jeepmuster.jpg“Is that photographer fella come yet?”/ “No.”/ “Do you know where he is?”/ “I think he’s coming tomorrow.”/”The American bloke?”/ “I dunno.”/ “Is the journalist guy with you?”

Before I met any of the folks at Kings Creek, I listened to them all discuss my visit on the scratchy radio. On an outback station as big and remote as Kings Creek, cell phones simply don’t work. Everyone uses the radio, calling back to the dispatcher at the station office. Despite the miles of empty space between each worker, the conversation felt public, like a crowded bar with everybody talking out loud at once.

I had already arrived at the station office and was dripping sweat on the floor next to the dispatcher, who looked at me awkwardly before announcing in the microphone across the airwaves, “Uh, he’s right here, with me.”

It was very hot outside–about 105˚ F. Indoors, electric fans were blowing cool air from every corner. Three different dogs sniffed my ankles and then begged for ear scratches.

“Can I get you something cold to drink?” asked the dispatcher, “How about a slushee?” In some desert cultures, guests are offered hot cups of tea, but honestly, artificially-colored ice drinks are much more my style. I was touched.

“Raspberry, mango, cherry, or blue?” she asked.

“Blue!” Blue is one of my favorite flavors, especially when it’s hot.

A minute later I was sipping bright blue ice through a straw, content with my very cold drink on such a very hot day. A minute after that, I was shaking hands with one of the station hands, Mark, a man with dirt-stained jeans, a sweaty plaid shirt, sun-bleached hair and a deeply-tanned face the same color as his big leather hat. I was most alarmed by the vicious scar around his (Read more...)

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