THERE'S something pleasant about sitting around a warm fire on a cold afternoon with good friends, plenty of food and liquid sustenance. This was the case in our home in Hooterville last Sunday.
As the afternoon wore on, the empty wine bottles began to stack up and the level of Chivas Regal diminished, stories of times past began to flow freely and, according to the storytellers, without any exaggeration whatsoever.
Brenda told of an incident involving Dougie O'Brien, better known as Two-Stroke in his early days of truck driving. In fact it was Two-Stroke's first trip across the Nullarbor with a road train.
"He was as green, as green behind the ears," related Brenda.
"He got across to the West okay and dropped off his load.
"On the return journey, at the start of the desert he got waved down by a carload of young bucks. 'Hey, brother. We've run out of petrol. You reckon you could give us a tow?' Two-Stroke thought about it for a bit and decided that he couldn't really leave his 'bros' stranded in the middle of nowhere.
"The 'bros' hooked the ancient Ford up to the third trailer and waved happily to Two-Stroke as he climbed back into the rig. A couple of hours later he figured he'd better pull over and check on how the 'bros' were travelling up back. Upon reaching the third trailer he was greeted by a wheel and a wishbone - no car, no 'bros', nothing else at all.
"To this day Two-Stroke has no idea where he 'dropped them off' or what happened to them."
Bobby used to be a security guard. Back in the early 70s he went up to Lightning Ridge to look at an ID parade with some cops. This was a result of being held up and robbed of $289,000 - a lot of money now and a lot more then.
"And I never got any of it! We stopped at Walgett. There was Adrian (Pud) Lawler, there was Frankie Green and Paul Delainus. We went into the local pub and met this young police aboriginal black tracker. In fact he was the last of the black trackers in New South Wales. We were having a chat with him and asked him to join us for a beer. 'I'd love to', he said, 'but I can't go into the pub'. Paul Delainus fronts the publican and says, 'We want to have a beer with our member, here.'
'No. He can't come in the pub. He's aboriginal.'
'Can he drink in the beer garden?'
'Yep. He can go out there.'
So we all went out into the beer garden and had a bevy or three and at the end of the night Delainus says to the publican, 'You can stick your pub up your arse. No member of my police force will be drinking here.'
Paul went on to become a chief superintendent and an advocate for aboriginal rights.
Brenda: "Dad and mum managed a number of stations in the outback. We're talking 65,000 acres to 85,000 acres and the like. It was hard yakka because the drought was on. The roadkill on the side of the road had to be seen to be believed. And the stench! You didn't drive after dark because of the animals on the road. There was nothing left to eat. They ate the bark of the mulga bush.
"The farmers were having to buy cotton seed at $10,000 a tonne. It was costing them a fortune! A lot of the bloodstock that had taken generations to build up was wiped out in the drought. It ruined many farmers' lives - only the richest survived. It took more than one farmer's life in suicides as well.
"I've seen it get so hot up there that they would cut the ears of the cattle dogs and bleed them, so that they wouldn't boil in their own skins. Now they've got more water than they know what to do with. That's Australia!"
Sandy is 63 years young and a honey. She is built like a sparrow and is not much taller. She used to drive a road train over the Simpson Desert. "It would get to 50 degrees in the shade and that old red Inter never missed a beat. I loved it! Given half a chance, I'd do it again tomorrow."
The afternoon wore on and day turned into night.
The scotch and the bourbon and the wine kept flowing and so did the stories.
How true the stories were by the end of the night, no-one knew and no-one cared.
It's times like these, surrounded by good friends and having lots of laughs that make this Kermie's life.
Take care of yours,