Changes of the Heart

I’d been warned about ‘changes of the heart’–the countless little things that change in you–that occur after a child enters the pic Words involving captivation and vulnerability of the heart. And all, it seemed, to obscure and inconceivable sounding degrees.

And maybe because of that, for four months, they remained just that; words.

Four months of nightly bottle feeds, irregular sleeping patterns, cry interpretation and diaper changes all conspired to infiltrate the No Man’s Land separating the two, seemingly opposing forces of Adventure and Fatherhood.

But old habits die hard and, in the end, a go at what was widely regarded as a lucrative gig in the mines beckoned.
I’d only be away for two weeks at a time, the person I now hardly remember explained to Bec, before stressing the advantages of getting my foot in the mining door and the one glorious, paid and unimpeded week at home between swings.

To be honest, Bec wasn’t over the moon but, considering she fully understood the work environment I was putting behind me, debate wasn’t much of an option. So, after kisses for my two ladies complete, off I went leaving Bec to sort the particulars regarding the new face in the house. And I’d do so with little more than that old familiar pang of excitement that comes with any jump off into the unknown.

And that is exactly what the 8 hour bus ride north by northwest from Brisbane via Toowoomba and Dalby and points beyond was; the unknown.

I had driven across the great expanse of emptiness that is Australia’s interior back in 1993. But this was different. Then, the barren and dry nothingness was essentially a large blip between the two points of Sydney and Perth; a blip, as a backpacker merely passing through, I could appreciate as the gateway to Alice Springs and Uluru (Ayer’s Rock). Essentially, that fabled tourist state of mind commonly referred to only as ‘The Outback’.

On the other hand, for the outposts between Dalby and the Woleebee Creek Camp—places with names like Chinchilla, Miles and Wandoan—passing through was not so much the case as settling in was. Rural, sunburned, vast and, seemingly empty, such sweeping farming community vistas were far removed from my own coastal living expectations.

To be kind, let’s just say I didn’t expect such desolate stretches of real estate to likely find themselves on ‘Lonely Planet’s Must See Hot 100’ aBunya Highway 2ny time soon.

And yet, on that first run out to camp, I still found it all enticingly beautiful. Not enough to actually want to live there, of course. Just in a fascinating, recently-received-satellite-images-of-Mars sort of way.

Perhaps my dumbstruck eyes gave me away but the old hand behind me was quick to prep me for what was to come from camp itself. “Camp makes this place look like The Strip in Vegas,” he said with an amused grin.

A couple hours later, compliments of a carefully graded dirt road in the middle of rolling hills the color of a well-worn saddle, I’d learn how right he was.

And, yet, as I opened the door the first time to my 20 x 15ft living quarters (called a ‘donga’ in Aussie parlance) complete with A/C, heat, private en suite, dorm fridge, tea kettle and satellite television, it hardly mattered.

For better or for worse, I was there. The day’s drive through such foreign terrain behind me and with so many questions finally answered, the novelty of the moment assured first impressions were positive.

But the Million Dollar Question I should’ve been asking was, “For how long?”


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