Once everyone had eaten and relaxed a bit, I called everyone back to the table for a station meeting. “As you are all aware, we have a cyclone heading our way, it may not even reach us, but we must be prepared, now since this homestead is the strongest out of all the homesteads it is my recommendation that once all preparations have been completed at the other 7 stations, all staff return to this homestead for shelter.
There is to be no arguments regarding this, safety of staff is my main priority ahead of station property” I said and looked at each station staff member to make sure they understood that I was serious on this matter. “Good, now Mr Brenson, how did it go with contacting your school, just to let you know that your staff and students are welcome to shelter here at the homestead or you can leave the station and seek shelter elsewhere” I said turning to the head teacher.
“At the moment the headmaster says to stay put as he cannot arrange a plane to collect us for another two days, and by then we maybe in lockdown anyway” the head teacher said. I nodded my head in understanding.
As I was thinking what to do next I heard one of the other teachers ask the head teacher in a loud whisper, “is he really the managing director of this station? He looks a bit too young to be in charge”.
I heard the head teacher reply, “That young man is the son of Bryce Silverton, we are on a Silverton station property, just be thankful he is being very generous with his hospitality”. I turned to face away from them as I tried to hold back a laugh, Daniel who had also heard the conversation just smiled at me.
Later in the day Daniel took a call from the school at Perth, advising the head teacher at the station that a road coach was on its way from Kalgoorlie to collect them the following day, and would arrive at about 9am, after an overnight stop at Caiguna Roadhouse.
Daniel was notified that a maintenance team was also on its way to the station from Perth, to look at the plane to see what repairs were needed. Later in the day, Chris and Daniel made their way over to NToC to make sure everything was battened down at the college, all staff and students were away for the Christmas holidays so at the moment it is empty.
Barrett’s family and staff headed home to their stations to the south, as did the station managers for the northern stations. Both making sure everything was tied down, ready for the cyclone. Over the next three days there was a lot of activity everywhere.
The teachers and students had returned to Perth, taking the Prospector train once they had arrived in Kalgoorlie. All the stations had everything tied down, with all perishable food and extra food supplies being brought back to Pondana station, as Matilda continued to head in their direction.
The cyclone, now a category one, had gone between Meekatharra and Wiluna, over the top of Leinster, between Leonora and Laverton, and was heading directly for Pondana, as it is now just north of and between Zanthus and Rawlinna Railway sidings.
Already the winds had picked up a lot and we have had a lot of rain in just the last twelve hours, as everyone was sheltering in the homestead, which has all the windows boarded up and all doors are closed and locked. As it crossed over the Trans Australian Railway line, soon after midday. The adults kept the kids occupied, while I was watching the path of the cyclone via the internet. Thankfully, it managed to stay on. Showing me that it looked like it was tracking east of the homestead.
When the winds finally started to die down, as the cyclone became a low system, and the rain eventually stopped, I felt that it was safe to venture out of the homestead to check on the damage, I was surprised that hardly any trees had been damaged, only a few large branches had broken off, but there were a lot of small branches scattered everywhere, but that was all.
I soon had the staff scattered in all directions around Pondana and to the stations to the north to check on the damages Matilda left behind. The manager of Boonderoo station, radioing in the next morning, “Boonderoo Station to Pondana”?
“Kes here, go ahead Boonderoo”.“Kes, the majority of the buildings are demolished, along with a lot of fencing and trees. Many of the vehicles that had been stored in the sheds are damaged.”
“Don’t touch any structures, but take note of all the damage. Go ahead, collect any personal belongings that you can find and to return to Pondana. Please be careful.”“Will do. See you later Kes”, came a reply.
A short time later, “Barrett to Pondana”.“Kes here. How are things”?“Arubiddy and Moonera stations have been flattened by the cyclone, with not much left of the buildings or equipment. I’ve sent a team of staff to check out the last two stations, Madura and Mundrabilla, to see what condition they are in” Barrett informed me.“Thanks Barrett, keep me up dated, over”.
By mid-afternoon, I had received a phone call from Barrett to say they were all on their way back to Pondana, and that the damage to the last two stations was just minimal building damage, with a few roofs lost on some of the sheds and partial roof lost on the homestead. Daniel and Chris had returned from the college, where they reported no building damage, but a few trees and fences down.
That evening over dinner, I announced “I’m sending the station staff with families from the other stations over to Lochabar station, where the college accommodation would be ideal to house the six families, while all the single staff will remain at Pondana for now.
Also, that I had been in contact with two modular building firms in Kalgoorlie and one in Esperance, to build and send over 3 full size houses for Christine’s family, Nadia’s family, and Marcus’ family when they move to Pondana.
I have ordered another 6 houses for the station families who will be temporarily in the cottages until the houses arrive, and I have decided that Lochabar will be a great location for a station village.I have decided to put plans for NCoST on hold for now. The other directors have agreed with me on this, considering the damage that we have to clean up and the low numbers of enrolments.
The staff quarters will be used as additional staff accommodation when needed, while the student accommodation cabins will be moved to Pondana for additional staff quarters here. Since most single staff will be located here from now on, I have also ordered an additional 3 more hovercrafts, to be used for the extra travelling that will now be needed between stations”.
Pausing for a moment to take a drink, I continued “I have also organised for all staff who want to go to Kalgoorlie for two days to do some shopping for clothes and belongings that need replacing. They can catch the next Indian Pacific to Kalgoorlie in the next morning.
A company gift of $450 per family and $150 per single staff member is available to cover some of the costs of lost items from the cyclone. I have been in contact with our neighbours who are part of the association; they too have been hit hard with damage.
Once we are done with cleaning up and checking water points, I will organise a couple of teams to help them out for a few days” after a few questions had been answered, dinner had been finished and cleared away, I made my way to the office to make some phone calls.
Over the next five weeks everyone in the company was settling into a new routine, the hovercrafts arrived from Perth within a week of ordering them, and additional companies from Perth had been recruited to get the extra houses for the station built quickly.
All 9 houses had arrived at the end of the fourth week after the cyclone, and the families were settling into their new homes. The company stations and all of the neighbouring stations had been cleaned up, and are back to full operation, with just some fencing repairs to be completed when required.
I had received a letter from Dad informing me that he had been told by the family law firm that I had everything in order and that I had dealt with the cyclone disaster with expertise and compassion, and that he was very proud of me. Dad informed me that he was now out of the clinic and was now on a long overseas holiday, enjoying the time and luxury of a well-earned holiday currently in Europe.
I had decided to make Saturday evenings a station BBQ dinner gathering each week, as a regular social event, to get everyone to relax and enjoy everyone’s company. With most of the staff now situated at Pondana or Lochabar stations, this was an easy event to organise as there was not much travelling involved, and on most occasions an RFDS crew would arrive for an overnight stop on that same evening.
As I was sitting on a chair on the veranda, watching the family and staff enjoying our weekly bbq night, it occurred to me that with my 18th birthday approaching that apart from being away at boarding school, I had been at Pondana Station for 12 years now, and now I am the managing director of the two-family companies.
It was also at this time that I was thinking about the previous idea that had been suggested with the three regional private schools, and how that plan had been put on hold due to the changes since the cyclone, and then I thought of another idea, and I stood up to get everyone’s attention.
“What would you say if we host a Foundation Day Weekend - Regional Schools Rodeo, invite the teachers, students and parents of students from the three private schools in Kalgoorlie, Esperance and Albany, I know its short notice, with just 3 months to organise but I’m sure that it can be arranged” I said enthusiastically.
After some short discussions everyone agreed that it would be a great annual event, and the RFDS crew said they would make sure that a crew was on site in case of any accidents.
I ducked over to the office and made three phone calls, to the headmasters of the three schools. Thankfully, I was able to reach them on a Saturday night. I received a positive response from all three of them, but they did say it would depend on the parents and students on whether they would travel the long distances to the station.
I mentioned to the three headmasters, that as part of the sponsorship of the event, I would refuel each of the vehicles of participating students and staff of the three schools, for the return journey. Also, there would be trophies and prizes for each of the events. I said I would have information faxed to them within a few days. It would include maps on how to get to the station and all required information.
After the phone calls, I returned to the BBQ crowd, announcing “Everyone, it looks like the event was a go, and I asked that a staff meeting be held in the morning to start planning the event. It’s only three weeks away.”
A chorus of cheers rang out. The next day after the RFDS team had left, a full staff meeting was held in the large recreation area, away from the heat of the day’s summer sun. We split into four teams; the first compiled a list of supplies and equipment needed, arranging transportable ablutions, setting up the rodeo arena, including seating for about 250 people.
The second team would organise the portable lighting trailers, portable power generators, large portable gazebos for shelter for seating and eating in the day, and for cover for those camping in swags at night. This took nearly most of the day for both teams to complete their tasks, and by afternoon tea time, everything was put into place for organising.
The third team started working on the programme of events for the weekend, what the prizes would be, and what order the events would be held in. Some poster designs had been put together, with the best one selected. I copied and emailed the poster to the three schools, along with the road directions and maps on how to get to the station. Plus, I included the master copies of application forms for participating in events. The final team would be organising the catering for the people attending.
Copyright 2018 Preston Wigglesworth, All Rights are Reserved