It was around
the middle of 1974. Ian McNeill and I had been flying together,
first in Coolangatta in the Bonanza, then in St. George in the
tail-dragger Cessna (a wonderful machine for 16000ft photography!)
It was decided that Peter Cowan and John Messenger would fly down
from Katherine in the Commander, and we would swap navigators,
John and I going first to Toowoomba, then on to Noosa. Gordon
Yorke, the new Operations Manager, flew up to chat to us in the
field. Some months before, Peter had a riding accident (he rode
into a post, damaging his leg) and had only recently returned
to flying. We had been staying in The Australian at St. George
for about three months. Incidentally, they had an aerial picture
of the town, and one of a Hudson framed in the bar. In our first
few hours and days, we re-heard many times two stories of the
time Adastra came to town in 1948.
The first story related how an Adastra crew took a supply of beer
up with them on each flight, then, on return, they would drop
down quickly from survey altitude, fly over the town, then land.
Almost immediately, vehicles would stream out from town, so the
locals could take advantage of ice-cold beer.
The other story was about the navigator, who helped someone put
a roof on their house, and liked the living so much (I think there
might have been a girl involved!), decided to stay on after the
Back to 1974 and the horse. The horse belonged to a fellow who
lived in a shack outside of town, and who would come into town
once every couple of weeks, to sort out his business, and have
a few in the bar. When he had consumed enough, he would tuck half-a-dozen
stubbies in his shirt, and be helped onto the horse, which would
meander off down the river bank on its way home, the rider now
fast asleep on his back. (Apparently, some crime of passion had
seen the owner as a guest of the government for quite a number
of years, and he now kept pretty much to himself). On the day
in question, with the arrival of the second aircraft with Gordon
Yorke, we were saying farewell to some of the townsfolk we had
become friendly with (as is the life of nomadic survey crews)
and a bit of a party got going.
Just before closing time, Pete decides he wants to ride the horse
(I can't remember if, by this time, the owner was in any condition
to agree or disagree). We all followed him outside, where he mounted
the horse, and trotted off into the darkeness, Some minutes went
by when, in the distance we heard the sound of horseshoes on tarmac.
We saw the sparks coming off the shoes long before Peter and the
horse shot by the crowd, mouths agape. Having just got Peter back
to work, Gordon was sitting on the pub step, head in hands, moaning.
I had recently bought the new type Polaroid camera, and decided
I wanted a photograph to mark the occasion. It was then that some
larrikin decided to take the photo in the bar. The landlord was
new, only been in about a week, and made some protest, but to
no avail. The crowd stood aside and the horse, and Peter were
led in like a Melbourne cup winner. The locals crowded in round
the horse, I took the photo and, whether it was the noise, the
crowd or the flash, the horse disgraced himself. This was enough
for the landlord, who threw out all the locals, and the horse,
and moved us out of the bar into the reception area, to finish
our drinking. The party didn't finish there.
The landlord joined us, four crew, operations manager, two wives,
and three of the pub's bar staff, plus the horse owner. Around
1.30am, there was a knock on the door, and there stood the new
police sergeant. He walked into a very silent group, looked around,
took off his hat, sat down and gratefully accepted an offered
beer. The horse owner had by now become more lively, cornering
Gordon with tales of past exploits. We continued on for a little
longer, when again there was a knock on the door, but very timid.
Those who heard it took no notice. It came again, a little louder.
Still no one did anything. On the third knock, the sergeant shouted
"come in". A young, fresh faced lad appeared in the
doorway. "Yes?" enquired the sergeant. "I want
to go home." said the lad. "Well bloody go home!"
said the sergeant. "I can't" replied the now white-faced
young man, "somebody's tied a horse to me ute!"
Amongst a lot of loud laughter, the lad was rescued, the horse
and rider sent home, and the sergeant went back to his duties.
As for us, well, next day John and I went to Toowoomba, and there
we......................... But that is another story.
Unfortunately, somewhere in all my moving around, I lost that
16th February 2004