Words: Xavier Menage
Photos: Larry McKeown
June 9th, 2012
RIDING WITH THE CLONTARF COWBOYS
The inaugural “Riding with Cowboys” community horse ride was held in Halls Creek on May 25 and 26, 2012. The event was a joint activity between the Clontarf Foundation’s Halls Creek Academy and Bina-waji Nyurra-nga Aboriginal Corporation (the managers of Burks Park Station).
Clontarf partners, government agencies, stakeholders and members of the local community were invited to take part in the overnight horse ride across the beautiful country of Burks Park Station. The ride was led by the Clontarf Halls Creek Cowboys, the aim being to provide these boys with an avenue to get involved and contribute to their local community.
The invited guests who saddled up and hit the trail with the Cowboys included Clontarf Foundation CEO Gerard Neesham and representatives from Caltex, Tropical Forestry Services, Halls Creek District High School, the Local Operations Centre and various government departments (Child Protection, Human Services, Housing, Agriculture, Justice).
After a welcome lunch at Burks Park homestead, it was an impressive sight to behold a group of over 25 riders set off for their adventure together under clear blue skies on a picture perfect day. There was lots of banter and mingling amongst the bobbing throng of cowboy hats and driza-bones as the riders got to know each other a little more, while they appreciated the beautiful scenery during their 11km journey to Shivorns campsite.
Upon arriving at the campsite, riders, horses, vehicles, support crew and locals from town who had come out for the night converged in the late afternoon light, and there was a buzz of activity as the horses were unsaddled and left to wander around for a well earned feed and drink at the nearby water holes. Camp fires were lit, tales were swapped over cups of tea, and the sizzle and smell of tasty things cooking on the BBQ promised a good night ahead for all.
As night fell and packs of dingoes started howling in the distance, around 50 people sat around the glow of camp fires, relaxed together and enjoyed their dinner. With no mobile reception, TV, Xboxes or other outside distractions, instead there was yarning, music, singing and star gazing as the order of the night, before the campers wandered off one by one to their swags for a good night’s sleep.
A crisp dawn broke the next day to a campfire breakfast of bacon and eggs, and the herding and resaddling of the horses for the return ride to Burks Park homestead. The glorious weather and upbeat mood continued right through to a big lunch feast kindly prepared by the staff at Halls Creek District High School. The efforts of Burks Park hosts Roy and Helen Wilson, Clontarf staff and others who had made the event possible were recognised, and thanks also went to everyone who had come from near or far to participate in and support the event. It was then time for the guests to say farewell and head home at the end of their positive Halls Creek adventure.
Overall, the first “Riding with Cowboys” was a big success and the Clontarf boys did a superb job as hosts. In addition to leading the actual horse ride, the Cowboys assisted in preparing the horses and saddles, transporting equipment and supplies, setting up the campsite, cooking the BBQ killer for dinner and the bacon and eggs for breakfast, as well as welcoming and interacting with the invited guests throughout the event. By stepping up, taking on their responsibilities and representing themselves proudly, the boys have helped to ensure that the event will become a regular annual fixture for the Halls Creek community and grow into something bigger and better in the years ahead.
Getting the horse riding gear ready
Boyo just keeping an eye on things
Mustering yard before the start of the ride
Riccardo and Gerard get ready to head off
Cowboys on the trail
Unsaddling the horses at the campsite
Clontarf boys share a joke at the end of a long ride
Jordan warms his feet at the campfire
Leon and Anthony relaxing around the campfire
When Roy talks, you better listen!
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