Our next stop on this Australian Odyssey was Longreach and the home of Andrew’s remarkable parents, Sue and Bruce. For most of their working life, Bruce and Sue ran a “station,” or ranch. They raised beef cattle and also “mobs” of about 5000 sheep for a time. Primarily, they did the work of caring for, rotating and transporting their mobs on their own. They are as kind as they are creative and hard-working.
Before Andrew moved to the US to launch the American goodMix Superfoods in 2016, he placed a portion of his belongings into a shipping container at the station. His parents then added the contents of his old room when they moved to their current home, following their retirement 4 years ago. As a result, Andrew spent a great deal of our time in Longreach removing some of his belongings from the shipping container and loading them into the cattle trailer. I helped out Rania with the kids, worked on VFA administration, enjoyed getting to know Sue and Bruce, and explored the wonders of the Australian Outback.
It is a whole different world than Vermont. It is relatively flat, hot, and very dry. It did actually RAIN while we were there, creating a mud-minute for us to enjoy, while folks back in Vermont got stuck in ruts and pondered every outing and route. We saw kangaroos, emus, geckos, frogs, resident ducks and a whole cast of marvelous birds.
I gathered all sorts of different ideas from Grandpa Bruce about water collecting, storing, and recycling and often marveled at his inventiveness, persistence and humor. He’s quite an artist, as well, on a fairly grand scale. He has a great eye for petrified wood and spots it like my friend Emily finds four-leafed clovers. He’s a great welder and recycler of materials. He casts concrete and makes beautiful planters, pavers spheres and on and on.
Grandma Sue and M became fast friends, walking out daily to feed the adopted ducks by the Turkey’s Nest, which is a form of water storage. M is at the stage where he’s mostly given up his nap, and Grandma Sue had a knack for finding just the right books to help M to have an afternoon snooze. She’s also a beautiful singer and plays music for her local church.
When the house in Karumba was ready for Andrew, Rania and the kids to move in, we drove there in two separate cars. The ute, or flatbed Toyota— as prevalent in the Outback as Subarus are in Vermont— pulled the cattle trailer full of home furnishings. The women and children drove in comfort in the Land Cruiser wagon, or SUV. I even got to drive on the left! It’s pretty easy when the road is flat and straight and you’ve got a couple of passengers keeping an eye out for kangaroos.