From sunny Carnarvon and the mouth of the Gascoyne River, we’re now going to head inland into the sub-desert outback country. This is station country.
Our next Outback Wife and her husband only moved to their station in 2010 so she offers the rare perspective of what it is to move to such an isolated area and the hardwork involved to slowly build up stock. It’s a labour of love and sacrifice.
Not only a Registered Nurse, this Outback Wife also volunteers her time to the local Shire Council, teaches her children at home with School of The Air and is a keen quilter too. She’s also an AMAZING cook!
Please, meet Alys. (Pronounced like ‘Elise’ except with an ‘A’ at the beginning.)
“I come from Melbourne. I was a city girl. My story is a ‘farmer meets nurse’ story. I always wanted to live in the country. I’ve always loved the bush, the animals, camping, being outside, that sort of thing.
My first nursing job, straight out of uni [university], was in the town of Wyalkatchem in West Australia. I drove across from Victoria and when I got there, I drove straight past. Turned around. Drove straight past again. It was so small! I didn’t realize it was the town. Towns with hospitals where I grew up are so much bigger.
I loved it there, but I wanted to see the rest of WA as well, so I went travelling. I gained skills in paediatrics, intensive care, emergency and management, and used my skills in rural and remote areas. I travelled to many towns, from Ravensthorpe in the south, to Broome in the North, and lots of places in between.
I met him in a country pub. It was more of a ‘click’ than a ‘love at first sight’ thing. I don’t know exactly when he became the love of my life…but he did.
He was a farmer in wheatbelt country. We married and worked the family farm, but his real dream was to run a cattle station.
Eventually we bought this place. It was a sheep station when we bought it but was destocked of sheep because of the dingos and came with only 50 cattle because of the drought. That’s the year the flood happened. That first year we were here. We were excited for all the rain. We didn’t get flooded but the roads flooded enough that we were cut off for 5 or 6 weeks. Our airstrip was underwater too so if we’d needed help, it would’ve come by chopper. I was really pregnant then too. We had two little ones then already.
We had an accident out here a few months back. My daughter. She broke her pelvis. I had to ring the RFDS . We get a direct line out here. We’ve got an RFDS box kept here in the pantry. It has basic doctor’s supplies. Even though I’m a nurse, at the end of the day, I’m a mum first and foremost. The worse things possible were running through my head when that accident happened. Sometimes having that nursing knowledge, all the worse things that can happen, it can all run through your head. I’ve given a million injections over the years as a nurse, and that’s fine, but in an emergency, having to inject morphine into my daughter…she’s still really unhappy at me for that. The RFDS couldn’t land at our airstrip while it was night, so we put her on a wardrobe door we found in the shed. We strapped her to the door and drove her 100kms to another airstrip to be flown out.
Everyone who comes here from the city, they can’t believe we only get our shopping delivered once a week (by the mail lady). One time they didn’t send out my fruit and veggies. There’s no point getting upset at things like that…you just gotta make do and get on. We ate instant potato and tinned fruit that week. We always have enough meat on the station.
I love cooking, so I decided when we moved here, to teach myself how to butcher a cow. I bought a DVD off Ebay that showed me how to butcher. I still use it each time I cut up a killer. I’ve gotten better and quicker, but I still need that DVD.
A lot of people don’t realize up here my kids don’t go to a normal school. They do School of The Air. It’s a bit more mod than it used to be, they use a Skype format now. All us mums on stations still spend a good 5 to 6 hours a day teaching our kids. School of the Air only goes to year 6. Then most families have gotta send their kids away boarding. As parents we try and prepare the kids for that.
I’ve never ever been lonely here. We have a lot of people come and go. Friends and family. Backpackers who come to work and love the time here so much. It’s such a true blue Aussie experience that many come back.
We’re studious about the wild dogs because our neighbours still run sheep and goats. So we have a dogger who comes out and stays a few days at a time. We let the dogger know whenever we start seeing an increase in dog tracks.
I always go out for the muster. Mustering is the money-making time. That muster is what the year’s-long work is for. How successful it is determines what we do the next year. We’re still working to build up our stock numbers. We’re up to over 1600 now. I was so excited when I added them up the other day. Looking back to starting with only 50, well, it’s such a good feeling to see our hard work accumulating like that.
When I think about what’s in the future…I can’t imagine ever moving away. Like retiring to the coast. It’s taken a long time for us to get here. We’re living our dream. We’re right where we want to be.
The name of our place, it came from Irishmen, they came out and started it as a station in 1907. They must’ve come during a great season cos they named it for a place in Ireland because it was so green. It’s rarely green.”
ALYS MCKEOUGH, 42
‘Carey Downs Station’, Western Australia