This book came as part of a box set of books. I won them in an auction raising money for a good cause. It was a few years ago and the books have sat on my TBR Pile since then. It was a private auction and while I don’t recall who she was raising money for I do remember it was a good cause.
The box set is called Great Australian Stories. The books inside are: Great Australian Beer Yarns; Great Australian Ute Stories and; Great Australian Droving Stories. This makes this part two of this three part series of articles on my blog.
While I wasn’t entirely enamoured about the Great Australian Beer Yarns, I found Great Australian Ute Stories much more to my liking. This book is full of stories about utes. For my American friends you might call a ute a pick up or a truck. Essentially, a vehicle for travelling from point A to point B. Some have space for more passengers than others, but they all have a tray at the back which is great for carrying many types of equipment. Often found on farms or owned by tradies, sorry, tradesmen. Australians have a habit of shortening words and then putting ‘ies’ or ‘y’ on the end. Sometimes we’ll do something else, so ‘Sharon’ will become ‘Shazza’ or ‘Barry’ will become ‘Bazza’. Or if they’re greeting them in friendliness and possibly for a drinking session at the pub it could be ‘Bazzaaaaaaaa’. Don’t ask me I don’t understand, I only live with it.
This book is full of stories about people and their utes. Some of the stories are real while other are fiction. There are two stories which really tickled my fancy.
The first one is called ‘Ute Power’ by Peter Peterson. It’s a story about his Dad and his beloved ute. A talented electrician, he decided he wanted to do something more. He bought a laptop and created some programmes so he could check on electrical installations worked on by other people. Now that’s using your noodle! One day he realised he could work from his ute. One night the author went to the movies, his Dad arrived early to pick him up and decided to use the down time to check the emergency lighting at the University of Canberra. He assumed that no-one would be there at 10:30 pm. He’s happily checking all the lights by turning them on and off again remotely. He finished, the author got into the car and intercepted a phone call because his Dad was driving. Apparently they were holding a late night lecture series and they thought someone had broken into the buildings, turning the lights on and off. He wanted to talk to Dad about installing a security programme to stop idiots interrupting their activities. Ooops!
I really loved this story, it tells of the power of computers, how people can make jobs where there aren’t any, and also the power of a good story.
The second story is called ‘The Wet’ and is written by John Fowler. I loved this story so much. It talks about the gullibility of some of our tourists while also showing how flexible utes can be.
The author is taking a Pommy (English) tourist out bush to see some kangaroos. He stops at a farm, this one is called a station, but we’re not told what he’s farming. The owner gives some fairly typical outback instructions including crossing three creeks and heading for the hump before finding the rock pool, it’s said to be the best place to see kangaroos. Off they drive, over the three creeks, one is just a causeway, and then the rain stops. The author promptly turns around and heads back. Apparently, that Scotch mist that had just started would turn into the Loch Ness monster. The tourist thought the author was being overly cautious when he stopped and taped up the doors with insulation tape so they could drive through the creeks. For the last crossing the tourist was told not to open his windows as they need that bubble of air in case they go too deep on the crossing. Did you know ‘a diesel motor will keep running half-submerged in water’? I didn’t, but I’m going to bear it in mind. They got back safely and found the farmer celebrating the rain. When you’ve been in drought for three years you celebrate the first decent lot of rain, and this was a very decent rain.
If you are able to read the story you’ll see the tourist thought kangaroos had been exterminated. I love how gullible tourists to Australia can be. Some of them even believe in Drop Bears! This story also shows us the vagaries of some of Australia’s weather. One moment it can be drought conditions and the next we’re flooded out.
In case you want to read more ute stories you can find the book here.
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