OUT AND ABOUT: Neil Banks has seen his share of the bush.
OUT AND ABOUT: Neil Banks has seen his share of the bush. Toni Somes

Neil Banks - rodeo rider, drover, shearer and dad...

IT was probably a smart thing, Neil Banks reckons, that he gave away school the year he turned 13 because he was "getting pretty good at not going".

"I just wasn't interested," the former Warwick East student explained.

"My mates and I - we'd pass the kids on the bus and we'd been on our horses heading down for a swim in a waterhole just below Scots."

I loved riding buckjumpers that was a thrill, but I'm buggered now.

Of course the 71-year-old emphasised, for the benefit of his nine young grandkids, those were different times.

When he gave away school, he went droving with the Collins family, taking mobs of cattle and sheep down local stock routes on regular runs like Warwick to Wallangarra.

One of his longest trips was 14 weeks on the road bringing a mob of 2500 sheep from Maranoa Downs "70 miles south-west of Mitchell" back to Greymare.

For a time he was a wanderer, travelling the country riding saddle bronc horses, rodeoing, shearing sheep and droving cattle and trying just about every job the bush had to offer. If he had a CV, it would read like an Australian road trip.

"I worked at Donnybrook in Victoria, then Ross in Tasmania and for a time I was with the Public Works Department 120 miles south of Perth," Mr Banks said.

He worked at the Ord River at Kununurra and good humouredly tells a story of a stint as ambulance driver for Darwin Hospital.

But the bush called and before long he was droving cattle around Julia Creek during the days when Joey Matthews ran the local hotel.

"The day we trucked the cattle, this bloke called Wally Smith from Richmond offered me a job wool classing. That's pretty much how it always worked, you just went from one place to another."

Eventually he came home to Warwick, a move he describes "as the best thing I ever did because I meet this great girl called June Lindenberg".

The couple married and have three "great" children - Karen, Glenn and Steven - and a swag of grandkids, who "keep getting better".

Last week, he sat a little frustratingly in the stands watching the Warwick Rodeo: He pays these days, unlike when he was a kid, when a home along the neighbouring railway line guaranteed him a place to sneak through the fence.

But he doesn't find it easy being a spectator.

"I loved riding buckjumpers that was a thrill, but I'm buggered now."

He hasn't been on a horse for 22 months, since he had a "bit of work done" on his knees.

"I am not complaining. I've broken my collarbone, my arm, my foot a couple of times but I loved riding.

"My life's been a great adventure and, if I could, I'd do it all over again.

"I wouldn't change a thing: I have sort-of been there and done that and had a lot of fun."



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