Little bridge causes big headache
GOOD mate Owen Orange drives a road train for Shaw's out of Toowoomba and heads north-west each week to Darwin.
On June 3, Owen sent me a text message, which went thus:
"Well here we go again! A dog must have pissed out in the paddock near the Barcoo (river) and the useless bypass bridge has gone under - 500mm and rising, we're told. So the NATIONAL HIGHWAY (hah, hah) is closed once again, this time at Blackall and Tambo.
"The bridge has been closed for ages and the bypass takes you down to the water level beside it. At the start of the last wet season they commenced work on it, bringing in a pile driver and doing earthworks, before the rains came and sent them running for the hills to plan for their next assault this wet season.
"If only they had taken time to visit the kindergarten in Tambo or Blackall, the kids would have informed them they need to do bridge works in the dry months!
"So here I sits with the sh*ts, cooling my heels in downtown Blackall, when I should be almost home to the wife and kids and delivering the EXPRESS Darwin-Sydney mail onto the next driver to finish its trek from the top end.
"But no! A little bridge in the middle of nowhere has stopped all traffic, as it did only months ago in Mitchell.
"This is just something to think about as we travel along the M1 with its four concrete lanes in either direction. Yes, it carries a lot more traffic, but all we are asking for is one good lane each way out here. The people in the west and the north like to eat, drink and have their services too. Australia hopefully doesn't stop 100km off the coastline - or does it?"
For those of us that don't know, Blackall is smack-bang in the middle of Queensland. Situated by the Barcoo River, on the Landsborough (Matilda) Hwy, it is the home of the original Black Stump.
The Australian Labor Party constitution and rules were drawn up at Blackall, during the founding of the party in December 1890. In 1892 local shearer Jack Howe shore 321 sheep in seven hours and 40 minutes - a record for hand shearing that still stands today.
Blackall's population has dwindled from 3000-plus in 1965 to about 1100 today - a reflection of the declining wool industry in the district. Blackall is a small but important town to Owen and the other drivers who run this route.
A Driver of the Year winner, Owen is not one to complain. He would have seen it all in his time on these roads. This is just one more frustration faced by drivers across the country.
It's easy to forget the work that folk like Owen do to keep this country moving. More power to you, mate - and all the other drivers who face the heat, cold, mud, rain, crap roads and more, so we can all live in comfort.
Take care of you.