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My Life in the Outback

“Making your own toilet paper in the Outback…”

In an earlier blog, I mentioned that the isolation on St. Vidgeon’s Station years ago was a lesson in preparedness for the COVID pandemic lockdowns of the past year.

COVID also caused an obsession for toilet paper for many people.

Among my responsibilities at St. Vidgeon’s, I ordered supplies, from groceries to tires for our vehicles, using the long-range, two-way radioour lifeline to the outside world, including Brisbane, in the state of Queensland. A barge from Brisbane delivered orders every two months to St. Vidgeon’s and other outposts along the navigable Roper River.

In ordering, I had to purchase what we needed at headquarters plus supplies the men took to the muster camp. Provisions, such as flour, yeast, butter, lard, vegetable oil, beans, rice, sugar, and cereal were ordered in large quantities to make certain we did not run out.

However, it did not take a pandemic to create a shortage of toilet paper at St. Vidgeon’s. It was my blunder I forgot to order it.

We had no toilet paper for two months. Not a single roll. Putting as good a face as I could on a bad situation, I cut strips from magazines to use as a substitute. I prepared strips for the men to take to the muster camp.

The guys teased me unmercifully for omitting that essential item.

Then friends from Darwin announced they were coming to visit. When I introduced them to our makeshift TP, they laughed good heartedly. Their attitude helped me overcome the embarrassment over my slip-up.

We took our visitors for a day out in the countryside with a picnic lunch and our makeshift TP to see nearby paleolithic cave paintings. The cave art, according to experts at the time, was estimated to be 15,000 years old, though much better technology has now estimated the paintings in that area to be at least 40,000 years old.

While we marveled at images painted centuries earlier, one of the visitors broke the magic by asking what paleolithic artists and people of that early era in human history had used for toilet tissue.

The incident created a lifelong obsession in me I always keep TP in large quantities!


Next installment: More Adventures at the Homestead

Visit me at I love hearing from readers. Ask a question, suggest an idea, or comment about this blog or a previous one. (All blogs are on my website.)

This series of My Life in the Outback is based on recollections of my life in Australia many years ago. My own photographs of Australia are not only limited, but they are also old 35mm film in dismal condition. To make the series more appealing to the reader, I supplement with photographs that are similar to the experiences and locations I’ve described. I’m often dependent on pictures from the public domain and Creative Commons.

Note: Names of some people have been changed to protect their identity since this is not a memoir, but merely my recollections of Australia. The name of the cattle station where I lived was known as either St. Vidgeon’s or St. Vigeon. I use the first spelling in most cases, but on occasion, the second one comes in handy.

Photo credits:

All photographs are used in an editorial or educational manner.

Barge on the Roper – by Kathryn Lane

Roll of toilet paper – Public domain

Paleolithic Cave Art – by Kathryn Lane

My Life in the Outback – Installment 12 of this blog is brought to you by Tortuga Publishing, LLC


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