Soudan Station, Barkly Tableland NT

You Can’t Miss It

Of all the cattle stations we visit, Soudan wins the prize for the shortest driveway. You can’t miss it – beside the Barkly highway, 130kms West of Camooweal; the place with the steam engine at the entrance.

In 2009 Jay and Anna Gook and their children Greg and Georgia are into their fifth year at Soudan, which is an outstation of NAPCO’s Alexandria Station. Previously Jay and Anna had been in the Kimberleys, and wanted to shift to an area closer to educational facilities.

Jay spent his childhood years around Taroom, Queensland, helping his Dad with mustering at weekends. “As soon as I was allowed to leave school I headed for the Kimberleys.”

Anna, from Cunnamulla, really wanted to be a jillaroo, but her parents said “No way!. She worked in a bank in Cunnamulla for seven years, and then she was offered a job in the Kimberleys. Thebank refused her refused her request for 12 months leave without pay, so she resigned. She was then too scared to tell her parents. Undeterred, off she went to the Kimberleys and worked in the station store on Mt House Station where she met Jay, who was running the stock camp. Thirteen years in the Kimberleys included experiences at Lissadell, Mabel Downs and Mornington Stations, with a return to Queensland for four years to work in the mines. They hold special memories of their time in the Kimberleys. At Mornington, 360kms from Derby “you couldn’t go anywhere, and nothing moved for four months during the wet season”. Anna particularly loved the wet in the Kimberleys, having been through droughts at Cunnamulla.

Jay and Anna enjoy working for NAPCO, “…really good management with an interest in looking after the country, and the cattle.” Jay explains. “2008 has been a dry year, and the NAPCO properties have plenty of dry feed, which is due to the Barkly being such good country, and also because of good management. NAPCO never overstock, and they have a policy of systematically spelling bores and surrounding paddocks to allow the native Mitchell grass to rejuvenate.

Jay is challenged by, and enjoys working with big numbers of cattle. He also appreciates “that horses are a big part of it.” He believes that horse work educates and quietens the cattle and guarantees weight gains. The emphasis on horse work at Soudan also provides an opportunity for all the Gook family to be involved with horse riding.

Jay and Anna enjoy working with the young people employed at the station, and are impressed with NAPCO’s provision of good facilities and conditions for the workers.

The Barkly is a sociable area, and Soudan, in the middle, receives lots of visitors. There are lots of kids in the region, and social occasions such as the annual Brunette Races are anticipated events. “You get to know a lot of people, and lots of people stay in the area.” In the last three years, Jay and Anna have acquired five race horses, and have become so interested in this sport that it’s outstripping their interest in campdrafting. Jay remembers their first race day at Brunette when he fronted up with their first race horse and asked “What do I do now?” The horse was placed third twice that day; incentive for them to keep the race interest going.

From the rugged isolation of the Kimberleys to the wide open spaces of the Barkly, Jay and Anna have found enjoyment and satisfaction. Their easy going, accepting approach to life, and willingness to contribute to the community, reinforces our impression that they consistently make the most of any situation, wherever they find themselves.

Over the years, Kent Saddlery have supplied Alexandria and Soudan with saddles. We had a good conversation with Jay and Anna about saddles generally, and ours in particular. Jay and Anna each have a Kent saddle, and Anna refers to 2006 when she was helping with the muster, and riding in another saddle. At the end of the day she complained to Jay that she felt like she’d been run over by a truck. She tried a Kent Station Special saddle, and found it was a lot more comfortable. She also had a concern about falling “.. like a bag of cement once you get a bit older,” and says she had heaps more confidence in the Kent saddle. “…You fit in the saddle, you can feel the horse. You’re there, you’re right there. They’re good.”

We’re very grateful for our alliance with Jay who is proactive in encouraging people to purchase Kent saddles.

Jay maintains that Kent saddles are “a good saddle to outlive a jackeroo. Station saddles are treated rough, and your saddles are strong work saddles. I still ride young horses, and Kent saddles are ideal for that purpose.”