Winging to Windorah and Charleville chats
Ewen and I are coming to the end of our MDO odyssey – while the jokes are getting worse, the welcomes we receive and the sights we are seeing make it all worth it. We departed Eromanga after a quick return to the Natural History Museum for Belinda and Corey’s excellent coffees and hit the road to Windorah. Along the way we stopped at my very first outback sand dune, where I marvelled at the colour and thought I found a wild watermelon. Turns out it’s an invasive species which was very disappointing.
Windorah was abuzz with preparations for the opening of their new display hangar, showcasing one of Windorah’s most beloved families – the Kidds. After having the opportunity to purchase back Sandy Kidd’s Cessna 172 from its most recent owners, Cath and Ross, the Windorah community acquired funding to buy the plane, store it safely while a new display hangar was built, and then move it down the road from the airstrip to the hangar to its final home. The stories the plane can tell are truly amazing – Sandy pioneered aerial mustering in Australia, as well as used this little plane to provide emergency support and transport during flooding events in Windorah and surrounds. The hangar also displays a buggy, the bones of which were found on a local station and then carefully restored by a team of local enthusiasts.
Prior to the official opening ceremony and event on the Saturday, we made a pilgrimage to Sando’s Sandhill, a spectacular series of red sandhills named after Sandy Kidd, where we watched the sunset over this glorious outback landscape. We also befriended the dogs from the local pub and managed not to embarrass ourselves too terribly playing pool!
As the opening event grew nearer we made ourselves useful by giving the Cessna and the buggy a careful clean, which was a real privilege. Jo Wills and I have had the pleasure of putting together the interpretation for both the plane and the buggy, and it was a really lovely experience to be up close and personal with a plane that has so many stories and local memories associated with it, and which shows its history through bumps and marks, dents and bends. We also were able to talk to the plane’s most recent owners, Cath and Ross, who told us of their adventures flying it across Australia with Cath as the pilot. The enormous spider which had taken up residence in the wing was deeply unimpressed as we evicted her and her cobwebs.
The event itself was such a pleasure to attend and we both feel incredibly lucky to have had the opportunity to meet the community who have worked so hard to make this space a reality. Lovely speeches and memories of Sandy and his family were shared, including by Bill who taught Sandy and other locals how to fly! The hospitality was incredible and we were very impressed by the local lads and ladies showing off some amazing dance moves. The MDOs will not be taking questions at this time about their dancing skills.
Many thanks to Amanda, Peta, Matt, the whole Simpson family and the Windorah community for making us so welcome and putting together a wonderful celebration.
From Windorah we started the journey back east, watching the landscape gradually change as we passed through Quilpie. We met with the team at the Charleville Historic House where we were treated to fresh scones with jam and cream on a very, very cold morning! It was lovely to catch up with the team and find out what they have been doing, and were able to provide some thoughts on collection management nitty gritty like loan forms and other important collection tasks. The ABC has also opened a Western Queensland office in Charleville, and along with Gabrielle Wheeler, the Historic House’s Treasurer, we shared our thoughts about museums and heritage in the West. Emus were mentioned, and I’m not sorry.
And now we are in Roma, finishing up what has been a true adventure. We have:
- Covered almost 3,000km
- Eaten 16 sachets of microwave porridge between us
- Visited around 25 museums, heritage places or groups
- Seen at least 40 actual live emus and a real live echidna
- Met some of the most interesting, welcoming and passionate people in the West
- Purchased 8 epic souvenir magnets (Elspeth) and 3 souvenir caps (Ewen)
- Developed opinions on Country Life motel soap
- and…have fallen even more in love with objects, histories and stories.
Many thanks to the communities, volunteers, council members and museum teams who welcomed us in and showed us their places, objects and stories. We are so privileged to do the work we do and the communities we work with make it all possible.
Next stop, Toowoomba and Townsville, where Ewen might finally defrost and I might need to buy a new fridge to put my magnets…