Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The Doctor Tabubil Files: The Quamby Rodeo, Part Two

My sister, the estimable Dr Tabubil, is spending ten weeks on a rural clinical rotation in Cloncurry, a small pastoral town in the Queensland Outback.  It's a fantastic place, and together we have collaborated on a series of guest posts  all about living and working in the Red Centre.  Enjoy!

Last weekend was the Quamby Rodeo.  Quamby is 45 kilometers north of Cloncurry.  Population 6.  Unless it’s rodeo day.  Then, the population jumps to more than 2,000!
            The Quamby Rodeo kicks off the rodeo season – the next weekend it’s the Cloncurry Merry Muster, and the weekend after it’s the Mt Isa Rodeo, but Quamby is regarded as the best – it’s only one day, but the crowds can get a lot closer to the action. 
            I drove out with four other people, and we arrived just in time for the Greasy Pig event.  I've never seen this before.  It was awful: 100 young men and women running after a poor, terrified wild pig.  Eventually it was caught, and dragged back to the start line by its hind legs.  Not the best start to a rodeo, actually.  Apparently, Quamby is not on the "official" rodeo circuit, so does not need to abide by the regulations pertaining to animal cruelty...
            Yeah.  I got that. 

I’ve never seen so many hot cowboys in my life - devastating young men, every way I looked. Tight jeans, button down shirts, and the ever-present Akubra hat.  The faint smell of sweat as they brush past  you, the side-long glance as they see a woman for the first time in weeks, and the crunch of gravel under their boots as they move to lock eyes with the bulls and the broncos.  The motes of red dust that cling to your skin and your eyelashes, and make films over trees and animals lends a surreal quality to the day.  Little children shriek with laughter as they gather handfuls of the red earth and fling it in the air. 
            I wore my own new Akubra hat and blended right in!  Not really – I’m clearly a city girl. I got upset when my hat blew off and got dirt on it.

 The mutton buster was delightful.  This event is for the babies - tiny bronco-riders-in-training, their hats cut to fit the brim of their safety helmets, their eyes as terrified as the eyes of the sheep, as their fathers hold them on the animals back, all the one way from one side of the arena to the next (it's only 4 meters wide!).  And the crowd roars in encouragement!   

Mutton busters mutton busting:

I kept myself busy photographing as much as possible. I was camped by the fence snapping photos of the men as they were flung off the broncos when there was a quiet, "Excuse me, please," from behind me. I turned to find an impossibly gorgeous horse breathing over my shoulder, red dun in color, and an intricate lead over its shoulder as the cowboy side-stepped it to the gait. It's impossible not to romanticize the life on a station when everything is in technicolor and softened by gatherings of people who haven't met for months.

A young jackaroo waits for his turn in the ring.

Rodeo fans waiting on the fence.

But what I loved about it was that I finally understand what my patients mean when they say they muster.  There was bull riding, bronco riding, and cow roping.  And I get it now.  When they tell me that the old leg wound is hurting from rubbing on the stirrup, I know why.  I know why they get rolled by cattle and thrown by horses.  I know why they are covered in dust when they walk into my rooms.

Jackaroos tangle with bull-calfs.

A jackaroo gets a grip.

Horses are broken.

And so are riders.

The jackaroo bites the dust.  And if he's unlucky, I might have a new patient tomorrow.

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