Outback MagazineOutback Magazine


The quintessential bushman

Story Richard Bassed
Photos Glenys Nalder

ImageOccasionally, if you are lucky, you meet someone who irrevocably alters you life. Owen Davies is such a person. I met him a couple of years ago on a safari in the Northern Territory's gulf country.

He was working with the safari operator, and without him the company would have been just like any other tourist operation. He provided the tourists with something beyond their experience - things they had only ever seen on TV or read in books.

Owen is the quintessential bushman. He is Malcolm Douglas, the Bush Tucker Man, the Barefoot Bushman and Harry Butler all rolled into one. Long and lanky, stockwhip thin and ironbark tough, Banjo Paterson would have loved to have written about him.

He can fix anything, build anything and eat anything. He can enthrall you with a story from his past, and knows the ways of the bush the way city people know the way home from work. He has worked on cattle stations all over the place, and lived in Aboriginal communities.

He can play the didgeridoo as well as anyone and can live on bush tucker in places where most people would starve. In the city he is a fish out of water with absolutely no sense of direction. In the bush he can find his way anywhere without a GPS or compass. All he needs is a glimpse of the sun and his own internal compass, well tuned to his surroundings.

ImageDuring that safari I learned of a cattle station for sale "just down the road" from where we camped. "Just down the road" is Owen's term for an eight-hour drive over pot-holed dirt tracks, as I was to discover, much to the disgust of my tender city-trained posterior.

I have harboured a childhood dream to own a cattle station, maybe because I had read too many wonderful tales of outback adventure. But the dream persisted, and here was my chance to attempt to fulfill it. The station was known as Pungalina - 500,000 acres of almost virgin bush set astride the magnificent Culvert River, and abandoned for 15 years.

No-one really knew what was there. Story end

Full story: Issue 22, April/ May 2002

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