Day 122 | 40km from the WA border: we drag ourselves away from Bruce's crazy stories

91 km | Heading west total: 5,274 km

I’m known for having a chat with people I meet along the way.

Today it was with the owner of the Flat Rabbit Roadhouse, Bruce, quite the most foul mouthed bloke I’ve met for many a year.

Umm . . . ever.

I wanted to know how Bruce came to get the roadhouse built.

It was a colourful description and story. In 1969 the road was just being put through for the road trains and he managed to find a waterhole from an aerial photograph. With no money, but backing from the local station owners, he managed to get a lease surveyed for 4 acres where the roadhouse was built. But it wasn’t that straight forward. The Territory Administration insisted that he bid for the lease at an auction in Alice Springs where it turned out he was the only bidder at a big $17.50c.

Over the years he managed to add bits to it to take the total area up to about 40 acres. About 1978, just prior to self government and wary of native title rights, the administrator Barry Everingham organised freehold title for everyone in the territory who then could only have leasehold land in the town’s residential areas. Bruce argued he should be freehold as well and was asked in a letter how much land he wanted and how much he wanted to pay for the transfer. He had put in a well, a generator, the airstrip (not on his land and without seeking permission), etc and provided an essential service and told them he didn’t want to pay anything.

There was a hearing with the Traditional Owners: he’d always had a testy relationship with the local aboriginals, primarily about serving alcohol at the only bar within a day’s drive. There was a side story here about closing the bar and having to scare off the patrons with a loaded shotgun on a few occasions. Occasionally there was a discharge or two required. Even now he’d stopped serving the locals because of a fire that had come rather too close to the roadhouse. But he had also rescued a group of elderly people who were stranded on the track in 50°C heat without much water some years previously. They turned up to a hearing in Alice and turned out to be the Traditional Owners.

Bruce asked for 40 square miles to run a few cattle but they ended up letting him have only 4.

Cost? zilch.

It’s an oasis now with a lot of his hard work.

The bureaucrats had recently told him he needed to upgrade the petrol storage tank which had originally been blasted out in solid limestone. He’s reached the stage in life, early seventies I guessed, where he can’t be bothered with another battle: the roadhouse will close in about 18 months time. It’ll then be over 600 km from the fuel in Yuendemu to Billiluna.

He won’t be selling.