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Real Life

How The Outback stole this city girl's heart

Rebecca Burge, 52, from Mount Garnet, Qld, tells Take 5 how she left city life for a land of rats, snakes and spiders.

A loud commotion erupted from our outside toilet.
'What’s going on?' I wondered, running into the yard.
It was my eldest son, Nicholas, then eight.
“There’s a snake!” he cried.
My blood froze.
“Where?” I yelled.
“Behind you!” my son Samuel, then six, squealed.
Turning around, I saw a giant python. And it was staring right at me!
Suddenly, out of nowhere, my husband, Richard appeared.
With a broom, he calmly shooed the snake away.
Growing up just outside of Adelaide, I was more accustomed to the safe comfort of city life.
I was used to indoor bathrooms, coffee shops on every corner and definitely no snakes!
I guess that’s what you get for falling in love with a country boy.
We’d met when we were both 21. I was drawn to his sun-bleached blond hair and bright blue eyes.
We were so different, he’d grown up on a cattle station in remote Queensland and I grew up in the comfort of a suburban life.
After travelling, I enrolled in a midwifery course in Queensland. It was a day-long bus journey to see Richard in the small town of Banana, Qld, where he lived, about 160km inland from Gladstone.
As I left the brightly lit shopping malls and tall buildings behind, replaced by paddocks and fences, I started to wonder what I’d done!
But when I saw Richard, waiting beside his ute, my tummy flipped with happiness. With him, I could do anything.
For a week, we stayed at Richard’s family’s cattle station.
It was my first taste of life in the outback. Their house was like one in town, but on a farm.
We were an hour from the nearest town and half an hour from any neighbours.
I was used to just popping to the shops whenever I fancied.
“Can we go horseriding?” I asked one day.
Richard looked confused.
Horses were for working, not a hobby.
Richard’s parents John and Penny had concerns about whether I was cut out for the hard working country life. I didn’t blame them. I’d never been so far out of my comfort zone. No restaurants around the corner and no hot water if you ran out.
But despite being on a steep learning curve, I was excited about my new life.
Two years after we first met, Richard proposed on top of a beautiful hill. I was so excited to be marrying the man of my dreams.
After our wedding, Richard and I moved to a property north of Charters Towers – eight hours north.
When we arrived, there were no flyscreens, and rats were everywhere.
I had to check for spiders under the toilet seat and watch out for snakes.
We lived there for 18 months before moving into town where we bought a newsagency and lived in the house behind it.
Over the next few years, we welcomed four sons, Nicholas, Samuel, Harry, and Angus.
Eventually, we moved to ‘Lamond’s Lagoon’ cattle station, 100km away from the nearest town, and well and truly in the middle of nowhere!
It took two hours to get to town where I’d do our grocery shopping every few months and make sure we were stocked up.
There was no Coles nearby if we’d forgotten something.
Rebecca loves life in The Bush!
I had trained as a nurse so any injuries I could handle until help arrived.
I home schooled the kids while Richard worked the land.
During our tri-yearly musters, we could have up to six extra hands helping him out with the 3000 head of cattle.
When I fell pregnant again, I should have been more concerned about going into labour so far away from town, but with my training and the flying doctors only a phone call away, I stayed calm.
However, we avoided any potential issues when our baby was delivered via caesarean during my final check-up.
Our fifth son, Lachlan, made our family complete.
Snake bites and broken bones were the least of my problems as my biggest challenge was keeping our boys in the classroom!
Just like their dad, all they wanted to do was be outside.
It’s not all fun and games, though. We’ve experienced everything from bushfires to floods and cyclones.
In the wet season, our creek would rise so high, crossing was impossible. Luckily, we were always stocked up with food.
But when Cyclone Yasi hit in 2011, we lost hundreds of cattle. We had no income for a whole year. It was so hard but we still had our health and that was enough to be grateful for.
Droughts and bushfires have caused us a fair bit of grief. We feared we’d lose the majority of our cattle in a fire once, but fortunately the rain saved us.
My friends tell me they don’t know how I left my old life behind. I swapped dresses for an akubra, and high heels for blue heelers, but I haven’t regretted it for a second.
With Richard by my side, I feel like I can do anything.
Rebecca has written a book about her amazing journey

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