top of page

My Life in the Outback “What you do after eating booger bread…”

“What you do after eating booger bread…”

…you take over the cooking, that’s what. I’d begged Irwin, the camp cook, to let me handle the camp kitchen. And for

me, it was a huge chore. Working over the hot campfire was better than eating Irwin’s booger bread for dinner. (See April 26, 2020 blog at

Before getting married and moving to Australia, my responsibility had been to bring home good grades. My pampered teenage life in Mexico did not include development of my culinary skills.

That first morning, Irwin helped by starting the fire, stoking it, peeling potatoes, and teaching me to cook damper, Australian soda bread. The dough was laid over hot ashes. After a few minutes, more hot ashes were added to the top of the dough. If the damper sounded hollow when it was tapped, it’d be baked to perfection. Irwin set out a jar of golden syrup to spread on the bread instead of using butter.

“Bush tucker,” he said, proudly showing me clumps of green leaves and grass. He threw the wild vegetables on the ashes next to the damper to supplement breakfast.

“Are you serious?” I asked. “Looks like cow feed.”

He pulled the green stuff off before it charred. The added flavor and nutrition the tender pigweed and wild spinach added to our home-fried potatoes surprised me. But what about my first attempt at baking damper? Hmm, the golden syrup made it palatable!

Over breakfast, the full muster process was explained to me. It was catching feral cattle to deliver to the export market in Darwin. My brother-in-law would fly the Piper to spot wild cattle. By flying low, like a crop duster, he would buzz the cattle, forcing them into the open where the ground crew would take control. The men driving the Toyota and Land Rover would herd them into a temporary paddock. The makeshift corral was made by hanging a few rolls of ‘hessian’ or loosely woven gunny sack fabric over stakes that had been driven into the ground the day before. The paddock was wide where the cattle would enter and quickly narrowed like a funnel to a short ramp leading to a cattle trailer. I could not imagine how flimsy material like hessian could hold cattle. I would find out soon.

A few outliers would not enter the hessian corral. If the outlier were a bull, he’d be chased and bumped by one of the vehicles to wear him down. Then the art of “tailing” a bullock would take place. One of the stockmen would jump off the back of the vehicle, grab the bull’s tail, twist and pull on it to throw the bovine off balance. When done successfully, the bull would fall to the ground. If unsuccessful, the stockman would lose his bragging rights. To secure a downed bull, another stockman would use bull straps to tie the animal’s feet. The captured bullock would then be transported to the trailer by another vehicle.

This particular morning, I’d been invited to get an aerial view of the mustering experience from the plane. I strapped myself into the passenger seat.

My brother-in-law handed me a paper bag. “In case you need to throw up. It’s a rough flight and makes everyone sick.”

“Thanks,” I said, crumpling the bag, determined not to throw up.

Next installment: Ever Tried Tailing a Bull from a Plane?

Visit me at I love hearing from readers. Ask questions or leave a comment about this month’s blog.

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

Installment 5 – brought to you by Tortuga Publishing, LLC


bottom of page