wydjawanna,’ Nola started, but before she could say any more Bethany interrupted.
‘Nola, ‘ow are ya love, I knew you was gunna ring soon, you mob been quiet aye, wid all dis rain.’ Bethany spoke fast, and her thick guttural accent could be difficult to understand, especially for Roy and Jack, whose slight deafness didn’t help, so as a result Nola did most the talking. ‘Not good for chasing dem goat-sheep aye? But I bet dey fat liddle goat-sheep now aye.’
Nola always smiled at Bethany’s goat-sheep comment. Goat-sheep was the name she’d given to the damaras that ran on Wydjawanna, who had a coat of hair instead of wool, and the multitude of colours they came in did make it hard for people unfamiliar with them to tell the difference from the wild goats sometimes.
‘Yes, Bethany, the sheep are very fat. We need some good fellas to give us a hand next week. Are Bobby and Gav able to come? They are good boys those two.’
‘Bobby, ‘e can come Nola,’ Bethany paused. ‘But Gav, ‘e got ‘im a traineeship wid da mine mob. ‘e home next week, but, ‘is mob not real ‘appy wid Bobby’s mob just now aye. Maybe you just take Bobby, till dey all cool down some, y’know?’ Bethany spoke of the discontent as if it were nothing strange. And to her, it probably wasn’t.
‘Bobby will be great thanks Bethany,’ Nola replied, giving the thumbs up to Jack and Roy. ‘He can come out anytime in the next few days. He just needs his work clothes, we’ll have the rest.’
‘Okay den, we gotta go to town on T’ursday, so we drop ‘im off on da way, okay?’ Before Nola could answer, a screech came through the phone from Bethany’s end. Nola winced as she held the phone off her ear.
‘Shut up you mob, I’m on da bloody phone!’ Then calmly, ‘Sorry Nola, I got dem bloody grandkids ‘ere.’
‘That’s okay Bethany,’ laughed Nola. ‘Thank you for your help, we will see you on Thursday.’
Nola had relayed the news about only one of the boys being able to come, which put them a man down on the muster crew. Lisa piped up from the kitchen, where she was tidying the night’s dinner dishes away.
‘Didn’t John say he had a guy there who was finishing up?’
Nola thought about it. They’d last seen John and his wife Joy at on Nanoo a few weeks ago, where all the neighbouring stations gathered to prepare wild dog baits. She was fairly sure she had heard him mention a backpacker to someone.
‘Yeah,’ she said. ‘Alex I think he said his name was. From Estonia. Give him a ring Roy, see if he’s free.’ She passed the phone to her husband. Roy rang the number.
John answered. ‘Hello?’ He drawled out the first syllable, and snapped off the last.
‘John. Roy here mate, how’s things?’ Roy got along well with John, as did Nola with Joy, and the two couples were good friends. They made small talk for a while, catching up on the local gossip, discussing the weather and general affairs, till Roy brought up the backpacker.
‘Nola tells me you’ve got a backpacker there.’
‘Yeah mate, Alexi. Not a bad sort. From Estonia. Why do you ask?’ John queried.
‘We’re a man short for a muster next week. Reckon you could swing them our way for a bit?’ Roy could hear John give a little chuckle under his breath as he answered.
‘Hang on, I’ll ask. Alexi was a little unsure as where to go next. Very handy on the motorbike.’ Roy heard muffled voices, and then came back on the line. ‘Yep, I’ll drop them off on Thursday, how’s that?’
‘Thursday’s perfect John, Bethany is dropping off Bobby then too.’ Roy had sworn he’d heard John choke back a laugh.
‘Really? Young Bobby, hey? And you’ve still got Ash there too?’ Ash was the young jackeroo they’d been employing for just over a year now, originally from the city, but he had taken to rural life very easily.
‘Yeah, why’s that, you think they won’t get along with Alexi?’ asked Roy, wondering what John was obviously not telling him.
‘Oh no, I think they’ll like Alexi just fine,’ assured John. ‘I’ll see you Thursday,’ and with that, the line went dead.
Still waiting for John, Jack lit another smoke as he remembered Roy’s puzzled explanation to them about the backpacker. There was something John wasn’t telling them and Jack wondered what it could be. Could Alexi not speak English very well? Was he some sort of vegan animal loving hippy on a crusade to save the poor persecuted sheep from the nasty farmer? He’d come across one like that years ago, and it had taken all his self-control not to lock the kid in a pen with twenty wild rams, and then ask him if still thought they were defenceless.
The familiar buzzing of a light aircraft interrupted his thoughts. John’s blue Cessna grew larger as he came in low, passing over the sheds and homestead as he circled the airstrip, no doubt one eye on the lifeless windsock. Jack watched as the plane lined up the runway and landed with only a few small bounces.
The plane taxied down towards him and Jack could see two people inside, heads peering over the plane’s engine bay. From this distance and with his eyes, Jack couldn’t quite make out who was who, but he knew John would be on the left side of the plane. John killed the engine and the propeller came to a stop. Both removed their headsets and clambered out, John first, who then ran round to help his passenger. Jack started over towards them and then stopped dead in his tracks as he watched Alexi alight from the plane.‘Holy shit,’ he breathed.
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Wydjawanna Station Kickstarter
Good Read. Will just have to wait for the rest of it. I will contribute to the kickstart fund after pay day at the end of the month...
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