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Hitch stories...

Hitch 42

November 2, 1998

Dale Scharf, 54, from Katherine (NT)

Five hour wait (record wait), Katherine to Timber Creek, Isuzu EPV

Photo taken in truckstop

* * * * *

Dale had been living in Katherine since December 19, 1985.

I don’t know why he remembered this date – he just did.

Even in the time he’d been in Katherine he noticed that people weren’t as friendly as they used to be. When he first arrived there, someone would have a BBQ and through word of mouth it would grow and grow and soon every man/woman and his/her dog would be there.

“Now,” he reckoned, “ that doesn’t happen.”

Long before Dale drove a truck as part of his job, he was a drover and rode a horse as part of his job – as a result of riding his horse 6 miles to school each day, it was taken for granted he would become a drover.

Dale left school at age 13 1/2 (getting drunk for the first time at age 14 – on OP rum!) and after several years as a drover, it soon became apparent that there was, “Nothin’ in droving and that shit,” so he went to Mackay looking for work.

Having put in time working down mines, on the railways and in the airforce, he ended up in Katherine working as an electrical linesman.

As I’d noticed with most Territorians, he had a broader grasp on the Aboriginal situation, rather than the seemingly sanitised version fed to the city dwellers.

Having lived and worked with Aborigines for so long, he knew the ins and outs of their culture and the way they thought. Some of his views could’ve easily been construed as racist, but he was merely seeing Aborigines as humans, where skin colour didn’t come into the equation. He didn’t
dislike them – it was just that he knew what they were capable of, both good and bad.

As he told me his story he ate his lunch and, due to the fact that he ate his food with great gusto, he managed to scatter breadcrumbs throughout his huge ‘Santa Claus’ beard. I didn’t say anything because I was sure he’d been used to having his beard collect all sorts of fodder over the years.

Several years earlier, Dale’s wife had posed him the question: “What are you going to do when you’re old?”

He though about it.....and began breaking in horses.

That was about five years before we met and they now had 14 Appaloosas and a couple of Clydesdales. They’d even bought a Sydney Sulky and did shows, weddings etc.

When the Katherine floods struck at the start of 1998, they lost a couple of horses to the floodwaters, which covered most of their land. On three consecutive nights they had rainfalls of 285mm, 54mm and 254mm.

They lived on a few acres just out of Katherine and at one point their back paddock was covered by over three metres of water. The morning after the first night’s rainfall, Dale’s wife was standing at the bedroom window when he asked her how it looked. She simply replied: “You better get your arse out of bed old man!”

As well as the two horses, they lost four goats from which they made their own cheese and 500 free range chooks.

“The problem is,” I was told, “ chooks can’t swim too bloody good!”

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