Monday, August 14, 2006

Up North

Australia is about the same size as the USA, but it's founders didn't see the point of dividing it up into more than six states because no-one can survive in most of it anyway - or so they thought. One hundred years after Federation, our population has spread from one end of the island continent to the other. If you read my early blog article about life on the Speewah cattle station and thought it was exaggeration - well, you were right, but its only just exaggeration.

In the Northern Territory and northern Western Australia, things are so far apart doctors do make house calls - by plane. The Royal Flying Doctor Service does the rounds every day of the year, and leaves medical packs with all the contents numbered, so that consultations can be conducted by radio when they're not around. Not so long ago, a man's pregnant wife was ill so the doctor told him to give her a number 7 tablet. The man checked and there were none left, so he gave her three 2's and a 1. She survived. Kids also use the radio to 'attend' school, and cattle are usually rounded up by helicopters. When a farmer up there calls a glass of water a flood, he's not completely joking - some places they haven't had a single drop of rain for 20 years. In these parts its not unusual for every single resident of the district to turn out to a weekly dance or movie, even though for some of them its a two-day drive there and back. Trucks are called road trains, eighteen-wheelers with up to ten trailers on behind, and in every load they carry as much beer as groceries. And spare a moment to pity the two station-hands whose vehicle broke down a year or two ago, and who died trying to walk back to the station.

The tales of the Speewah I blogged previously were tall tales, definitely, but maybe not as tall as some of the men and women who really live 'Up North'.

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