BUSH CHRISTMAS: Kirstin Payne cartoon.
BUSH CHRISTMAS: Kirstin Payne cartoon. Kirstin Payne

A real Christmas in the bush

A BUSH Christmas evokes many images and one of the best would be the Arnott's biscuit advertising that appeared for years on the back page of the Women's Weekly, where the swaggy was having a cup of tea with Santa under a coolabah tree.

But what really happens out in the "sticks", in the "back of beyond", far from the bright city lights that cancel out the stars?

For our family, it is filled with the usual busyness of the Christmas season but as an addition to the lists of gifts to buy and food to procure are the demands of station life and needs of our livestock.

As is usual in a polite society, there are always the questions that are asked of everyone you meet, such as "what are you doing for Christmas? Going away anywhere?".

I think of the menagerie of animals that fill our lives, from poddy lambs and calves to horses, dogs and even a pig, and wonder, "Go somewhere - wow, how would that possibly happen this side of heaven, plus who would water my garden?"

Thinking about Christmas reminds me of our most memorable Christmas Day in 2013. This was at the start of the current five-year drought.

We were scrambling to keep our livestock alive, running hay and lick all the daylight hours, plus well into the night seven days a week, week after week, and then to cap it all off the dam in a paddock that had good mulga reserves went dry and, of course, this happened at Christmas time.

Fortunately, we had the poly pipe on hand and Jeff prepared the line from the bore to the dam, which is about 7km, and announced we had to get the pipe laid immediately. That meant Christmas Day.

We got up at 3am to get as much done before Christmas lunch but only after feeding out bales of hay to sheep on the way out to the job site.

As the sun broke through the eastern sky on another boiling hot Christmas morn, I was trying to jolly the troops along singing Christmas carols as we were doing a job the girls (aged 12, 15 and 18) and I hadn't had to do prior to this morning - laying poly pipe.

We were in for speedy lesson of what to do and what not to do. Jeff was feeling the pressure of having such raw pipe-laying recruits and the desperate need for water to fill this dam so we could put sheep back onto the scrub.

Then we got a flat tyre on the ute. The girls and I scrambled to change the tyre so we could continue feeding heavy polythene pipe into the unrelenting hot, hard ground.

We knocked off at 11am to go to Christmas lunch at Jeff's parents' place 50km north of ours. After four hours of Christmas cheer, we had to leave as we had ewes and lambs we had been hand-feeding for months that were waiting for their evening feed, plus the copious numbers of animals around the house.

I would like to wish each of you a very merry Christmas from my family to yours, as we acknowledge and remember the first Christmas morn, where Jesus was born in a humble stable in a manger more than 2000 years ago surrounded by animals, just like our own bush Christmas.



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