Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Sitting Pretty... in the idiot's corner.

I’ve had a reader request from someone (OK it’s from ST… he does like to read my blogs when he gets a chance, just to make sure I’m not giving away any of his secrets)… following on from my previous blog, “How not to muster a paddock.”

When ST heard the last title his first words were, “Is it about that time you tried to muster Pretties Paddock?”… “Umm, no,” I replied surprised, “But that WOULD have been a good idea.”

“You should do that one next,” he said.

And so here we are… That time I tried to muster Pretties… Oh sweet Lord, I’d tried to block it from memory…

It must have been shearing time six months ago, so around September last year, because I was on the quad bike which is still considered a relatively “new” addition to Burragan. ST and I had discussed the game plan the night previous as we prepared to muster Pretties Paddock. The plan, as usual, was for ST to head out an hour or so before me and gather the majority of the sheep together before calling me on the UHF. I was then to ride out and help put the mob into the small set of yards out there in the paddock. Due to it being a rather long way from the wool shed yard, we were going to rest them in the smaller Pretties yards first and walk them the rest of the way in the evening.

Now this was all making sense to me, though it did seem just ever so sliiiightly odd that we’d be resting the sheep in the yards in Pretties seeing as the yards were closer to the back of the paddock than to the end towards the wool shed. But you know, I’m no expert at this stuff and ST’s been doing it since birth, so I wasn’t about to question him.

Next morning - mustering day - smoko time nears and I’m still waiting for that call on the UHF. Bugger it, I thought, I’ll just start heading out there and call him on the way to see where he wants me. So off I go, fuel up the quad, check the tyres, and head off up the hill, past the wool shed and into the bottom end of Pretties.

It was a warm day for the beginning of spring so I hadn’t worn a jumper. As I straddled the uneven tyre tracks of the water run road through Pretties I was beginning to wish I had donned another layer. The cold, rushing air was quickly infiltrating my skin and a dark cloud was suddenly, and quickly, manifesting on the south western horizon.

Strangely I was starting to see the odd sheep scattered around Pretties as I zoomed up the road. Jeeze, he’s done a shit job of mustering this end, I thought, Wonder if I should start pushing these ones up to the yards? Surely if he was going to the north end yards he’d have done this end of the paddock already.

I tried calling ST on the bike’s UHF but got no reply. I kept riding.

The closer I got to the Pretties ground tanks and the vicinity of the yards the more sheep I saw, just leisurely picking their way through burrs and grass as if I was little more than a fly buzzing by. These sheep we relaxed and disinterested. These were definitely not sheep in the middle of being mustered.

I tried for ST on the radio again, several times, with only silence to answer. This was interesting… verrrrrry interesting.

The wind was picking up, blowing the threatening southerly storm cloud rapidly closer and heightening my panic at the same time. Why wasn’t ST answering the radio? I turned my bike off to see if I could hear the hum of ST’s Suzuki in the distance. All I could hear was the storm blowing in.

My mind was racing. Sure, his radio could be on the wrong channel by accident, but HE was due to call ME, so you’d think he would have checked it by now and realised, right? Maybe he’s had an accident? None of the sheep are mustered! There’re no sheep in the yards what-so-ever. My heart was starting to thump heavily at all the possibilities crashed loudly into my thoughts, riding in on the furious gusts of the approaching thunderstorm. He’s had an accident, I determined. So, let’s think straight here… there were no bike tacks on the road up through Pretties so he’d obviously come through Lyn’s Paddock. I’ll ride in that direction, I thought, and see if I can pick up any tracks criss-crossing the road through to Lyn’s.

Heavy rain droplets started to fall, stinging my cheeks as I pressed the throttle down harder. And I thought, How bloody typical is this? My fiancé is missing in the middle of 70,000 acres, probably crushed beneath his bike, and no one knows except me, and the only rain to pass through here in months has decided to come right now, while I’m riding around blind, squinting my eyelashes together in an attempt to see through the bloody water haze and hoping to just magically spot a bright yellow motorbike somewhere nearby, and I’m likely to die of hypothermia trying to find him just because I forgot to wear a stupid friking jumper!

As my frustration and terror grew, so did the storm. I slowed down on the road to Lyn’s keeping an eye out for tracks or anything out of the ordinary, when suddenly the radio began crackling. It could just be the moisture in the air from the storm, I thought, but a gut feeling forced me to stop.

“Is that you ST?” I answered.

And the radio crackled back.

“I can’t hear you! I’m near the Pretties tank, can you come to me?” I talked into the hand piece.

Crackle, crackle, it replied.

Ohhh shit. Oh shit, shit, shit. I thought. This is bad. He can’t even talk. He’s severed his spine! Ohhh God, how am I going to find him?

I still hadn’t come across any tracks… So he obviously hasn’t even made it to Pretties this morning… he’s somewhere along the road in Lyn’s. He’s hit a roo on his bike going too fast along the road and come off at speed… Oh God, Oh God…

“Are you ok? Can you press the UHF button in twice for yes, and once for no?"

No response.

I pressed the throttle down hard and made a b-line to the gate into Lyn’s.

The UHF crackled again, more clearly this time… or as clear as crackle can be. Crackle, crackle, crackle… “Are you there Bess?” I heard ST’s voice come through distantly between the crackle.

“Yes! Oh my God! Where are you?” I yelled down the line in relief.

“Where are you?” he questioned back, ignoring me.

“I’m just at the gate going into Lyn’s from Pretties. Where are you? Are you OK? Tell me where you are and I’ll come to you.”

“What!?” came his incredulous response, “What the hell are you doing there?”

“I’m looking for you! Where are you? Are you over at the yards? There’s sheep everywhere down the bottom end, do you want me to go back and start pushing them up?”

“I’m at the house.” Oh GOD! I thought, he’s had to make his way all the way back to the house, with broken limbs, to call the flying doctor and I’m not there!

“Why are you at the house? What happened to mustering Pretties? ARE. YOU. OK!?” I yelled.

“Of course I’m OK! What are you doing in Pretties?”

“Why are you back at the house already? There’s sheep EVERYWHERE!”

“Of course there’s bloody sheep everywhere. We weren’t mustering Pretties…” He said.

“What do you mean we weren’t mustering Pretties? I’m out here, now, waiting for you, ready to muster!”

“We were mustering Candy’s. And I’ve finished already so I’m back at the house wondering where the hell you are!”

Ohhhh. Mmmyyyyy. Godddddd,
I thought.

“Ohhhh. Mmmyyyyy. Godddddd,” I said. “So you’re OK?” I questioned a bit more quietly this time.

“Yes I’m OK! Are you OK?” his voice was getting louder and angrier…

“Yep, fine. Just cold and wet. I’ll see you back at the house soon.”

I rode home fast, bracing myself against the needle-like rain and slowly feeling my panic turn to relief, before exploding over me in a massive, big, heap of embarrassment. I started giggling hysterically for a little bit as I pushed the throttle down again, deliriously embracing the cold wind and the power of the dark clouds hanging overhead.

As I neared the house the rain stopped. ST was standing on the front lawn with a cup of coffee in hand. I was readying myself for the likely onslaught of how-could-you-have-buggered-that-up-so-royally anger, but instead, as I rode past the front yard with a little apologetic smile on my face, ST doubled over in laughter, shaking his head in disbelief.

“Just five paddocks and 30 kilometres in the wrong direction Bess,” he teased as I swung the yard gate closed behind me and ripped off the top layer of my soaking shirts.

“Where’s my coffee?” I grinned.


  1. Hilarious Bessie, you tell a great story of adventures in the bush!