The Milky Way splashed overhead linking the horizons and leaving a scattering of diamonds in its wake. The night sky pointers took their full majestic effect and pushed shadows to the ground through the perfect winter air. At around 2am the serenity was briefly nudged as sixty-two wheels rolled to a weary halt.
All too soon sunrise was enveloping the remote Noccundra Hotel, there since 1882, in a graduated crown of orange, yellow, mauve, and blue. The morning’s coronation was not yet complete when the town with a population of 3 began to stir. The enormous visitor that rolled in under the cover of stars was first to wake with a long low rumbling yawn. The road train was up.
James rested here at Noccundra in the Queensland Outback, his morning’s hot breakfast waiting up the road at Eromanga. He was half way through a lonely 3,000 kilometre round trip hauling much-needed cattle feed from Broken Hill to Longreach, where there’s no mulga to tide stock through the drought. His home at Cowra was a further 1,000 kilometres from his return drop-off. It was a long drive.
“Toes In the Water” is a huge 56 metre, 62-wheeler road train, pulled by a massive Mack Superliner. James’s constant companion. His morning walk confirmed his suspicion of a flat tyre. I met James when I parked my tiny car beside, as he struggled to affect a repair. He needed to move the truck forward, so I called woa as he rolled his rig a quarter revolution for better purchase. “I’ve had enough of this game,” he insisted as we chatted. Ten years a trucker come December, and back to the ground fixing tyres before breakfast was no longer the adventure it once was. He needed time with his wife and three children.
The big rig continued to rumble, warming in the early morning sun. Finally, the repair was done and tyre inflated.
I last saw James pulled up outside the pub at Eromanga, population 30, the furthest town from the sea. He’d made his morning meal. Next he was heading up the Diamantina still thoughtful of his family at home in Cowra, and thinking he’s had enough of this game.