2013, People, Stories and Articles

Ian and Francine Rush

“Drive and Dedication”

Lyle and Helen’s association with Ian “Rushie” and Francine Rush began in 1998 at Anthony Lagoon Station on the Barkly, NT. At that time, Heytesbury Beef owned the station and Ian was the manager. As we pulled up, a young ringer happened to be driving past in a ute loaded with empty, rattling, noisy forty-four gallon drums. From out of nowhere, Ian “rushed” to reprimand the young man and reminded him of the speed limit and acceptable noise level! We were quickly convinced that “Rushie” was an apt description for the energetic manager. We soon discovered that there is a quieter side to Ian Rush, although his drive and dedication to the industry is, figuratively speaking, quite boisterous. From the time of our first meeting with Ian and Francine, we’ve appreciated Rushie’s enthusiastic support for Kent Saddlery. He has consistently purchased Kent Saddles and gear and we’re grateful.

The bush and horses have been an integral part of Ian Rush’s life. Born in Dirranbandi SouthWest Qld and living in the town, he spent as much time as possible at his uncles’ property “mucking around” with his cousin, Alan Andrews. Ponies and horses were their constant companions and from four years of age he loved to ride. “My first horse was no kid’s pony. My Mum swapped a double bed and a coil of diamond wire for an ex Police horse; saddle, bridle, the lot. We’d ride twenty miles to Pony Club; ….. trot them in, and trot them out. Yeah, we were mad.”

On November 20, 1967, Rushie left home. He’d turned sixteen that year, and started work at Cunningham, a Poll Hereford Stud near Warwick, Sth East QLD. This was the official start of the young stockman’s gamut of experiences in the bush and he accounts for them clearly, demonstrating an ability to recall years, months and days.

From Cunningham he shifted to Bladensburg, starting there on March 3, 1968. He had to leave on July 14 suffering with gangrene in his right shin; the result of a collision between a verandah board and a bandy-legged Ian Rush wearing Cuban heel boots. After three months in hospital, his leg was “fixed up,” and he was back to work at Mt Margaret, Eromanga, QLD.

“Then,” Rushie says quickly, “I pulled out… had enough of sheep.” He headed North to the QLD Gulf and a job at Wondoola Station starting on April 4, 1972 at a time when stock camps would camp out for up to three months at a time. “We’d leave at Easter and come back to the station in time for the Cloncurry Merry Muster and Mt Isa Rodeo.” In December 1973, Cyclone Tracey was bearing down on the area and Ian left the station and couldn’t get back in. He was transferred to Wingadee at Coonamble for six weeks, which turned into twenty-seven months. He returned to Wondoola and in ensuing years took on a variety of jobs…. Handyman in 1976, looking after the troughs and waters, to Grader Driver in 1977, operating a brand new grader, and then Head Stockman in 1978 and 79. Wondoola was sold in September 1979 and Rushie stayed on until Easter 1980.

Back then rodeo was a highlight in Rushie’s life; bulldogging, bronc riding and picking up….. all appealed. The 1980 Mt Isa Rodeo turned out to be one event that Rushie only partly remembers. Picking up on the first night, a buck jumper shied off a shadow, knocking Ian’s horse over, and he came to consciousness twelve days later. “No loss”, he quips, “I can’t remember any of it.” He’d been transferred to intensive care at Brisbane General Hospital and had “died” twice in ten days.

He was in hospital for three weeks, then went home to Dirranbandi, before returning to Wondoola; this time to collect his gear and move on. He actually returned to working with sheep at Brenda near Goodooga where Peter Petersen was manager.

The after effects of the accident had left Rushie unbalanced and unsteady on his feet. No worries. “Chasing sheep, jumping bore drains on a motor bike I got my balance back….. not one buster; I don’t know how.” Rushie explains that a continuing and coincidental legacy of the accident is “I talk fast now.”

Then, a couple of years later, a phone call from cousin Alan Andrews resulted in a big move in terms of distance and destiny. A job opportunity was available at Rosewood Station, just inside the N.T. border. Rushie decided to go and informed Peter Petersen “I’m off to the Territory for five months.” “Come back for the shearing” Peter Peterson urged. “I’ll be back,” said Rushie. Famous last words.

On April 13, 1983 Rushie arrived at Rosewood Station, helped to count twenty thousand cattle, “went back for the shearing,” packed up his gear and began work at Newry Station on the Victoria Highway where his cousin Alan Andrews was the manager. Little did he know that the governess at Newry would attract his attention and down the track, become his wife. Francine had ventured a long way North to Newry from Canberra….. “Eskimo country” volunteers Ian and Francine adds calmly, “to have a look around.” She was a city girl and a country girl at heart. She “always liked the horses,” so at Newry there were plenty of horses and on most mornings she enjoyed the task of trotting the horses.

Newry proved to be a romantic backdrop for the “governess and the cowboy”, and in 1985 they were married. Together, the couple relocated to Moolooloo Station NT on April 1, 1986, staying until February 26, 1992. Their first daughter Anna was born in August of 1991, the family transferred to Anthony Lagoon in 1992, and their second daughter Louise was born in 1993. Anthony Lagoon was home for the next fourteen and a half years and Francine committed to the task of teaching the girls for their Primary years, assisted by the Distance Education network.

Blessed with patience and a quiet, calm nature, Francine regards it a privilege to have taught the girls. “It was great back then; we’d complete extra work so that we could get out on the horses to yard the weaners from the tailing paddock each afternoon. As well, we could start the school work early in the New Year and then get away for some holiday time.”

They were good years and Francine laughs “We didn’t like the wind.” (Whose nickname is the Barkly Breeze). There’s a pause and she reminisces “The kids grew up there enjoying station life and the many get togethers with their friends and neighbours. We were lucky to be there for so long.”

In mid 2006 Anthony Lagoon was sold and the Rushes were required to leave. On the 24th of August 2006 they set out for Wrotham Park Station, inland from Cairns, QLD and they managed it for Great Southern for three years. Then, on January 18, 2010 they arrived in the Territory once more, this time to begin work at Aroona Station near Katherine.

There’s no doubt that Ian’s loyal workmate and wife Francine and his two daughters, Anna and Louise, don’t need to be told how he wants them to work the cattle. “Coacher mustering; it’s the only way to go… block up the lead… pull ‘em up, turn them back into themselves.”

When the Rush family get together they work well as a family team. In 2012, Anna put in some time in the stock camp at Aroona; a second gap year before returning to study in 2013. As well as appreciating having her home, Ian and Francine valued her help with mustering and processing the cattle.

Reflecting on where they’ve been, where they are and plans for the future, Rushie’s contribution is slightly reflective. “When you retire you die, so keep working”, he offers, talking fast. Francine provides a balance, talking about three of their equine pensioners who’ve been with them on their journeys. “Our old stallion, he’s twenty six, and two old mares… good old work horses”, she adds fondly. Simply and quietly, Francine speaks for the family, “we just like the bush and the horses.”

Image caption:

1) Louise, Ian & Anna

2) Louise & Anna… willing helpers

3) Keeping up with the Rushie’s stride… Ian, Anna & horses