Legends from our own lunchtimes

Monday, June 30, 2008


Yalleroi couldn’t be described as a one horse town, at least not at the time we visited There were in no actual horses to be seen, nor were there any other residents than the sole occupant of the Public House, which was exactly that a house which was open to the public.

It was a house in those days, but with the passing of another thirty years or so, it would probably now be described as little more than a hut. It had two modest if not small rooms with a verandah at each end, one of which featured a little infill at the back corner which served as a kitchen. It was typical of the historic style of housing born from necessity in the 19th century.

The Public Bar consumed the one of the rooms in its entirety, it was simply furnished with a total inventory comprising one domestic dining table in the centre clad in a green marble laminex with a screwed aluminium edge strip which screamed “1955”. Half a dozen non-matching chairs sat around it, and in the corner of the room was a rounded Pope kerosine refrigerator which looked as though it had been sulking there for half a century, and it probably had been.

The fridge held the entire stock of alcoholic beverage available to the public, one brand of beer, thoughtfully packaged in a type of bottle known as “the stubby” which at the time was the ubiquitous measure of driving distance in country Queensland. If it was more than a stubby away, you knew you’d have to pack the Esky, and by golly a six pack trip could even mean stopping for fuel before you came home.

The cash register was in the centre of the table, and comprised a solitary ice-cream tin about a third filled with coins and notes of varying denominations. The tin itself was of the two litre (or half gallon as it was known) variety, made of metal not the plastic which has become all too familiar, at a time when a half gallon tin of icecream cost as much as a small television set.

The publican was the sort of friendly ancient bloke that one often meets at the end of a long trip when one is in the middle of nowhere with a disabled vehicle. He explained as he watched us chewing remorselessly on an entire box of chewing gum that once resided on his table beside the till tin, that he was the only one in town that week, as everyone else was out on a muster, but his dogs were around the place somewhere. They would he assured us, be back before dark.

He waved us off with the shake of his head, and welcomed us back less than ten minutes later with an identical shake. I actually wondered at the time if it hadn’t quite finished its farewell shake.

Clearly he was going to have guests at his hotel for the night. The problem with that of course was that the other room, was where he lived with all of his earthly belongings, but we were welcome to camp on the verandah, which would at least keep our swags off the ground when the night temperatures in the outback took their customary plunge.

By this time the last of the sun had almost disappeared, and he ducked away for a minute to start “the genny”, a hotchpotch generator powered by an old wartime truck engine, which powered the entire town. Everyone in Yalleroi went to bed at pub closing time, because that was when the genny was switched off. On his return he was accompanied by three hulking and somewhat terrifying shadows, who he introduced as his dogs.

These things were huge, they seemed to be part lion, part shark, and part very ugly dog, and he regaled us as he served some of his corned beef and damper, with tales of how they’d kill all manner of animal and human by the simple expedient of removing the innards of their opponents. No need to lock anything up he proudly explained and nodding in the direction of the till, a thief would be dead before he got to the door.

The dogs he said were sort of like werewolves in a way, by day they’d hunt if they were commanded to, but were as gentle as they were immense. By night however, every piece of the vicious gene manifested itself in murderous behaviour. Pity help any one or anything that fell across their path.

That night he told us all sorts of mustering tales, and drew maps of where we could find waterholes on the way back, and lent us a pair of plyers to crimp the leaking radiator closed, and showed us how to seal the rest with clay and straw.

As he was about to retire, and we rolled out our sleeping bags on the verandah floor, we nervously enquired if the the dogs knew we were their friends.

“Oh yeah they won’t worry you” came his cheery reply,

“As long as you don’t move once I turn the lights out.”



Anonymous said...

Wow! I have heard many stories about 'Yalleroi'. My father worked there as a young lad during the 50s and 60s as a drover. I am trying to piece together some information about where he lived and worked. Thanks for your descriptive summary of your experience at Yalleroi.

Anonymous said...

Hi, I am wondering if I could use your memories in our museum - we are connected to Yalleroi - email suesmig@gmail.com look forward to hearing from you.

Anonymous said...

Info on Yalleroi is very limited. Could I use your blog in our museum, we are connected to Yalleroi. my email is suesmig@gmail.com Thank you.

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