Tuesday, July 06, 2004

Marble Bar Races Part Two

Once I had a spot of lunch, it was only some tea and a toasted cheese sandwich, I drove to the racecourse, paid me entrance fee, $16:00 including a program, parked the wagon and strolled past the stables and past the Bookies area up to the race viewing area, this is just a bit of a grassy bank, with a few buildings and toilets. There were few people there at this stage, some sand had recently been put down around the course and the grader had finished smoothing it out, there was a water truck spraying the course, now this is important, because depending on how much water he puts down depends wether the going is soft, firm or heavy.

There were a few people there, one bloke I knew from my days loading trucks at Coobina, he was a big ginger haired and bearded man named Andy, we had a bit of a yarn, mostly concerned with trucks and truckies we both knew just to pas the time till more people came and the races started. Along came one of the blokes from Bamboo and I went over to chat with him. The situation was, that you had to buy tickets for drinks at one end of the building, the tickets were two dollars each and it was one ticket for water, two tickets for beer, three tickets for a UDL (a premixed can of spirits) and five or six for a bottle of wine or champagne (be dodgy champagne for twelve bucks a bottle, more likely fizzy plonk), I bought a few tickets and got myself a can of rum and cola, and Simon and myself started to talk, mainly about the other punters that were arriving. A group of station folk came along, you could tell they were from a station because of the way they dressed, the guys wore jeans or moleskins, with great big Akubra hats on (Ozzy equivalent of a Stetson, but of course better) and either a cowboy shirt or a blue singlet, the girls wore Jeans or moleskins (tighter than the blokes) even bigger Akubras and either a cowboy (or Girl) shirt or sort of female equivalent of the singlet or tank top, I noticed some wore red kerchiefs around their neck as well, very noticeable were a small girl about five foot tall, and built like a brick shithouse, with the tightest jeans, a sort of tank top that laced up the back showing a huge amount of her back on which was tattooed a series of stars, she topped this of with a white Akubra (most wore sort of sandy coloured ones) and she had on what must have been RM Williams elastic sided stockmens boots, she was walking along with a bloke who was well over six foot tall, probably closer to seven, with arms like Popeye, wearing jeans, blue singlet, a dark Akubra and riding boots, he was looking down at this girl as she looked up to him and it was rather comical to see this pair communicating with each other.

It is really strange to see the ringers in from the stations, they all wear these huge hats, and big colourful shirts, it seems the dirtier and more battered the hat is the better they like them, some are decorated with cattle ear tags and other paraphernalia, and to look at them you are sure that they must have been handed down from generation to generation, but are mostly fairly new but have been worked on to look old and interesting. Most of the ringers are only in their twenties and soon graduate to driving trucks and graders when they get older and need more money and a more settled life, but that hat will stay with them for life, sometimes only brought out for show at country race meetings and the country festivals that take place around this time of the year in the Pilbara.

The races started, a few more of the mine workers from Bamboo turned up, they are not as easy to recognise as the station folk, just wearing jeans, work boots, and ordinary shirts and baseball caps, a lot of the townsfolk showed up at this time, the men wearing casual gear and mostly with Akubra type hats but of a smaller style than the ringers, and mostly kept in good condition, and the women wearing in the most part nice dresses and colourful hats, the young ones of course all wear similar gear and look like a mob of Brittany Spears clones, nice to look at with them low slung jeans and high slung shirts with half a yard of belly hanging out, but boring as hell.

I had a couple of drinks and watched the races and the people there, everybody seemed to enjoy themselves and the atmosphere was great, I never had a bet, because I have better things to do with my money, there was a place there selling sausages in them long rolls and I had a couple of them and a cup of tea for my afternoon snack and headed off after the cup had been run and headed back to my camp, getting there just as the sun dipped below the hills. I followed another vehicle into my camp, it turned out to be a French prospector, named Jean Francoise (Jeff for short), who used to live in Nullagine but now stays in Broome, we had a yarn and a bit of a feed, he promised to send me a couple of Pigram Brothers CDs as they are easy to get in Broome and he carried on to the area of the North Shaw about twenty kilometres down the track to the south, he had been given permission (he said) by my boss, to prospect there, and seemed to know all the right names, I offered him a bed for the night but he said he preferred to camp out.

Sunday, July 04, 2004

Marble Bar Cup day

I left the camp about nine thirty, heading for the town of Marble bar, only about forty kilometres away as the crow flies, but by road well over a hundred and twenty kilometres. Pleasant drive down the fifty kilometre dirt road to the highway, saw only a few birds on the way, some galahs and cockies, a magnificent wedge tailed eagle sitting in a dead tree and a couple of the weird looking (and acting) bush turkeys, as I came close to the sealed highway I saw a couple of vehicles whiz by. I pulled up at the bitumen, in case there were any more vehicles coming and a silver car zoomed by, looks like everyone is heading for the races at Marble Bar I thought. I headed down the highway listening to a tape I had made, mostly Australian country or folk music and as I drove a few vehicles passed me, I was doing the limit (110), and a few vehicles raced by me, mostly silver cars and a few four wheel drives, nothing came the other way.

I arrived in Marble Bar about eleven, drove straight by the race track, as there was not much happening there, and into the town mainly to buy some cigarettes and a carton of iced coffee, pulled into the Post Office, come garage, come general store, bought a few bits and pieces but they didn’t sell cigarettes. This garage is right opposite the pub, and the pub was crowded, and was really hopping, with people everywhere and loud music. I never went into the pub but just up the road was Levers store, they sold cigarettes so I went in there, the bloke who runs the store is an old character who does all sorts of things in the town, looks after the electrical generator, the water supply and the towns airport (a dirt strip and an old shed). I got yarning to him and an old Aboriginal who was down from the Kimberly with the band at the pub. The elderly Aboriginal (about my age) was dressed in the mode of the Kimberly stockman, a huge Akubra (the Australia answer to the Stetson) a cowboy shirt, moleskin trousers and RM Williams riding boots, and looked like something from a Roy Rogers fillum. Now the old fellow in the shop (much older than me) used to push a grader around the area, and was grading a road near where my camp is, and picked up an old plaque from a grave on his blade (William Breen, 1924, North Pole) he found the grave and tidied it up, and as he was working his grader, he got to thinking of all the lonely graves in the bush and decided to ask about, and make an inventory of them, before all the old timers were gone. Over the years he has collected the whereabouts of about a hundred wayside graves and there is a monument opposite his shop with all the names (where known) and locations of the remains and what they died from, some are just nick names and some just say things like still born child or white miner. There are quite a few Afghans (anyone who worked with camels was called an Afghan) and a few Malay pearl divers who drowned or were taken with the bends, and are buried on the eighty mile beach, a couple of Chinese cooks are there and a few women who had not long arrived from England and just could not take the heat, there was a smattering of spearings by Aboriginals as well, including Dr Vines, who was out at a station to deliver a baby, when some Aboriginals attacked, he was speared by mistake, he died and the woman delivered a healthy boy.

I spent a fair time yarning with the shopkeeper and reading the monument, then drove up to the roadhouse, had a spot of lunch and then drove out to the race course, I will write about that later today and try and put it up for tomorrow.

Thursday, July 01, 2004

A fine start

It was a fine start to my R&R leave, I got out of bed about four thirty am, started the old heart with a full bush breakfast, a strong coffee, a fag and a good look around, threw my few bits and pieces in my little carry on bag, woke my mate Dave up and had a cup of tea and some cereal, and about five thirty started on the journey down the dirt road to meet the outgoing Bamboo crew where my dirt road meets the sealed highway.

I had checked the vehicle out the day before for fuel, water, oil and such and we set off. We had not gone far when we noticed the headlights were not real bright, it was still as dark as Joe Lousies arse, a million or more stars but not a bit of moon. The general consensus was that the lights were not good but we could get down the road all right, after all we were both rough tough hairy arsed miners. Well the lights went from not very bright to being very dim, and after we had travelled about ten kilometres and were getting among the hills the lights went from very dim to being no lights at all. I was going on leave so it was important to get to the turn off, so what we did was to hang a torch out of the window, the morning was as cold as I have known it in this tropical paradise that I call my home, but we persevered and got through the hills ok.

Once we were out of the hills it got a little bit better, we still couldn’t see bugger all but there was the hint of a bit of light in the east, and we could see the Spinifex on both sides of the road, we couldn’t see the road itself but guessed it must be the dark bit in between the not so dark bits. We made Miralgo creek alright and once we drove out over the bank the light had got pretty good and we only had twenty kilometres to go and we started to get a bit of a clop on and made the last ten kilometres in famous time and could see for miles, so we arrived at the main road just as the sun poked over the horizon. We were still in plenty of time and probably smoked a couple of cigarettes before the Bamboo crew turned up. I jumped in with them, Dave drove back to the camp and charged the battery up, then he had to take the car into Hedland the following day to get it fixed.

The silly thing was that I was supposed to take it in on the Wednesday, but the orders were changed late Tuesday afternoon.