2012, People, Stories and Articles

Michael Oehlmann

“Radio Pouches – You don’t even know your wearing them.”
For Michael Oehlmann, better known as Boondi, a two way radio is essential. “You’ve gotta have it really.” Boondi, and the crew in the Durham Downs stock camp carry their radios in Kent Saddlery radio pouches.

Michael is pleased that “the pouches are good and light; you don’t even know you’re wearing them.”
Working with first year ringers, Boondi finds that teaching them to use the radios is a challenge. “I have to tell them, “If I talk to you, ANSWER me!” you don’t know if they’ve got the message or not!” There’s a quiet laugh. “Anyway, its part of the job.” At Durham Downs, horses are used in conjunction with choppers to muster the cattle out of the channels, and communication between the pilots and those on horseback is essential. Michael explains, “everyone has a radio; it makes the job a lot easier.”

“…. gotta be on your game….”
In 2011, Boondi was into his third year as headstockman at Durham Downs. Previously he’d spent three and a half years at Nappa Merrie Station, West of Durham; two of those years as head stockman.

The manager of Nappa Merrie, Peter ‘Whip’ Degoumois, is the one who nicknamed Michael “Boondi” and if anyone talks about Michael in this part of the country, its “Michael? Who’s Michael?” Lyle and Helen have a significant memory of Boondi, when in 2005, a spring on our gooseneck trailer broke. We contacted Whip who sent Boondi out to help. It was a three hour repair job, and Boondi was quietly insistent about being the one to crawl around under the trailer, to do the lions share of the work.

We were grateful for the rescue, and each year that we meet with this “fair dinkum ringer,” our respect for him grows.

“Born and bred at Warwick, QLD, he beganwork at Coolullah Station, North of Cloncurry QLD, in 2001. I finished year 12, and went ringing. I always knew I wanted to do that. I pretty much knew I didn’t want to be a policeman, or a fireman, eh” He then worked in a variety of jobs; droving, then horse breaking…… “that was good,” contract mustering and six months at a feedlot…. “the worst job ever.” The last comment is indicative of the character of a young man who prefers wide open spaces, and mustering cattle on horseback in country where “… you’ve gotta be on your game….all the time, yeah.”

Boondi is passionate about stockwork and the necessity for using horses in the muster. “In that river country you’ve got your coacher mob moving along, and you’re bringing fresh cattle into the coacher mob as you go. Then you might get a couple of toey old bullocks, and you’ve gotta go in there and actually get them out. You’ve gotta be watching them all the time; going through a channel, a lot of those old bullocks will sneak off and take a mob with ‘em. It’s testing country to ride through…..lots of channels, thick scrub and lignum…..it’s bloody good fun in there!” In 2010 and 2011, exceptional rainfall and floods transformed the channel country. Boondi nods towards nearby Cooper Creek. “That river there eh….a big feedlot, great for fattening bullocks.” Jon Cobb manages Durham Downs, and in 2011 the station was carrying around 27,000 head of cattle, including 7,000 breeders. They also operate a big bullock program and everyone at the station is kept very busy. Although Boondi is satisfied and dedicated to remaining in the industry…. “I can’t see myself doing anything else,” he’s mystified and frustrated that young people who join the stock camps don’t stay more than a year, just when they have learned the ropes, and have become really useful members of the team. “ I just can’t understand why…..it’s a bloody good job and somebody’s gotta do it.”

This tall, lean headstockman clearly sees himself as one of those “somebodies.” “I don’t know…. I feel like I’ve built a good name for it, and I’d like to work around this country a couple more years at least. I love it, eh.”