About 13 years ago, half way through Grade 12, I was faced with the decision of "what to do next". Uni was definitely out of the question, I was flat out handling boarding school. Office jobs didn't appeal to me. I wanted to head west, preferably as far as the Northern Territory. But to do what? Even though I grew up on a cattle station in North Queensland I didn't think I'd cope with being a jillaroo, cattle and horses scared the beejeezus outta me if they got too close. But I adored kids, yes that was the answer! So I started pouring through the Queensland Country Life Classifieds answering any ad for a govie.
So the call finally came. I was offered a job! In the Northern Territory! It was for the position of Governess on Gallipoli, an outstation of Alexandria. Alexandria at 1 611 800 hectares, runs approximately 55 000 head of cattle and employing well over 50 people, making it one of the largest stations in the Southern Hemisphere. The employees on the place were mainly young men aged between 17 and 20 (much to my father's consternation). Gallipoli Homestead was about 150km North East of Cammooweal on the QLD/NT Border. Access by mail plane only during the wet season..
I had a few setbacks before getting there. A Live Export cattle boat was heading to Townsville (they can come with very little notice) and my father had a broken leg. So it was all hands (or feet) on deck for the rest of the family for the mustering and drafting of cattle to send on the boat. I still remember my father standing (on crutches of course) in the middle of the yards issuing orders (as father's are wont to do) when a steer broke free of the mob and came at Dad. I can still remember my mother's horror and my brother's mirth as Dad was trying to balance on one leg and whack the steer with his crutches. Then I had a suspected case of appendicitis which put me back another few days!
So I finally got driven to town to board the Greyhound Bus to arrive in Mt Isa at 7am the next morning, where the pilot of the mail plane would pick me up and fly me to Gallipoli. But then the bus had to go and get a flat tyre between Julia Creek and Cloncurry setting us back over an hour. OMG! Was I going to miss the mail plane? Or even worse hold it up so it would be late? So after a few frantic phone calls from the public phone in Cloncurry,it was all sorted, the pilot didn't mind waiting.
So I get to Mt Isa, I'm halfway through the journey. Next hurdle: The Plane. I'd never been on a plane and I got carsick. The Plane wasn't looking good. Especially a small Cessna in the Northern Territory Summer. It wasn't pretty. We had to fly via Soudan (the other outstation), and Alexandria first. The Big Boss's Personal Assistant (aka his wife, but she once said the term wife just didn't cut it when she thought of everything she did for him), sat me at her kitchen table and poured sympathy on me. I still remember her kindness to this day. Back in the plane for the final leg and I'm sure I didn't open my eyes for the rest of the way and my mantra was "it's just like the car, it's just like the car". Finally the pilot taps me on the shoulder and points to a homestead shining in the distance! HURRAH! After a couple of goes, he lands the awful metal box and taxis down to a waiting Land Cruiser which held the Overseer, his two kids and a young fella.
I stumble down the steps, blinking in the harsh sunlight and stagger towards the vehicle to meet everyone. The young fella was Shane, quite a strapping lad and all I could think was "please God don't let me spew on his boots". I'm thankful to say God listened to me that time. It turns out the overseer was asking Shane "what's she like". He told me later that he answered "she looks beautiful." Turns out he really said "Yeah, I'd have a lap at 'er."
A few days later after I'd recovered Shane took me for a drive to check on a bore 3 HOURS AWAY! That's how big the place was. By then I'd gotten over the shock and was taking a keen interest in my surroundings. It was like I was in another world. Coming from the banks of the Burdekin River with an abundance of hills, trees and wide sandy creeks, I found I was in the land of nothing. No trees, no hills and no creeks. Just a brilliant blue sky and brown waving grass for as far as you can see. You could literally see the curve of the earth on the horizon. I half expected to see American Bisons galloping along side the car.
Gallipoli Station holds so many memories for me, mostly good. The night after Shane took me for that drive we had a "party". Drinking rum and coke out of two litre jugs and dancing to the Forrest Gump soundtrack doesn't sound so romantic, but something was in the air that night, apart from the millions of stars in that huge sky. Shane got his "lap" at me all right, we are still together nearly 13 years and 2 children later. That land of "nothing" still has a very special place in my heart.