The first thing I noticed about a country rodeo was that everybody tucks their shirts into their jeans, and wears belts. Even teenage boys have their jeans up on their hips rather than around their knees. You can’t see anybody’s underpants.
And everybody does wear jeans, with proper shirts, belts and boots. I looked decidedly out of place in my shorts and singlet, but I really can’t wear jeans and boots in that weather. It was 30 degrees! At least I had my akubra on, you know, the one with the crystal clasp through the crocodile band. On second thoughts, perhaps that didn’t help me fit in either, though it wasn’t the only hat with bling.
This is my first rodeo. We were planning on going south to Kynuna, home of “that” billabong, but then somebody told us about the Saxby Roundup. It was only 200k north of Julia Creek (and 200k each way out of our way), but what the hell? While we’re here we might as well go. How often do you get a chance to see a real outback rodeo?
A bloke in the Friendly Grocer at Julie Creek gave us directions. Turn up the Beach Road, he said, then turn right at the Millungera turnoff. Go through the station, then you’ll see a fork in the road. It says ‘Numil’ on the right. Don’t turn there, just keep going. Then you’ll come to S bends, where there’s trees and a rock. ‘Arizona’ is to the right. Don’t turn there, just keep going. Then there’s a sharp right through a floodway and you’ll come to ‘Taldora’ on your right. Don’t turn there, just keep going.
The only thing he didn’t tell us was that Mullungera Station is 100km from the turnoff. After an hour of seeing nothing much but trees shimmering through the distant heat haze I was starting to think I was lost in the outback again, but decided to do as I was told and “just keep going”.
Eventually we got here, and picked a spot by the waterhole to set up our tent. Then it was off to watch the camp draft. For those who haven’t seen one before, a camp draft is a bit like sheep dog trials (think Babe), except instead of a dog rounding up the sheep through the obstacles, this is somebody on a horse rounding up a steer. I only flinched a couple of times as either the horse or the steer fell, but none got injured. I appeared to be the only person the slightest bit worried, so I guess it either happens all the time, or everybody else could tell that it was nothing serious. Or both.
There were horses, kids and dogs everywhere. That’s another thing you notice in the country. People have lots of children. I’m sure country people are responsible for keeping our birthrate up. They seem to start a lot earlier than city people too, and have more kids.
After watching the camp draft for a while we went for a walk, and discovered the holy grail. Hot showers! And a bar with two television screens. What luxury out in the middle of nowhere. I am hoping against hope that those TVs are connected to foxtel and showing the rugby test!
And now we’re back at our camp, with a drink & nibblies, our books, and flocks of birds coming into the waterhole for a drink. There’s country music filtering through from other campsites, people riding their horses up and down, and kids playing.
It’s going to be an interesting weekend.