A bush sports weekend, central Australia.


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.


Station kids


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.

Line up for the under 16 mile race.The feature bull.The clown rides a steer backwards.

From a near by station.The quality of the rodeo stock was excellent, not many riders made time so the action was fast and furious. Between events they had pannel climbing, whip cracking, lizard races, pogo stick riding and yard building comps. The pannel climbing proved to be extremely difficult as trying to climb up one of a free standing steel cattle fence pannel and down the other without coming to grief was impossible for most contestants but finally one nimble character picked up the purse of $500 without breaking his neck.
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.
Cow tail throwing comp
At last, a cold beer.
Picking just a few pics for the blog from so many taken is always difficult. I'll have to find another site somewhere to include the others.
Until next time.
Steve and Sass


  • Arnetta Clepper

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  • Hedy Pardey

    Dear Steve and Sass
    what a fantastic article on Hart’s Range and an Outback rodeo.Your descriptions are acute and present a view of Australia that many wish to experience (but most won’t). You transport us there.Your photography is world class. Magnificent images of people, particularly the Aboriginal children.( I know you are not keen on Macca, but you are a gem out there that he would love to talk to. Why don’t you give him a call? Have you submitted your articles to Australian Geographic? or perhaps you wish to remain relatively low key?)
    Anyway, you and Sass have now become two more characters ‘out there’,who are really experiencing the real outback and kindly are sharing your experiences with us. Thankyou. Again, your photography is so fresh and your eye for the right image is spot on.Have you entered your work into competitions? (you would win).
    Love seeing your name come up on the screen and know I am in for another wonderful episode of your journey
    Thanks Steve and Sass. (unitl next time) Safe travels.

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