Excerpt from Fall 2014 student Sammie Oh’s blog “Ink Spot: A speck in the universe“. Reproduced with permission.
At last, a collection of tales that unfolded between September 11 and September 14, otherwise known as my ‘ASC Outback Trip’. It was the best retreat from uni and suburban life that I could have ask for. And who better to spend it with than my fellow American students? Anyway, here are snippets of our time there:
Along the way to and from Charleville we stopped in a couple places including Toowoomba, Chinchilla, and Morven. Small, little towns they all were too.
Mark & Grace Ironside
We were hosted by the lovely Grace and Mark Ironside, owners of Tyrone Station. With three children out of the nest, a track record in pastoral works, skills in sheep-shearing and cattle raising, and a charming story of how they started dating, the Ironsides were very good to us. Besides the food and fence replacing lessons, they imparted wisdom through their stories and testimonies. I would also like to mention that they and their land, where we stayed, featured on an episode of “The World’s Strictest Parents” in Australia. Here’s a yard shot which excludes all the living and activity facilities.
The place was so peaceful.One of us even brought a hammock to hang between the trees. It felt like a cocoon when I climbed inside and the edges wrapped over me. I reckon a couple people had decent naps in there.
Old Abandoned Ranch House and Cattle Lands
On the first full day at the cattle station we all piled onto the back of two trucks (or ‘utes’ as they call them in Oz) and rattled across the dusty red land. Mulga trees and billabongs were the main attractions. Occasionally we saw clumps of cattle and a frightened kangaroo. The land isn’t as barren as some are led to believe (then again, there are probably different levels of how ‘outback’ it can get). Some might say it’s empty but I’d like to think there is a lot going on that I just can’t see for lack or exploration. Driving through acres and acres of the same scenery was still exciting for us who only had a couple days to take it all in.
One of our main stops included an old rusted house with piles of metal scraps that were once tractors, motorbikes, and other machines and tools. Heaps(a popular word here, “heaps”) of dried out kangaroo and wallaby corpses, or at least what was left of them since who knows how long, littered the site. Did they all just go over there to die?
As we rode on I was able to capture some bovines. After all, it was a cattle station so how could I not? Later, a group of us witnessed calves get dehorned and that was also an interesting experience. I confess I lacked the same concern some of the other girls had over the bleeding stumps(just a bit of dribbling) where the horns used to be. Perhaps I’ve gotten used to(although I hope not desensitized by) the sight of animal blood and suffering in regards to livestock treatment. In the case of cattle welfare, the stress and pain of dehorning calves is outweighed by the multiple long term benefits, one of which includes the prevention of cows bruising and damaging each other with their horns. If I somehow accidentally roused a mad cow here(highly unlikely) it’s good to know I won’t be gored by it.
Diego the Dingo
Mark shot a dingo. They’re worth $50 a scalp because they like to prey on farm animals. I jumped at the gunshot and saw Mark lift the little pup by it’s legs then lay her down on the road so he could reset the trap. And now I sort of know how to set a trap if ever I need to. Despite it being a female and quite dead, someone named her Diego, Diego the Dingo. She was put in the corner of a ute, right next to me. She could have been sleeping if it weren’t for her eyes, unblinking and lifeless. A couple of the girls were a bit distressed by the experience.
I’m no entomologist but I do find most insects quite fascinating. There were lots of ants and moths. The ground was full of antlion traps but I didn’t get to see any in action. A few butterflies flit around the trees and red dragonflies dominated one of the greener waterholes. Surprisingly, there weren’t that many flies. And then there was this thing:
None of my other pictures were that good or I lost them which is sad because I took some ant and caterpillar ones. It’s hard to take pictures of small moving insects in great clarity with my little android.
Cliffs and Caves
One evening we explored some neat erosion formations that had been carved into a cliff side. After a time of quiet meditation on one of the pocket ledges (everyone had their own space somewhere nearby) we gathered and set off in search for caves and the sunset. It was beautiful. And would you believe it if I said there were more bones?
Each night I looked for the stars. The first night, before the moon rose, was probably the best. In the cloudless sky I could see the band of our Milky Way for the first time. Perhaps I saw it before as a child and have forgotten. There is no way I could have captured the beauty of the night sky with my phone camera, so no pics of the glittering stars. But here are some sunset and dusk shots:
Goodnight and Goodbye
We had a beautiful bonfire before bed every night. I would like to say those were some of the best nights in Australia thus far. Yes every moment is precious, but some are more sacred than the rest. Such were the moments for many of our bonfire spells.
I feel as though these memories are already far away even though it’s only been two weeks. The first few days back in Brisbane was difficult. I missed the atmosphere, landscape, and stars. Assignments were piling up. Life was speeding up again. And now it’s back to the books and the heroics of mundane Monday moments.