Up at 7am, it is bright and sunny. I had a good talk to John,
park owner, while he was doing his rounds. He said about half the
caravaners stay one night and move on the next day and he likes to get
his daily chores out of the way before the new day's arrivals start
coming in just after lunch. He wants to set the sprinklers on the
camping area lawns today where my tent is set up, so I will move it to
an area he watered yesterday. John says that at this time of
year, if he doesn't water every three days the lawns will
to go off. He has his own bore for all uses except drinking and that is
supplied from tanks catching roof runoff from every building.
John was very interested in the amateur radio equipment that
was using and became part of the solution when I asked him where I
could buy a PL259 co-ax connector for my yet-to-be-made new antenna.
There are no electronics shops in Hawker and he said there were no
Telstra techs resident here either. I have worked with Telstra techs on
and off over the years and even the guys "on the road" carry a fair
amount of spares. All the fiddly bits and pieces that you just can't
get in small, or even medium, sized country towns.
When I explained the structure of the new antenna, John knew
exactly what I wanted. We wandered off to his huge shed and he went
straight to a heap of rubbish in the corner and started digging in. I
shouldn't call it rubbish. I always chided Bill, who had a 400 acre
rural block in the Hunter district and had sheds full of what I called
junk. But he always reminded me that there is no hardware store "just
up the road". His nearest town was Raymond Terrace and was 60kms away.
That was an "every two weeks" type of trip and so he saved every left
over nut and bolt and scrap of steel. Even so, I still reckon the
amount of stuff you find on all aussie outback properties is over the
John emerged from the
tangle of wires (this
was specifically "electrical" junk) and had nearly four meters of RG58
coaxial cable with a PL259 connector already fitted to one end. (How do
"junk collectors" not only remember what they have, but where it is?
This is the stuff good PhDs are made of). I recognised it straight
away. Some time in the distant past, a CB radio had been un-installed
from a car or ute or truck and this is the cable that goes from the CB
radio under the dash to the antenna on the front bumper or bull
bar. This cable must have been considered to be useful "some
into the "electrical" heap in the corner. This is not quite
was going to use it, but it was perfect for my job. If I had access to
a Dick Smith or Jaycar electronics store, I would have bought the RG58
cable and the PL259 connector and then joined them. John has not only
provided the raw materials, but they are already connected. Pulling my
head in, and apologising for demeaning his "junky" looking shed, I
thanked him profusely and headed back to my tent to store it away till
Roger's parcel arrived in the post with the ferrite core and winding
Around lunchtime, I
headed over to the pub and had a very nice steak sandwich and chips.
On the walk
back to the caravan park, I took in a bit more of the history of South
Australia. I would definitely not call myself a history buff, although
I have always shown a more than casual interest in the pioneer's
ingenuity in building new and practical tools and implements enabling
them to be more productive. But since I started this walk, I am seeing
them (the pioneers) in a new light. Without the use of a motor car, the
distances become "real" and travelling so slowly I get to see the
surrounding countryside in a totally new light. "Natural" building
materials are not in abundance.
Setting up a homestead, building fences, etc., would have
been long, exhausting and heartbreaking work. I have been lucky to have
had the experience while living at One Arm Point, North of Broome, to
be employed to build a cattle yard "from scratch". Armed with
a battered, unregistered 20 year old Land Rover and a small(ish)
chain saw, I would head out daily to a stand of native black butt
trees. As each tree was selected and cut, it was de-barked and dragged
to a central location. Medium sized, 18" diameter, ones for corner
posts, 12" for general posts and 8" for rails. And two giant, 30", ones
for the front posts of the loading ramp. These had to withstand the
batterings from the trucks during loading. On Friday afternoon, I was
joined by another worker with a ten ton truck and we would winch each
post or rail into the air and drive the truck underneath for loading.
Then repeat the process for the week's "harvest". Next week, I would do
it all again for a total of four weeks. Then dig all the holes, by
hand, in rocky
ground and build the stock yard over the next 4 weeks. And I had the
benefit of vehicles, chain saw, etc and a nice house to go
home to each night. Seeing the sparse landscape at such close
quarters and experiencing the hot, dry conditions sparked a
growing interest in the early history of Australia and the men and
women who chose to "give it a go".
The plaque is to commemorate the early settlers to
area. The post is for straining the fence wires. This antique post was
outside the old Hawker railway station and I found it fascinating. Each
strand of wire was wound onto a shaft that was turned by a removable
handle and had a ratchet to stop it unraveling. These straining posts
would have been placed along the fence line every 300 meters or so, and
on corners with smaller, wooden posts every 10 meters. There would have
been 2 or 3 sapling "droppers" to keep the vertical wire spacing
My "next door
were four young, adventurous fellows travelling from Melbourne to
Darwin in a sedan and enjoying the outback. Two were German, one a
French/Canadian and the forth bloke, a pom. They had really just
started and were in for an interesting trip up the Stuart
and through the heart of Australia. We spent the evening together
watching the aussie rules football on TV with me explaining the rules.
Although I have played rugby league, rugby union and soccer at school
and after school levels, I had never played aussie rules. But I loved
watching whenever I got a chance (I haven't owned a TV for 6 years) and
I had a 4 year stint as president of the West Kimberley
Rules Football Association. They enjoyed the story about how I came to
acquire this position.
1978, I was sitting
at the bar of the Mangrove Hotel, while living in Broome, with a few
friends and the footballers emerged from a meeting room with gloomy
I inquired "What's up
with you guys?"
"Looks like we will have a delayed start to this season, if
can get going at all. We just had our AGM and couldn't form a new
committee for this year." I had to point out that Broome was more or
less a remote, pioneering, outback town and although they had more than
enough young bucks to make up 6 teams in a population of 3,000, it
appeared no one wanted to be president.
"Sheesh. We can't have no football in Broome", I said. "I'll
be the president."
They all looked at each other, smiles broke out all round and
after we got fresh beers, it was back into the meeting room to kick off
the new footy season on time.
Their English skills
were pretty good and part of their reason (other than the pom) for
visiting Australia was to polish their English. It was a very
interesting evening with each of them having stories to tell while we
watched the footy on TV and they consumed a stubby or three. It was not
an early night for me.
Tomorrow, a productive day
and news of the sat phone