At the end of another years prowling around the Australian backcountry attending shows, field days and race meetings and having camped at all sorts of interesting places, most with out water views, it was relaxing to finally camp within spitting distance of the mighty Darling River at Wentworth for six wonderful weeks in the lead up to Christmas. This spot is also one favored by Sass, she spent many hours playing in the water during the heat of the day and had ample time to bury bones which would then be left for time enough so they acquired that special vintage aroma then re-serve them at the time of her choosing. Initially, there was an issue as to where these re-birthed meals could be eaten, her choice was beside my chair, mine, no closer than kicking distance and that wasn't wearing double pluggers either. After a week off I opened a shop in Darling Street in an old stock and station agents building. There were lots of rooms and the building had tons of character which lent itself to creating an interesting display. My old mate Kevin Murphy who also does the show run with Australian made goods shared the shop with me. He has coats and jackets by Burke and Wills, camp ovens by Southern Metal Spinners, leather care products by Oakwood and the Didgeridoona range. With these products along with our leather luggage range, brief cases, handbags, wallets, whips and all sorts of station gear the display looked impressive to say the least, we had something for everybody.
To advertise that we were back in town I put together an A4 flyer and sent a thousand out via the Post Office to the locals, the stations up as far as Menindee and to those on the Anabranch. The support was terrific and the locals welcomed us back seeking assurance that we'd visit again the following year. Sharing a shop has unique benefits regarding work hours, mine were Monday, Wednesday and Friday and Kev worked Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday morning. Generally at shows we only work two days a week so the extra work load took some getting used too. On several occasions I felt a twinge of guilt knowing that the boys at our factory at Byron were punching out huge volumes of product and had been working extremely long hours for months and still had the order book full for January and February. I used to be part of that before I embarked on the "no fixed address tour" marketing our products Australia wide. So with time on my hands camped the banks of the Darling River I caught river life as it passed by through the lens of my camera.Makes you want to get out there on the river." From dawn to dusk, life of some sort was using the river either as habitat or for the simple pleasures of living, then, as the sunset the mozzies took over although they weren't as savage this year which was surprising given that the river had been in flood for so long. With a high river, houseboats were constant companions and willingly giving those land-locked a friendly wave as they cruised past. Fisherman, in their choise of tinnies were the early birds to the water each day setting off to their favorite spots to snare a yellow-belly or two. I think the dreaded carp took most of their bait but a few were successful in bagging a feed. Twice a week the rowing club practised their sprints and starts passed my camp, it was good to hear the familiar noise of the rollicks as they hit the catch. A much different noise came from the skiers in their powerful flash looking boats as they burbled along in the restricted 4 mile an hour zone on their way to the Murray where they cut loose with all the power they possessed. Evening riverboat party cruises were popular at this time of year and the punters far more jolly on their return after an hour or two of loosening their lips with ice cold tinnies and a variety of wines and spirits and of course a barby on the deck. The Darling River becomes a reality not far from Bourke as rivers such as the Barwon, the Bokkara, the Culgoa and the Bogan become one waterway, however, each of those rivers were in turn fed by so many other well known rivers in the Darling Basin. Down stream of Bourke more water hits the Darling from The Warrego and further still after passing Louth and Tilpa the Paroo River joins but its waters rarely reach this far but did so recently one of the few times in our history. From Wilcannia down to Menindee, then Pooncarie and finally to Wentworth the Darling River waters have flowed 1475 kilometres through remote station country to finally join the Murray. Plan a trip out this way sometime, it's wonderful country and the tiny towns I've mentioned along the Darling below Bourke are almost living history and you will meet some the the most interesting people there. Until next time. Steve and Sass