Long Call
Early Travels-Ian Johnson 2000

Not long after school, I had managed to get about $50 in my pocket so set off from Sydney and hitch hiked across to Perth. (that is one side to the other.) After 6 weeks my money ran out and I had not made any more so I hitched back
to Sydney.

East of Broken Hill (Far West of New South Wales) I was picked up by a farmer (or more likely a grazier,) a cockie, in a ute. (utility vehicle) It must have been a few hundred kilometres to the next town, Wilcania so we had plenty of time to get to know each other. Probably 80 kilometres from Wilcannia he said why don't you come on up to my Aunt's place and see how we do things out here. Sounded OK and if it turned out that way, another day without food wouldn't kill me.

He turned off onto this dirt track South-West. This was his Aunt's property; vast. He pointed out the features; a saltbush here, a dead tree there, a sandy ridge in the distance which rose so imperceptibly from the desert flatness
that I could not see it.

About 40 kilometres in he screeched to a stop beside this wickedly contorted; very scantily clad little tree or bush. Under it was an old kerosene refrigerator. He got out, walked around to the fridge, opened it and pulled out a wind up telephone. A quick wind and he was talking to his Aunt. He explained that he was coming over for dinner and had a young hitch hiker with him. That was it; back in the car, he swung around in the red dust and headed at maximum speed back down the track we came in on. Back down to the main highway where we continued on our original route.

After perhaps 40 kilometres we turned right again and drove a further 80 kilometres south west to his Aunt's homestead.

It turned out to be a long stay too.

It was muster time and an extra couple hands were useful so we were there for 3 days. I got fattened up again with his Aunt's cooking. The vegetarian monika was only of minor or no concern to them.

From there we set off back down to the highway, through Wilcannia to a turn-off to the North where his station lay by the Paroo river. He suggested that as it was crutching time, I should come on up, have a look around and give them a hand. We drove a few hundred kilometres north, finally arriving at the homestead. This was a recent or 50's affair in itself but had been the centre of an old station up until 60 years before (soldier's settlement division.) At that time it would have been vast.

Remaining of the station was the stone basement of a 100 stand (half mile long) stone shearing shed. Half as wide as a city block and running straight for probably 8 city blocks. Beside it there were a couple huge stone duplexes. Conjoined
shearers quarters, the plans for these buildings were snatched from our most populace suburbs but scaled up. Floor to floor height would have been around 4000mm. Very high; very wide pimples on a flat landscape.

When we arrived this fellow was furious. There were wild pigs and roos everywhere. He had been away 2 weeks and the pigs had broken down the fences and were found luxuriating in the house yard and neighbouring areas. He ran into the house and came out bristling with guns, High powered rifles, a shot gun and a 45 magnum side arm. He beaconed me over to a shed which when opened revealed a 4 wheel drive vehicle.

We climbed in and were off. It only had one speed; flat out.

All the while, guns are going off each side. He would throw this vehicle sideways over the top of a ridge and before it came down the other side drop two pigs mid-air.

About 2 hours, around 90 wild pigs, a few handfulls of roos and a million blowflies had attained their heaven. My own childhood included familiarity with guns but not in that league.

The visit lasted a blood spattered week when several neighbours helped with the crutching and we helped with theirs. I survived on dampers then caught a lift back to Wilcania and a series of rapid rides east to Sydney.
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