“Pete and I were probably much happier accepting help than money – we sit down to a good meal every night, but that help was fantastic.”
Rosie and Peter Bryant, from Albury, south of Mungallala, were among 13 landholders that received hands-on help from a group of RACQ mechanics last week, working to assist people struggling with extended drought conditions.
RACQ Foundation spokeswoman, Kirsty Clinton, said the visit to Morven and surrounds was part of their drought assistance project.
“Producers in Morven and other Queensland communities affected by drought are under huge pressure, with many working day and night to keep themselves and their properties afloat,” Ms Clinton said. “Our RACQ mechanics lent a hand fixing tractors, machinery and other general farm maintenance to ease some of that pressure for them.”
At the end of the five-day program, the fifth undertaken by the RACQ Foundation, they combined with Drought Angels to offer an RDO – a Rural Day Out – for the graziers who have been officially drought-stricken since April 2013.
Read more: Drought fix-up crew at Cunnamulla
It was very welcome news for Peter and Rosie when they read about the venture in the RACQ magazine a few months ago.
”We're not financially on our knees but Pete is forever coming in saying, your bike needs this or that truck should have that done but I just haven't got time,” Rosie said.
Peter described it as practical, and good company to boot.
“They did nearly two days of work. What they did would take me probably a week or more to do.
“We need our vehicles reliable. We don't want to be stuck at whoop whoop, or someone gets hurt.
“It was well organised, nothing was too much, and they knew what they were doing, that's a big thing.
“There was a Toyota here with a leaking water pump – it's not just pull it off and put a new one on – you had to take the timing belt off.
“I'd been dodging it for a couple of months, kicking the tyres and filling it up with water and leaving the radiator cap loose, but they had it going, and they did the wheel bearings.
“And they gave us two batteries.”
At the end of the day the Bryants were able to repay the men with a hearty meal of roast leg of Dorper and share stories of each other’s lives.
For Peter and Rosie, it helped get their minds off the stock that need feeding every day.
“When you walk in that back gate of an evening you shouldn't bring it all in – you should sit in there and talk about something else,” Peter said. “But you always seem to talk about the weather.”
While the machinery got a good servicing at the McKellar family property, Booka, east of Augathella, it was a water project that the RACQ mechanics spent most of their time tackling.
They helped install five kilometres of irrigation pipe up off the ground for the family’s desert lime orchard, which is expected to make it easier to find sections that aren’t working, and attend to them.
Michael admitted that he was typical of most in that he didn’t sign up for the program at first, reasoning that others would be worse off than themselves.
“I had to talk him into it,” Helen said. “He services the machines when he needs to. I said, this is an opportunity just to get it all done and it's one job you don't have to do yourself.”
Mike said he was the first to say that what the men had done in two days would have been at least a week’s work for himself.
“I would have serviced the machines eventually but it would have been on a needs basis. And down at the orchard, that needed to be done but it was a lower priority.
“When the message from RACQ came out we were still pushing scrub and putting lick out.
“I was spending four hours on the dozer every second day. We had to push in a couple of different spots on the place so it had to be walked around.”
They said they had limped through the last few years but it was the last two that had hit the hardest, especially when they had to take cattle out of the organic system to feed them, meaning the RACQ Foundation help had been very welcome.
It was a feeling reciprocated by the men on the ground as well.
At Booka, that was Steve Hine and Rob Carnell, who grew up at Dalby and Stanthorpe respectively.
“Every property we've been to, they've all said, come back whenever you want,” Rob said.
“I know I definitely will. Farmers appreciate you.
“It's all breakdown stuff we do in the city, whereas this is more maintenance, a bit more extended time.”
They were called on for all sorts of jobs – a Russian tractor with a horsehair filter, overheating dozers, rooms that needed painting – and said they found only one item, a whipper snipper, that was beyond repair.