Monday, January 7, 2013

The A Team at Burragan

Not all that long before Christmas ST and I had a new addition to family, and so I thought it time I introduced you to the rest of our A Team at Burragan. (Note: I was going to call them the B Team – the lettering would fit better on our matching T-shirts - but really felt that the letter B detracted from their total Awesomeness and Number 1 status.)

So, you might remember in my initial introduction post about ten months ago when I mentioned that it was just ST, his dad and mum, and myself doing most of the work out here across the three properties. That’s not strictly true… I’m sorry I lied; At Burragan we actually have three other full time, live-in workers.
While they have agreed to me writing this blog post, for privacy reasons they’ve asked to only be referred to by their nicknames. Without further delay, let me introduce to you, The A Team at Burragan!

The Wok: ST and I were lucky enough to have Wok join our team about six weeks after moving to Burragan. I was heading up to Bourke for some journalism work and staying with friends on a property just north of town. That’s where I first met Wok. Our friends LO and DK asked us if we needed a new worker, we did, Wok was there ready to go, so he jumped in with me on the way back home a few days later and has been an invaluable member of the Burragan team ever since.

We’re really lucky that given he doesn’t speak much English, we don’t really have to pay him much. He works for little more than food and board, never complains and rarely takes a day off sick. In fact, he loves working out here so much that we actually have to force him to have a day off every now and then to stop him from over-doing it.

Wok is somehow dopey and hyperactive at the same time. He was about four months old when we first got him and I remember ST having to teach him how to jump into the back of the ute. The next day I was in the kitchen when I could hear a strange repetitive thud-thud, thud-thud, thud-thud, thud-thud and I looked out the window to see Wok wandering around by himself practising jumping up and down from the ute, over and over and over and over again.

He loves riding on the front of the motorbike when ST is mustering, often resting his head on ST’s arm and going to sleep. He has the biggest ears, ever. He prefers to sleep on top of his kennel, rather than in it. And when you let him off the chain he goes completely crazy with excitement, whipping around in this odd, manic chase-your-tail kind of action a dozen times before settling down a fraction. This one time he whipped around so many times and so fast that he whacked himself straight into a tree. I laughed. A lot.

He has since blossomed into a fantastic sheep dog. He’s so hyperactive that you really can’t let him work in the sheepyards – that’s way too close quarters and small scale for him, when calls of “go back” and “go ‘round” will send him half a kilometre away at lightning speed. He's definitely more of a paddock dog. My all-time favourite Wok story is about the one time we did let him work in the yards. It’s a bit long, so I’ll save it for another time, but believe me, shit went down.
One day they’re going to write books and make movies about The Wok… it’ll be just like Red Dog, except it’ll be called Wok Dog, obviously.

Rob: After a brief stint with a gorgeous Border Collie pup called Wal (Wok and Wal, geddit?) who died tragically after eating a frangipani tree, the next to join our tribe was Rob. Rob came from good breeding stock, down south somewhere, Victoria way. We knew he was coming for a long time before he actually arrived… living with our stock agent in Hay for several weeks before anyone was travelling down there (or up here) to get him to us. During his stay in Hay, he escaped and was taken to the pound. For the stock agent to pick him up, he had to get him micro chipped, and to get him micro chipped, he had to give him a name. Rob was the name of the guy who bred him, so the dog became Rob too.

Rob (pictured above left, with Tex right) arrived with a noticeably big lump in his belly and I soon had to drive him 330km into Broken Hill to have a hernia fixed. He was quickly becoming the most expensive work dog ever (well, I guess not quite as expensive as that $9,000 Kelpie from last year’s Casterton sale, but at least he would be worth it!). “He’ll be a bit sleepy still from the anaesthetic,” the vet told me that afternoon when I picked him. I carried the dead weight to the car and tried to put him back in the doggy cage, but he was too heavy and sleepy and I couldn’t get the door quite shut. Oh well, looks like he’s pretty dopey and tired anyway, I’ll just leave it open, I thought. I was driving him around to our friend SCS’s place to drop him off for the night, and within seconds of pulling out of the car park, he was back to his usual energetic self, jumping over the car seats and acting up. I pulled up at SCS’s place and suddenly Rob was laying back down in the puppy cage acting as sick as possible. He was looking pretty sore and sorry as I drove off – ready to milk the opportunity for all it was worth. When I picked him up the next day, SCS said they’d let him sleep INSIDE ON THE COUCH for the night!! Rob has NEVER been the same since!

When we got back to Burragan he waltzed straight in the door like he owned the place (Note: Work dogs are NOT inside dogs). To this day Rob still thinks he’s an inside dog… we now call him “Roberta”, “Town Dog” or sometimes even “Soccer Player”… because he is so unsuited to farm life and likely to act mortally wounded over the simplest of injuries. ST will tell you he can hold his own in the yards, but I’ve yet to witness Roberta on a good day where sheep are involved – though they do say it takes Border Collies two years to mature, whereas Kelpies (like Wok) develop a bit quicker. But we still love him and make sure he feels included as a member of the A Team.

Tex: For a long time Tex (pictured above top, with Rob bottom) was my baby, my puppy, my precious youngest child. He came as a puppy from a litter at ST’s parent’s place, the son of two good working Collies with the genetic makeup to show results.
It’s kind of said that you’re not supposed to spoil working dogs too much as puppies because it might soften them up… but from the outset Tex was known as my dog, and I showered him with love and affection. I’m sure Rob has felt this favouritism towards Tex from the start and thus it’s furthered the strain on my relationship with him.

Not long after we got Tex we had painters here transforming the outside of our house from mint green and mission brown, to grey and white. We didn’t have a house-yard fence at the time, and the painters had taken the doors off the house to paint them, while I was working in the office and didn’t know. I went into the kitchen that afternoon and found Tex eating a pile of mouse bait. Other piles of mouse bait were also mysteriously gone, and then I found Wok and Rob wandering around the house too. I was mortified and had a very traumatic few hours trying to induce vomiting by pouring salt water down their throats. I went to bed that night (with Tex locked in the bathroom and Rob and Wok at their kennels) drained of tears, convinced I would wake up the next morning to find all three of them dead.

Fortunately, given that mouse bait actually takes a few days to take effect, they were still alive in the morning, and the vet in Cobar was able to send out some antidote in the post which luckily was also coming out that day. A simple dose of Vitamin K each day for several weeks saw them all survive without any issues.
But since this incident, Tex has shown signs of having super powers. Perhaps six months later, ST was welding up our house-yard fence while Rob was off his chain having a run around. ST’s hat and sunglasses were resting on top of a fence post, tempting Rob to snatch them and start chowing down – this became known as The Great Akubra Massacre of 2012. Panic ensured as we tried to track down all the pieces of the $200 rabbit fur hat, and Rob was chastised and taken back to his kennel. We managed to track down the hat (minus a massive bite chunk from the back brim) and the band (which had been ripped off) but after 15 minutes or so of searching, we still couldn’t locate ST’s sunnies anywhere!

Releasing Tex from his chain, I gave him at pat and said in my cutesy-wootsy-little-puppy voice, “Find the sunnies Tex, find the sunnies.” And off Tex ran, straight into the long grass next to a tree about 50 metres away (remembering we live in a dry box swamp surrounded by about a trillion trees) and began sniffing around like a custom’s dog on a boogie board bag in Bali. Yep, you guessed it, Tex had found the sunnies in less than 20 seconds! The way I see it, there’s only one logical explanation – he’s psychic.

And that brings me to our latest addition, Flip:

Flip, a Jack Russel, came as a 10-week-old puppy from a property about 100km south of us. We were best friends as soon as we met and he cuddled into my arms and started snoozing. He’s cheeky and sneaky and simultaneously adorable and pure evil. He’s probably only about four months old now, but already we have so much in common. All his favourite things are my favourite things too!

Flip loves eating, and I do too!

Flip loves Facebook, and I do too!

Flip loves reading the kindle, and I do too!

Flip loves shoes, and I do too!

And Flip loves sleeping, and I do too!

The first time I took Flip out to meet the rest of the team, Wok turned around, cocked his leg and… you can imagine the rest. Rob ignored him, and Tex looked forlorn at the knowledge that he was probably being replaced in the position of Burragan baby.

So that’s our A Team! Most days they’re the only other living beings we get to talk to face to face...


  1. What a cracker, I love your turn of phrase, I become so engrossed in stories of Roberta, Wok and Flip.

  2. awesome workers you have there Bessie!!!

  3. They could never be reduced to the 'B'team now! They have a fan! Hilarious, warm read Bessie!

  4. Hahahaha... lovely... I can REALLY get a feel, Bess, for your A team. Almost as if I were there...