The Northern Territory, our last frontier with deserts to tropical wetlands offers endless pleasures to those who visit here. Having moved on from the Daly my next venue was Harts Range race weekend 1365 k's south. Just short of Alice Springs I turned left down the Plenty Highway and an hour and a half later turned right down a sandy track to where the racecourse is nestled in beside the rugged foothills of Harts Range.
An old mate, Jock McPherson calls the race
The annual event held here is run by the surrounding stations and the last place you can witness unique bush sporting events run as they have been since its inception in 1936 and not a re-enactment by some try-hard that you see elsewhere. The P.A system is the only technology on hand; no phone or TV signals reach this area so people aren't preoccupied with private communications and the open friendliness between those gathered here is obvious, and blissfully refreshing. The owner of Ambalindum Station works hard on the microphone for two afternoons at the rodeo keeping the crowd entertained and events rolling along but as the sun rose an early start saw young mounted competitors out there competing to win money in the gymkhana. Lots of bush kids having a fantastic time at their own sporting weekend and the only one for the year. Unlike the Aboriginal kids who live in one area and have a school the station kids being so isolated do distance education so still see each other on screen each day and as well gather once a term for a school camp in Alice. The general run of schools have the opposite, a week long school camp somewhere in the bush. The Harts Range neighbourhood stretches 150 k's north, south, east and west and after chatting to the kids asking where they come from the next job is to look on the map to find where their station is situated. These little diggers are great to have a yarn with, such old heads on very young shoulders. Out here almost all the stations are family owned and run so many of these children will someday be the owners of stations well in excess of 500 square miles.
Local girls view from the ridge.Very proud of her new red hat.Thirsty work. Entertainment in the closer settled areas is taken for granted, but out here a trip to town shopping is a two day affair once a month for the lady of the house whereas the men folk may not leave the station more than half a dozen times a year. Mick Jackson who runs a bullock depot down on the border country reckoned it was time for a break, he had a fourteen hour round trip to attend the races for a yarn and a drink with his mates. The last time I saw him was at the Isisford sheep show in western Queensland. Another bloke I hadn't seen since 1973 was Jock McPherson; he now owns a stock agents business in Alice and had sponsored events here at the races and was also the race commentator.It was a great pleasure to catch up with him after so many years and all that time ago we were young stock agents who spent far to much time at the local drinking and playing up. He has offered to include me on some of his station visits next year prior to the Alice show, that's something I'm really looking forward to.
On day two the events started far to early for the seasoned drinkers to enjoy and kicks off with foot races, three legged and sack races and truck wheel rolling races for the various age groups. Eventually they get to the mile race or one lap around the racetrack, there are two events in this, under sixteen and open It surprised me how well some of the younger kids finished and that's not counting the ones who cut across the track through the bindies.By this stage of proceedings the rum drinkers emerge for the cow tail tossing and the tug of war. Cow tail tossing, a ladies event saw people ducking for cover as the tails seemed to have a mind of their own as to where they would land, silence prevailed as each contestant stepped to the line and the audience prepared to duck for cover, a most enjoyable event and the only place I have ever seen it run.The final afternoon of the rodeo got underway and again extra entertainment between events included wild cow milking and steer scruffing comps. One of the last rides was the performed by the clown, he rode a steer backwards and made time as well, fantastic effort.