DESTINATIONS - BUSH CHARACTERS, YARNS & POETRY
One of Al Whiting’s mates took his family Outback for a New Year celebration with a difference.
“You’re ringing from where?” I asked. “Lisa’s brother’s property ‘Shiraleigh Downs’.” It was Kenny on the phone – Lisa is his better half and her brother has a property near Gunnedah, in NSW.
“Whaddya doing there?”
“We’re on our way to the Corner Store.”
“We’re going to the Corner Store for New Year,” said Kenny.
“Which Corner Store?” I asked, fearing the worst.
“The Corner Store – the one you’ve told us about – at Cameron Corner.”
Stunned silence at my end of the phone.
“Let me see if I’ve got this right,” I said. “You and Lisa are leaving the kids at her brother’s place and heading for the Corner Store in the middle of summer for New Year – is that it?”
“The kids are coming too.”
Another, longer silence at my end.
“Kenny are you nuts?
“Do you have any idea how hot it is out there at this time of the year – no-one goes there for New Year?
“Let alone with three kids in the back of a GQ Patrol,” I pleaded.
“Yes they do,” he said. “There’s a rodeo on at Tibooburra.”
He kept rabbiting on about where they were going and what fun they’d have, but his voice became subliminal. Kenny thinks he’s bullet-proof, because he spent years in submarines and survived Hobart Yacht Race storms, and he figures the bullet-proof genes have been passed on to his offspring.
I’ve done lots of ocean yacht racing with Kenny: he’s a foredecker who isn’t happy unless the spinnaker’s up in 30 knots.
He’s also a smart arse who never gets seasick and appears cheerily in the companionway chewing on a damp, mouldy sandwich filled with cold, fried egg and fatty bacon, asking the pale green crew if anyone would like a nice cup of hot pork fat, with a seal’s nose hair floating in it.
Kenny’s the bloke who told Lisa that being violently ill just at the sight of a yacht was all in her mind. Poor Lisa. She withdrew privileges until he swapped the boat for the Patrol.
And where was Kenny’s first 4WD trip? The light-duty, short bush experience to ease the family into the off-road touring mood? Cape York!
Of course Kenny and Lisa and kids were heading to the Corner Store in 40+ heat for New Year; why would I be surprised?
On the appointed night we sat on our boat, enjoying the Sydney Harbour New Year fireworks and wondered what Kenny, Lisa and kids were doing…
What they were doing was watching the fireworks in Tibooburra. Just like in Sydney and a host of other places around the country there was show at 9:30pm for the kids and another at midnight for the grown-ups.
Mind you, the New Year’s Eve lead up was quite different from most people’s December 31 experience. New Year’s Eve for Kenny, Lisa, Tim. Nick and Megan began with brekkie at the Country Store in Tib, followed by a drive around town to see the sights.
They checked out the School of the Air, the Corner Country open-air cinema – a large screen with eight chairs in front of it – Sturt’s Park, with a replica of the whaling boat Charles Sturt had towed with his expedition, to launch on the Inland Sea and the Courthouse Museum. Then the 40-degree heat drove them back to their air-conditioned room, opposite the Family Hotel.
At 4pm they headed off, along with everyone else in town and from outlying districts, to the Tibooburra Rodeo on the outskirts of the town.
They had a great afternoon, watching buckjumping and steer-riding, with the climax being a bull-riding session that netted nobody the $400 prize. Old Mate the bull was having none of it and threw all comers around the arena.
The Rodeo ended slightly prematurely when a blinding dust storm hit the town, followed by gritty rain that cleared away almost as soon as it started.
Then the party began. There was a giant spread; the band played all night and the kids ran mad with glow sticks.
New Year’s Day was a stinker all over NSW: 45 in Sydney and off the scale Outback. Kenny rounded up the gang and they headed even further west, to spend the day at Cameron Corner Store.
The folks there had a big New Year night as well, so there was quite a gathering of sore heads recovering in the Store. Nick sat at the bar drinking Solo; Tim helped with the washing up and Megan conned the store owner out of his lolly collection.
The Patrol crew had planned a short drive into each of the three States at the Corner, but the heat beat them back to the Store. By nightfall they were in their air-conditioned digs in Tib.
Kenny and Lisa reckoned that it had been a great experience for the family, especially the several farm-stays they made on the way up and back. The only major downside was having to change a flat tyre in deep sand, in the midday sun.
Would they do it again?
“Too right…but maybe next time we’ll go in winter!”