Apparently it’s been two years since I’ve posted on my blog. How horrifying. I thank my loyal followers for still hanging around, and I’m pleased that people still drop by daily to encourage me.
A lot has happened in these two years. I’ve driven tractors for harvest season on one of the southern-most towns of Western Australia, driven road trains and had a ball. I’ve loved and lost love, lived and witnessed too much loss of life.
While I’ve kept my Jillaroo Jess Facebook page going, I felt like a phony writing as ‘Jillaroo’ Jess yet driving trucks. Recently, however, the tables have turned.
I am excited to announce that I have landed a job overseeing a cattle station in the Pilbara region of Australia. Almost a quarter of a million acres of desert located on the beach. Does that sound like paradise to you? It is. If you count the 50 billion flies and 2 snakes who live in the cutlery drawer in our 120yr old stone house.
Stay tuned for grand tales of my truck driving and harvesting adventures, as well as my new adventures working in this incredibly unique and wild corner of the world.
It seems like the majority of my posts are apologising for not posting often. Once again – I’m sorry. I promise I’ll make it up to you though!
Life is crazy in the Pilbara. I’ve now been here for 4 months and am loving it. It’s certainly an adjustment, but I do not regret coming over one little bit. A lot of people who live here are from the city and just come for the work. I often hear complaints on how it is so remote and has little to offer in the way of shops. However, to me it’s the big smoke! The last place I lived in had one pub and a post office/general store. What could be better than swimming, snorkelling and fishing in crystal clear waters, adventuring by 4wd to remote gorges and exploring this rugged countryside? I am a lucky girl!
A couple of weeks ago there was a ‘rodeo’ themed night at one of the pubs around here. They had been advertising it for weeks, saying that everyone was going to dress up and that there was a mechanical bull going to be there. I thought “You beauty! I get to wear normal clothes again!”
How wrong I was.
I pulled on my favourite Ariat boots, my ‘good’ wrangler shirt, my silver buckled belt and donned my dirty old Akubra – which has oil stains on it from hitting my head in the cattle yards so many times. However, I figured this wasn’t exactly a country town, so I wore some shorts to jazz things up. I walked into the pub. A hundred faces turned to stare at me – the only one dressed up. Here was Jess in her boots and hat, sticking out like a sore thumb, among the other women with their coiffed hair and heels. Not even the bar staff were dressed up! Lesser cowgirls would’ve turned around and gone home, but I saw this as a challenge! The few country people that were there came up to me for a chat. The most notable was a bull rider (who commended me on my mechanical bull riding, I must add), and a man in an RM Williams shirt with a very impressive mullet!
All in all, it was a great night, and I didn’t have to buy a drink the whole time… Challenge completed.
I am sorry it has been so long since I have written. I have been given an opportunity to work in the mines in Western Australia – 6000km (or 3700miles) from home!
In such a resource rich country, mining is one of our biggest industries, and definitely pays the most! I plan to be driving trucks very soon.
I am currently in the Pilbara. A desert filled with red rocks and spinifex grass. There are very few trees here, but I think that the contrast between the desert colours is beautiful. This is the closest I have lived to the beach before, and once you get out onto the islands the water is crystal clear and the marine life is amazing. Once when I was snorkelling on one of the islands here, I came across a long pole or stick in the sand. I hovered over it, baffled, as there are no trees or development on the islands. My brother quickly tapped me on the shoulder and pointed a few metres to my right. I see two tennis ball sized eyes sticking up out of the sand. It was a massive stingray! It must’ve been 3m long (9ft10in). I was only in about 2-3m deep water, so I swam away as quickly and calmly as possible – heart racing! I’ve also swam with big sea turtles, and have seen sharks, dolphins and whales. This part of the world is very untouched, as the climate can be unbearable. In Summer, not far away from where I’m based can reach temperatures of over 50 degrees Celsius (122 Farenheit), compared to a balmy late 40’s here.
There are a lot of natural adventures to be had in this area, so for the time being I will be writing about them, unless Jackaroo sends me something interesting from the east coast of course!
After feeding all the animals on the farm one afternoon recently, Jackaroo called me over to the pigeon cage. I looked inside and saw a big python curled up, with a suspiciously fat stomach. I quickly ran inside to get an old pillow case which we could use to put the snake in. Jackaroo could tell that it was a boy by the pattern on his scales. Since he was such a beautiful snake, and not overly poisonous, we decided to relocate it. It took a long time to get him out of the cage as he had barricaded himself between the roof and the chicken wire. He snapped at us as we tried to pull him out from his hiding spot. Since he had eaten one of our pigeons, though, he found it quite hard to get away – his stomach was just too round. Unfortunately, when snakes are stressed, their bowels are too… and therefore our noses. Man, snakes are putrid! I have attached a photo of me releasing the snake about 10 minutes down the road. You can see I’m trying to hold it away from my body so I didn’t get covered in his poo, as he was trying to wrap around my arm. He was about 6ft long, which is a fair size, but this species can grow over 10ft long!
This year, we only have had 3 Australian Stock Horse foals born on the property. It’s definitely quality over quantity though, they are beautiful. First born was a flashy chestnut colt with a big baldy face (lots of white) and 3 white socks who we named Coolrdige Kidman – after a famous Australian cattle baron. Next, a lovely little bay filly with a bucket load of attitude named Coolridge Karijini – a beautiful desert in Western Australia. Finally, a leggy black filly called Coolridge Khaleesi – I’m a big fan of Game of Thrones!
In case anyone is interested in Australian Stock Horses, and follows their breeding, all three are by Kooloombah Confidence, a very handsome red dun stallion. Confidence, and all of the mares are bred to Campdraft, which is an Australian horse sport with cattle, where you must first cut out a beast in the ‘camp’, then take it out into the arena and bend it around two posts and through a gate. These foals all have great breeding and we are looking forward to seeing their natural ability under saddle. I’m currently in the process of building a website for our horses and will have it finished in the coming months. Once breeding season is over I’ll have more time to get things happening.
Have a look at the photos attached, aren’t they just beautiful? I love coming home and watching the foals playing in the cool twilight. Enjoy the photos – I’d be jealous if I were you…
Hi everyone! I am so sorry that it has been so long since I have last posted. Breeding season is always busy on the farm, before and after I go to my full time job, I’m breeding next year’s foals! Well, assisting – I don’t do much. Hah!
I will put up photos of our Western Australian adventures soon, but firstly I thought that I would show you photos that Jackaroo has sent me of some of his dogs in the high-vis jackets I made them. They look great, I am very proud of the effort. In one of my past posts, I wrote about how bad a lot of drivers are around working dogs and cattle. There’s no chance of not seeing these dogs now! I wonder what the cattle think? Enjoy 🙂
Something very exciting is happening in eastern Australia at the moment. Well, not for me, I’m stuck at home taking care of the farm. Jackaroo has been lucky enough to be involved in the biggest drove in Australian history. A ‘drove’, is moving cattle/sheep from one place to another, feeding them along the way. They can be very long and hard distances traveled. Often, drovers live on the road, going from one job to the next. Cattle baron Tom Brinkworth has taken advantage of the drought and bad cattle prices by buying 18,000 head of cattle from the ages of 8months to 2yrs old. These cattle are being taken down the TSR (Travelling Stock Route), or ‘The Long Paddock’ to their new properties, some 2500km away (over 1500miles). The herd has been split up into 9 mobs, and are travelling 10km a day. There is about 80km/8days between the different mobs of cattle. There are many stock routes in Australia, but some of these cattle are being taken from Queensland to as far as South Australia. It was estimated that it would cost Tom $1,000,000 to truck the cattle to his property, the same cost as taking them down the stock routes. However, considering it will have taken 6 months or so (and 70 drovers!) to do this, and the cattle are getting fed along the way, by the time the cattle get to their destination, many will be ready to be sold – very smart! Droving is a part of Australian life that has been forgotten by the majority of Australians in recent times. This is evident in many of the routes currently being closed, having cattle or sheep permanently on them, mainly due to drought.
Just the weekend past, Jackaroo and I were packing his stuff and getting the horses ready to go. He has taken 4 horses with him and 5 dogs to help them on their journey. The night before he and his fellow drovers were ready to leave, I was busy sewing reflective jackets for the dogs, so they don’t get hit by cars while the travel the roads. As soon as I get a pic of the dogs in their jackets I’ll share them with you! When I spoke to Jackaroo last, he had arrived in New South Wales, and they were taking care of 2000 cattle. He sent me the photo I have attached to this post. Jackaroo is a man of few words. When I get word of his adventures I will pass them on, since I’m not having any adventures at the moment!
However, on the 23rd of October we will both be heading for the Pilbara in Western Australia, where my family lives and works. I am very excited to show Jackaroo and you how beautiful it is over there in the desert. After we come back, Jackaroo will head back droving again.
Jackaroo took me to one of the old sheds the other day for show and tell. There was a big grey possum with beautiful dark eyes looking up at me. I quickly ran inside to cut up some apple to feed it. I wonder if it is a boy or girl, I thought. I guess this answers it! Here is the latest addition to the farm, an adorable little joey holding tight onto it’s mother’s back. I wonder if it’s a boy or girl…
FYI – ‘Playing Possum’ is Aussie slang for ‘faking it’ or ‘pretending’.
Weekends normally mean more work for me. More enjoyable work, mind you, I’d much rather be outside than in the office. Last weekend, however, was different – well one of the days anyway! Since it’s been getting warmer, and the days longer, I have been itching to get down to the river. In summer that’s where I (would) like to spend my days, relaxing by the cool water, watching whichever dogs I brought with me running around and playing. This time I brought Dodge, and Sid with me. Dodge is over a year old, and Sid is around 8-9 months old. I took some photos of our adventure to share with my favourite bloggers.
Flowers line the road.
Dodge looking for his next adventure.
Dodge and Sid playing.
My favourite summer pastime.
The next day we were to muster Jackaroo’s Pa’s property to send some cattle to the sales. In the ‘mountain paddock’ we had some trouble with the cattle who decided they didn’t want to obey the dogs or horses. There were only about 50 head of cattle, so we had 2 dogs and both Jackaroo and myself on our trusty steeds. Well, mine was trusty – my sweet sweet Perseverance. Jackaroo was riding a green mare. For the city folk – not green green. A green horse means it hasn’t had much work and is very fresh, ie – on the good feed all day, so green poop. Due to Jackaroo being on an inexperienced horse and having difficult cattle, I stayed behind the mob with the dogs to make sure everything kept following him. Anyway, the cattle were pushing past the dogs and we often had to gallop to the lead of the mob to turn them around. At one stage, when I was cantering up the hill, we came across a crop of granite boulders. One was straight in our path, Percy and I disagreed which way we were going to go round it, so we flew over it! Our horses certainly learn to get good footing when mustering. It’s amazing how much of a difference it makes to a horse. If I was riding a horse that had only ever lived in a small flat paddock instead, both of us would’ve surely hit the dirt. Mustering horses are strong and tough and have to think for themselves when we’ve got our eyes on the cattle going flat strap. When we finally got the cattle to the yards, we drafted and tagged a small group to send to the sales. The next day we then went to the cattle sales to see how they sold. They were mainly some older cows and some cranky ones. There was one calf that I couldn’t resist taking a photo with as he was very cute! I thought you guys might appreciate it.
Enjoy the photos, and keep an eye out in the next couple of days for my stories from the 2013 Gympie Muster where I was media once again. I got to interview some great artists.
Riding along the old carrige-way looking for cattle.
My trusty steed, Percy.
Pushing cattle towards the gate to the other side of the road.
On the home stretch to the yards.
Some cattle in the yards
Gemma, Molly and Charlotte.
Charlotte and Perserverance having a rest while we work the yards.
When Google-Imaging ‘country and western pop culture’, you’d be forgiven for thinking that there is none. I found a picture of a person made to look like roast chicken, a close-up of Homer Simpson’s eye, a unicorn and other non-related images. It is at this point I realise that writing about the changes in country pop culture is going to be more difficult than I thought. I’ll break it down for you (wikka wikka wo-OWW).
If you look at old black and white photos of cowgirls and cowboys, you will notice a few differences. Yes, they still wore button up shirts and jeans, but the jeans were pulled up to their armpits. Even today, many people in the country community – even young people – choose to wear high-waisted jeans. This is generally how you siphon the legit country people from the rest. If you have ever tried riding a horse in hipster jeans you would understand. So it seems that changes in country and western wear are more subtle than other styles. There’s nothing dramatic like going from baggy pants with chains to jeggings (eww) in a decade. However, if you look at old photos of barrel racers (a horse sport) you will notice a huge change. From normal looking station women, to ones that look like their wardrobe has thrown up on them. There’s ‘bling’ everywhere- shirts that you need sunglasses to look at and buckles which were bought, not earned, that could double as dinner plates.
Country music now has a broader range of styles than it used to as well. Though it may have a little less of a tinny twang these days, they often still seem to sing about losing everything to their ex-wives. Yet you still can’t beat some of the older artists like Johnny Cash or Kenny Rogers. Even though Kenny is trying his best not to look like an ‘older artist’… Or maybe the wind just changed when he was doing an impression of a wax model, of himself. I don’t know. All I do know is that he should’ve played The Gambler at least 17 times more at the Gympie Muster last year.
Unlike the movies, country people don’t generally chew tobacco or sunflower seeds and then spit them a tin. Nor are they as dim-witted as often portrayed. Chances are they can out-math you – try counting hundreds of cattle at a time rushing through a gate, or planning materials for kilometres of fencing. So even though their culture may seem a little different to you, at the end of the day, country people are just normal people like you.