2010, People, Stories and Articles

“Stevo” – Ian Stephenson

Durham Downs, Sth West Qld

“Brownie, cream rice, jelly and custard”

We first met Ian Francis Stevenson, known as Stevo, at Durrie Station, far West Qld about ten years ago. He’s passed retirement age, and has chosen to continue Camp Cooking for S Kidman and Co, a job he’s enjoyed for twelve years.

Raised in Victoria and South Australia, Stevo attended Mernmerna school. “I was a little fella there when Dad worked on the railway for nine years. He was transferred to Oodnadatta, and when I was sixteen I began work as a station hand.” Stevo worked around South Australian stations, (Mt Sarah, Todmorton, Maccumba) was married, and lived in Adelaide for eight years. Yearning after station life, “…being out in the open and breathing fresh air”, Stevo headed back bush. He began working with damsinkers/builders, and then returned to stock work for twelve months at Adria Downs, Birsdville, for the Brooke Family. He transferred to Cordillo Downs for six years with Frankie Booth, and another six years were spent at “Durrie Station”, (S Kidman) managed by Derek Trapp and wife Maxine.

Stevo stayed with Kidmans, transferring to Durham Downs and working for Fergie (John Ferguson), and continuing with current manager, Jon Cobb. “I’ve been here five years, and I’ve done Camp Cooking for ten. I enjoy it …. its easy…. long hours, but easy. Most cooking is inside the camp caravan; there’s not much cooking on the fire these days. I still use a grill iron, and cook damper or brownie in the coals. I had a bedroom in the caravan, but I talked with ‘Cobby’ (Jon Cobb) and it’s now a dining area. I’m just as happy camping outside in a swag.”

Stevo has a set routine when the ringers are camping out. “At 8pm, I shut off the generator, and I put the full billies on the coals to keep the water warm for the morning – ready for a cuppa, or a warm wash if needed. Durham Downs has five main camping spots, and there’s another three on Woomanooka, Durham’s outstation. Camping out is quite different these days, with showers on the camp caravan, and the camp spots have showers and a ‘donkey’.” (a 44 gallon drum set over a fire to heat the water for showers.)

Concerning “the olden days”, Stevo remembers, as a 20 year old, the fear he experienced when he was caught in the middle of a cattle stampede, and he also has vivid memories of pack horses and bronco branding. These days at Durham Downs, Jon Cobb is dedicated to keeping those skills alive, and teaches and encourages the workers to occasionally brand calves at bronco rails. Bronco branding competitions are a feature of many Channel Country social events.
Stevo discloses his age with a laugh, “I was 72 in June this year!” He continues: “If I give camp cooking away, I might as well throw the towel in! I feel 100% better working. I reckon while you’re still fit, keep going. Its twelve years next year I’ve been with the company …I’m too well looked after, and they treat me like family. I still like to help out with the cattle …. I get in the yards, and the young ones boot me out, they don’t like me in there; reckon I’m too slow!”

Consequently, this valued camp cook will continue to cook camp oven roasts and stews, and the ringer’s favourites of cream rice, jelly and custard, dampers and brownies, which “don’t last long”served up for morning smoko.

We’ve had the privilege of eating out at Stevos, and those brownies sure are good!

Image captions:

1) Stevo with the 2002 Durrie (SW Qld) Stockcamp

2) Steve with his camp ovens