When you live in a little piece of Paradise on Earth, especially an almost self-sufficient one like Middelmost, you tend to dig yourself a bit of a hole. There is no reason to leave. From dawn to dusk there is plenty to do. There are enough animals to keep you on a round of caring companionship; friends and neighbours call in to drop off goodies or to pick up a freshly harvested salad or to just pass the time of day; the postie brings the news of the world and collects any correspondence being sent, and the computer and the phone take care of any other communicative needs. Apart from the odd drive into the village to make necessary purchases, or to pay an inescapable bill, there is really no reason to cross over the boundary and to enter the outside world. And here lies the problem - contentment turns to complacency - and you begin to develop a mindset on how things are. To be insulated is one thing, to make yourself isolated is another and it is a difficulty we all have as we struggle to achieve our dreams on our own little piece of Godzone.
Although I adore Middelmost, and although it provides me with all sorts of physical, mental and spiritual stimulation, I had been 'At Home' for a continual month and the world was in danger of becoming non-existent outside the barberry hedge. "Time to venture out", I thought, and I took up an invitation to "Come on over for lunch" which had been extended to me since before Christmas. Now, coming-on-over-for-lunch meant travelling to the east coast with my gumboots, beanie, driz-a-bone, and sunglasses tucked in the boot, as well as an e-mailed list of groceries I was to pick up for them before completing the last leg of the journey - a seventy kilometre drive down a winding, gravel road to their property which was a coastal station looking out towards the South Pole!
Hospitality abounds at these outback places and it was refreshing to have the role reversed as cuddles and handshakes from kids, dogs, dirty shearers and the homestead cleaner were thrust upon me, as well as the usual food, beverages and a hilarious tour of the gardens as 'Uncle Tom Cobbly and All' came with us. But, I hadn't come to socialise, I had come to join in, and join in I did - we were mustering the ewes and lambs in the South Creek. "Cool," thought I, ever keen to go with the flow, and off I was scooped towards a 3-ton diesel truck with a big crate on the back. I saw both dogs fire themselves into the cab and, as the rest of the crowd were piling into the crate, I decided When In Rome was the thing to do and I started to haul myself up. But a horrified voice stopped me with a clear statement that I was a guest and, therefore, was to ride in the cab! "Cool," thought I, as I elbowed my way in beside Ben and Rag, cleared a space in amongst the tools and established a pozzy jammed against the door. I became concerned at the number of kids on the back but, no, the station hands weren't that productive. One of the kids was having a birthday party and mustering the South Creek was part of the entertainment!
Off we went - a short jaunt down the drive, across the sixty acre home paddock and into a gully. As the gully narrowed into a creek bed I looked for a tractor, and as the creek bed narrowed into a stony rapid I looked for a bulldozer, and as the diesel truck bounced through the first ford I realised ... this was it ... we were going to climb from sea level to a thousand feet, up a rocky creek bed, in a 3-ton diesel truck! "When in Rome," I reminded myself as I crossed my fingers and wished I hadn't looked out the window at the huge drop the wheels had just rolled over! There appeared to be a tradition that the passengers had to scream and shout at the top of their voices every time the truck slid down a bank, hit the water, and revved its way up the other side. This was not a problem as I banged the outside of the door with my arm and wolf whistled into the air. With Ben howling on one side and the crowd hollering on the other, no one could hear me anyway and I found the whistling was a great stress release. At one stage the truck didn't make it out of the creek, as the bank was a bit steep. The wheels skidded, the kids screamed their encouragements, the dogs howled and I closed my eyes as we crashed back into the water. Not to worry. Everyone piled out and grabbed rocks to put added weight onto the tray over the back wheels and, with some extra loud whoops and whoopees, the truck climbed its way out and onward. And so we reached the top where we were treated to the most stunning views of the world imaginable - I felt like Hillary. The kids were dispatched to the left and to the right, as their job was to walk down the fence line flushing the edges, and the dogs took either side of the truck. I wasn't too sure what my role was supposed to be but thank goodness it wasn't spotting because my eyes were shut tight for most of the trip back.
We all made it safely to the bottom. I had only thumped my head on the cab roof twice, the dogs didn't smell quite so bad because they had both been in the creek, the kids had run the birthday party food colouring off and were a lot quieter, and there was a motley range of ewes and lambs, a couple of steers and four angora goats (which nobody knew anything about) heading towards the home paddock! I was invigorated.
With a pile of scones (spread with my offerings of blackcurrant jam) deftly demolished I bid my farewells and drove the long haul home to where the cows were waiting patiently to be milked. With a few strides this way and a few strides that way, all of the animals were called to their evening meals and to their evening beds and, with a quick round by torch light, the entire property was checked and tucked up safely for the night. As I eased my sore bits through a shower and then dug deeply into bed, I blessed my secure little world behind the barberry hedge and, as sleep folded over me, I realised that I was, for the moment, very contented with its mindset of complacency.