Overseas Tour 2011

Who would have thought this year's tour could possibly be as good (or even better) than last year's? But it was...

First week, schools, concerts, performing every day and every night. Then off to the inaugural Colorado Cowboy Gathering. Opening act in the main concert first night and a terrific reaction. (whew) What a thrill to be on stage with the legendary Riders in the Sky! Next day and the first themed concert was to start at 10am. By five past ten all simultaneous sessions were full and the halls were packed! Entertainers stepped up to the plate and raced from one concert to another. The main auditorium had to be opened up and we all 'bounced off each other' in impromptu performances that rocked the crowds.
The chuck wagons were cooking up a real cowboy storm all day for the dinner and meet and greet with the sponsors and fans before the Saturday Night show. Poets and musos were all staying at the La Quinta Inn and the jam session parties till the wee small hours were just amazing.
A diehard group of us headed next day to the National Stock Show in Denver where I got to 'hop on' an 18.2 hand Percheron (humungous!) and a big Brahman steer.
wagon trainGot to hand it to the Yanks. Even the most ordinary events were staged in such an entertaining way, the atmosphere in the Colosseum was electric. Saw the six horse hitch final (sixty six horses and wagons in the arena at once), the Draft Horse pulling contest (eek), mule and donkey events truly surprising.
Dinner that night at a huge fully restored saloon where the tables were four poster beds and a carriage took centre stage. Then to the Buckhorn Exchange (420 shot and stuffed animal heads on the walls (eek again!). We all sang along to the old cowboy songs - heaven.
Writing workshops and more schools followed but the hit with kids right up to high school, was my stockwhip - I had to crack it in just about every school in Colorado.
The final week and my new friends took me out, day and night, just EVERYWHERE - from breakfasts at diners straight out of Happy Days to Mexican Cantinas and from a jaw-dropping five star horse stud to a fair dinkum little 'country' town ranch house for dinner with one of the cowboys from the gathering.
The real adventure, though, emerged as a result of my passion to see more four legged critters. Yup. I got taken on a Moose Hunt. I stayed overnight at Conifer in the Rocky Mountains at the home of Rex Rideout, singer, musician, historian and mountain man and set off in his 4WD jeep into the wilds, heading for way above the tree line. It was very nearly a disaster, but let me tell you the TRUE story, in verse.

Farce in the Pass

There's some strange up-country noises no-one's ever heard before,
in that section of the Rockies way above Grant's Country Store.
Way above Geneva Basin, way above Guanella Pass,
where pursuit of local critters has become a bloomin' farce.

See, this sheila from Australia nagged at Rex, the Mountain Man.
to try to find some big horn sheep, so hatched this whacky plan.
And the plan was not restricted; it included elk and moose
and Rex, who's so obliging, went along then, with the ruse...

High country it would have to be; we set off straight away.
The winter sun was shining on a Colorado day.
So with great enthusiasm, rugged up well against the freeze,
we set off to find the mooses (meises..?) armed with crackers and some cheese. (for us)

Now, despite the preparations (phone the Ranger, check the road)
someone hadn't told the mountain the "Be Kind to Tourists" code.
While yours truly searched for critters, Rex ploughed on with great finesse
but despite the chains and Four Wheel Drive, we soon were in a mess.

The road ahead impassable, no choice but to retreat.
(Wise move. I'd grabbed the handle on the darned ejector seat.)
The track was pretty narrow, not a level patch of ground.
We dug our wheels out free at last but couldn't turn around.

If you think uphill is dicey - all you do is pray and curse -
well going downhill backwards, mate 's a whole lot flaming worse.
I was listenin' for those noises, when the jeep slid off, and...well,
no longer was it heaven. We had ended up in...hell.

We were mighty high (I touched the sky) and not a soul in 'Cooee!'
so trudged off to oblivion and still no critters - phooey!
The altitude was probably about nine thousand feet.
The snow was deep, the air was thin, the sun was in retreat.

I kept 'Mum' about the heart attack I'd had a few years back.
And to tell Rex of my half a lung would be a little slack.
We trudged on to Antarctica, (well, half way there I reckon),
then found another group was stuck and went across to check... on.

A mob of bikies - big and tough- but not with mountain know how.
We started in to dig 'em out but could have used a snow plough.
No cell phones and no sighter flares, no S.O.S. by e-mail.
Blokes' frozen fingers fixing chains (thank God to be a female).

When rescued, they were quick to cry the war cry of the hero.
"We'll now go up and bring you back!" The chances though, were... zero.
The chains flew off the spinning wheels into the wild white yonder.
Rex went off to find them on a solitary wander.

'Twas 'bout a half an hour before I realised my plight.
I was stranded - with the bikies! And my Rex nowhere in sight!
I had a little panic; 'magination took a hold.
(What stupid thoughts, you stupid girl. You're ugly and you're old.)

Rex returned (without the chains). We gave the game away.
We'd been digging out the wheels with only snowshoes, half the day.
We all made it to the bottom. Calls for help met with indifference.
We'd an eerie superstition we had landed in "Deliverance."

As daylight shadows deepened, super hero at the door,
in the form of 'Ice Road Trucker Bill' an awesome sight for sure.
He needs no chains or shovels! Jeeps and winches, he's gung-ho!
Clad in cotton shirt and sneakers while I'm dressed in Eskimo.

Big snow tyres and those 'walking diffs' to tackle Nature's best
and how we clung like leeches as she put us to the test.
What a team of riders on that twisting, bucking hell!
'Eight seconds would be long enough. For gosh sakes, ring the bell!'

But now the trophy's sighted, just the windows peeping out.
She's winched, she's hauled, she's free at last. Now, did we ever doubt?
But facing UP the hill. Wait. Who's the cowboy in the saddle?
It's Bill from Bailey at the wheel so everyone skedaddle!

We're up to knees; we're in the trees, we're holding on our breath,
as Bill spins round and round and round, defying certain death.
Wahoo! We're heading homeward in the evening's icy chill.
And what a great adventure. All that's left is pay the... Bill.

Well, I'm in another country. What else was I to do?
What? You're giving me direction how to find the local zoo?
But what memories for a lifetime. Oh boy, you should have seen us.
And those noises in the mountains? Critters. Laughing like hyenas...


The blizzard was coming in but relieved, exhausted and famished, we decided to go straight out to dinner and what a memory - The Fort Restaurant, a replica adobe fort, complete with ramparts surrounding a big open courtyard and even an authentic Frontiersman. We started with the traditional drink - a Hailstorm. Take a handful of hail (or crushed ice), whisky, sweetener (melted sugar syrup), and fresh mint leaves in a jar with lid and shake like hell. WOW! And to eat? Buffalo fillet, elk chop and quail in huckleberry sauce. To die for. Last day and it's finally snowing like you wouldn't believe. I stepped of the plan in Sydney wearing - to avoid excess baggage - snow boots, parka, scarves and about four layers of shopping, straight into a heat wave.

Welcome home, Carol. Start packing now for next year as they've already booked you!


To Colorado again and school performances and workshops. The National Cowboy Gathering at the Western FolklifeCentre in Elko, Nevada followed. Iwas thrilled to again be the entertainer on the Ranch Tour