Boys from the bush

A couple of months ago the ¬†opportunity presented itself to shift gears and diversify my driving career once again. It’s not that I don’t enjoy the general freight side of things but the back country roads and bucolic lifestyle always calls my name. I guess the maxim, “you can take the boy out of the bush, but not the bush out of the boy”, is true.

I’m hauling sheep and cattle now, walk on freight, a definite divergence from my previous freight tasks and whilst many would cringe at the thought my pastoral roots mean it’s not a foreign concept to me. I cut my teeth in the Victorian Highcountry at the age of sixteen before pursuing the ovine species (unromantically) in the western regions of New South Wales, I can even wield a wide comb with a small degree of competence.

The driving distances are down but loading and unloading presents it’s own demands. Cattle aren’t too bad as long as you don’t get between them a wherever they have a strong desire to be. They’ll usually saunter on and off the crates without too much resistance but at around a hundred head per B-Double the odds favour encountering the occasional obstreperous beast. Sheep, on the other hand, present their own set of challenges, especially with head counts of over seven hundred per load. Judicious application of the “jigger” and with the aid of my canine shadow, “Whiskers”, the task is usually completed without too much drama. That is unless you find cursing offensive.

Another challenge is sleeping when loaded. Sheep aren’t too bad unless there’s rams on the top decks but cattle often rock the truck so much that you wonder if they aren’t stampeding over the gunnels.

On the up side, just about every sale yard has a hot shower and the road houses on the back roads are generally ol’ school affairs with home style meals and friendly faces even if their opening hours are more restricted than on the east coast highways.

All in all it’s proved to be a pleasurable change and I’m in no hurry to return to the city traffic and often intolerant attitudes expressed on the endless dual carriage ways that dominate the coastal routes.