Stacy and I were in need of a stiff drink after the heart stopping drive to Saddleback lookout! We should have minded the sign that cautioned the very steep and narrow track but had falsely deemed ourselves to be the experienced 4 x 4 drivers that were allowed to enter.
We sat down at the wilderness park bar and ordered a cold beer. Only a few gulps in, we heard a raspy voice call out, “You girls come over here, let’s have a yawn (Aussie slang for chat). Perched below a cow skull and a wooden sign reading “Buddy’s Rest” was no other than the legendary Buddy himself.
Originally from Queesnsland but having lived his past twenty years in El Questro, Buddy is as permanent a fixture to El Questro Wilderness Park as the cattle on the ranch. He told us he “ain’t going anywhere any time soon.”
Buddy is a retired cowboy who won Australia’s first organized rodeo in 1963. When I asked him if he still rides he replied with a hearty laugh, “Do you know how old I am girl? I’d be flat out on a shit house seat with the door closed and a strong wind.”
The night was filled with “Buddyisms” and complimentary glasses of red wine over ice. I asked Buddy why he drinks his red wine chilled he replied “because there is no other way to drink it in these parts, unless you like your wine boiling.” “Fair enough,” I agreed and accepted a top up of ice and wine.
Buddy told us stories from his rodeo days when he was “as skinny as a greyhound on a diet.” He rode all over the states and even had a few cameos in western films that to his disappointment neither of us had heard of. He showed us photos from his modeling days. A fine young stallion he was, we all agreed. He boasted of having stayed at George Straight’s house for a week and dropped a few other noteworthy names.
“Hey Shorty,” he yelled at the girl behind the bar. “Plug in my ipod, will ya?” As Willy sang us a song from Buddy’s old school country mix, I struggled in the heat and a light head to take in the entire scene unfolding around me. There was something very special about this place and a feeling of being transported back in time. Buddy informed us the park was hiring and suggested that we both apply for jobs. I pondered how different my life would be if I were to live on a ranch in the middle of the Outback indefinitely. If anyone had suggested this idea to me before I visited El Questro, I would have claimed my city girl status. But that night as a warm breeze blew to the tune of Johnny Cash, the cowgirl in me emerged. I realized I might actually enjoy shooting the shit with Buddy each night, listening to his stories, soaking up his wisdom, and singing all those country music lyrics that came back to me as easily as my southern twang. While at first I didn’t understand how Buddy could have lived in there for so long, I was starting to understand and appreciate this very different way of life.
Buddy ordered us a cheese plate on the house that Stacy and I devoured being a delicacy we had long forsaken when the cost of a bag of ice reached $6 in the Kimberley region. When I suggested to Buddy that he should eat something, he just chuckle at me and asked “When did I marry you?”
He yelled for Shorty to bring out another bottle of red. Stacy and I declined another pour fearing our planned hike to Emma Gorge the following morning would be painful with a massive hangover in 35 degree Outback heat.
“On a fair dinkum note, good night girls.” He gave us each an autographed postcard, under his photo read “Buddy Tyson – A Cultured Coloured Gentleman” and the quote “The greatest gift in life is life itself.”
We hugged Buddy goodbye and each got an unexpected ass grab and wink from the old man eliciting bouts of laughter throughout the bar.
As we walked away, Buddy called after us with his last words of wisdom …
“Be good to ya mother and don’t walk upstairs backwards!”
Mr. Buddy Tyson passed away on October 20, 2011 leaving those who knew him wondering if El Questro will ever be the same after the very memorable Outback icon.