By HARRY CLARKE
YOUR fingers might get jammed when the tailgate slams home and you’ll be left hunched over, flicking your hand and howling in pain.
But you won’t get much sympathy. You’re an idiot and you shouldn’t have had your fingers there in the first place.
Injuries are inevitable and hopefully never serious, but for the moment it’s more important that the ute gets loaded up properly, and quickly, because you’ve gotta move straight on to the next thing right after this is done.
The coarse lantana plant will scratch up your forearms as you tear away from the homestead. The white gum twigs will whip you across the face.
But keep your eyes open, hang on tightly and stand firmly in the tray because you definitely don’t want to be thrown out as the vehicle plunges down the bank of a steep dry gully.
Cleanskin cattle can be pretty fierce when provoked. Some may never have even laid eyes on man before.
You’ll never be able to outmuscle an adolescent micky bull, let alone an older fella in his prime, but if you get hold of his tail, wait for him to turn on you then give it a big haul – at exactly the right angle, at juuust the right time – he’ll hopefully lose his footing and crash down onto his ribs.
If you don’t get that right, the outcome could hurt a lot.
Your highest respect should be for your horse.
Let her know who’s boss as early as you can. If she senses for a second that you’ve lost her control, she might just seize that fleeting opportunity and get you off her back in a frightening hurry.
There are times when you’ll need to let her take the reins. Trust her to navigate the safest passage because she knows the country better that you ever could. The twigs and lantana don’t bother her.
Don’t be without a two-way and don’t forget to save its battery overnight.
You can start to feel pretty vulnerable when you’ve chased off after a beast for 20 minutes, lost it, and then turned around to find the other guy you were with is no longer behind you.
The radio itself won’t help you find the mob, but anyone who’s still with it can at least explain to you where they are.
Ever taken a shit in the scrub?
Few things could make you feel more connected to the natural world. No one knows you’re there, aside from the scrub itself.
Hear the sharp crack of a faraway branch so clearly it’s as though the tree is squatting right there beside you. The faint trickle of spring water running further down the range, the light step of a nimble dingo padding along the top of that rocky ridge. You can’t see him but he can see you.
The pork won’t make you sick because the bush pig was wormed right after the catch and put on grain well before the kill.
Even after a full day in the heat, the warmth of Humphry’s camp oven stew will be welcome with the spuds, peas and gravy.
The camp cook never lets a hungry ringer down. Don’t wait to be asked to scrub the cast iron pot.
Eventually you’ll find a comfy spot to roll out your swag that’s far enough away from those in the camp who snore like a two-stroke chainsaw.
And be careful which tree you choose to lay under because fruit bats seem to prefer pissing at night. You’ve already had your shower for the day and the fire that makes the river water warm will have gone out by morning.
Get your cookies first at dawn – before you start making your sanga. The tin will be empty pretty quick and, again, you won’t get much sympathy.
Pushing the cattle back to the yards will take until about lunch time on the last day. Hopefully by then you and the mare have made a team and the dogs have taught the mickys to stop to trying to run for the hills.
When you think you must be just about home, it’s always just that little bit further.
From the yards you might get a bar or two of WiFi, but by the time you’ve found your phone in the bottom of your bag you realise you’ve stopped missing all the text messages and notifications.
Eventually you’ll get through all the calves, all cut and branded, and the beasts that are ready will be trucked off to market.
After you’ve spent another day pushing the breeders back to where you found them, you can finally have that shower you’ve longed for, the one when you scrub a week’s worth of dirt from underneath your fingernails.
You’ll get to those emails and you’ll see those notifications, but before long the dirt will become the thing that you’re actually missing.