Not many towns in the modern world enjoy the isolated status of Ockerroo, literally at road’s end. In this case, a straight line 250 miles west of Burke, then going exactly nowhere.
There is such a place way up north, called Urala. Just like Ockerroo, the government constructed a beaut bitumen road which ran right through the centre of town and stopped at the big wide river. The powers that be said ‘Cripes, that looks a bit stupid.’ So they up and built a dirty big steel bridge that stopped right at the edge of the massive jungle on the opposite bank.
They could well be twin towns, except Ockerroo does not own up to having a river, let alone a massive jungle.
Ockerroo has heat, flies, dust, everything associated with arid, and four million emus.
The population could be divided into three distinct socio-economic groups — them what arrived to visit and then for some weird, inexplicable reason decided to establish their roots; those, like police sergeant Clappers Clarke and his ever loving missus, Sal, who were transferred and had no say in the matter; and the third, consisting entirely of human souls proudly wearing the Dole Bludger badge of honour, happy individuals who opted to divorce themselves from the ‘Establishment’ in return for a fortnightly welfare payment.
They were in fact, almost the sole source of income for the one dunny town of Ockerroo.
‘What do you reckon Milly Centerfold is up to now, sarge?’
Quiet words from constable Bent, who might well have been reading the town’s news bulletin. Milly’s mysterious activities up and down the main street, and even as far distant as Burke, had stimulated chatter that would have put a flock of noisy miners to shame.
‘Guess that is for her to know and us not to lose sleep about,’ says Clappers, before pulling rank to score extra shade under the town’s only bottle tree.
‘They reckon it is Matthieu that’s doing all the teaching these days.’
‘Have you got a problem with that, constable? asks Clappers. ’Mr Daltonio owns up to more brains than you, I and Oscar put together. I reckon the kids’ schooling, under a highly-educated university-trained dole bludger, shows much foresight and excellent employment of available human resources.
‘Miss Centerfold deserves all the support you can muster, constable Bent, unless of course you are bent on being transferred to somewhere most undesirable for ones future welfare.’
‘Yeah, yeah, of course sarge, after you I am Milly’s number one fan. Guess that means we’re going to the special extraordinary town meeting she has called for at Mulligan’s on Friday night.’
‘Spot on, constable. Now, if you have nothing better to do, piss off and spread the word to all and sundry.’
’What’s the meeting all about sarge?’
’Don’t know, don’t care. If Milly says it’s important, then that is good enough for me!’
Constable Bent had intended to ask Clappers if he had noticed Milly was spending much time of late being extra matey with Herman Fleischer, and did that mean Ockerroo’s butcher was getting in for his chop? Somehow the more intelligent side of his brain transferred the thought down to his belly-button where it escaped into nothingness.
There were two meeting places in Ockerroo, one being the school of arts hall, where you would be assured next to no-one would turn up to hear what you had to say; the other was Mulligan’s pub, where everyone gathered even if you spoke fluent gibberish and smelt like a shearer’s armpit.
‘Looks like the whole town answered your call, Milly,’ says Clappers. ‘Reckon we will shove a chair on top of the bar and you can spruik to the mob from there.’
Milly Centerfold popped into the world fully equipped with three voices. There was the roaring, “OK, who wants to die?” school teacher’s voice where the kids shuddered into immediate attention; there was the sultry, “I lurve you, Matthieu dahlin’” voice, currently reserved for only one bloke; and finally there was what Sal Clarke called Milly’s political voice, capable of conning people into doing something they’d never believed possible.
With utterance of her first two words, Clappers knew the whole town was about to be conned.
‘My friends,’ purred Milly, as soon as she had gained undivided attention, ’tonight is the first of two meetings which, because of unavoidable time factors, I must request your immediate support without procrastination from the floor. Indeed, I am going to request each and everyone of you to give me a fiver, then I am going to ask you to volunteer to participate in a community project which carries the inspired title of “FAIR SUCK OF THE SAUSAGE".
‘In a moment, while I enjoy another dog’s nose, sergeant Clappers and constable Bent have kindly agreed to circulate to collect those fivers. Should any of you be running a bit short then you may pledge for payment from your next dole cheque.’
Some, who discovered an immediate desire to seek isolated obscurity in the outside dunny, found the escape route blocked by a determined Sal Clarke who demanded a fiver exit pass or go back, cross your legs and start praying. When the full body of the law is on the side of the speaker, only the nearly dead would consider dreaming up a weak excuse not to oblige such a polite request.
With a nod from Clappers, Milly once more demanded polite attention.
’My friends, you should now know that you have become equal shareholders in a community venture that will more than return value for your fiver investment. Some thirty years ago, a travelling preacher so impressed some of the good citizens of Burke, by the quality of his sermons, they decided to build him a small church. A good solid wooden building constructed to survive flood, cyclone,and termites for the next five hundred years.
’Sadly, with the passage of time, because of accident or old age, he plumb ran out of sinners.
Eventually, with only mice for a congregation, he too dropped off the planet.
‘I have recently been in discussion, on your behalf, with a most generous Burke developer, a Mr Daniel Albany, who is also in the trucking business. No doubt you have noticed Albany Transport vehicles in your travels. Daniel has purchased all the property on and around the little church, and he has offered to give us the building and transport it from Burke to Ockerroo, free of charge, provided we get moving and build a concrete slab on which to relocate the church.’
‘Hey, fair suck of the sausage, Milly. I’m a bloody atheist, what do I want with a church?’ came a protest from the floor.
‘Then you, my friend,’ cheered Milly, ‘will enjoy the delightful pleasure of helping your fellow citizens convert the church into the Ockerroo town library. The heart of any community is its books.
Out here, with the flies and the emus, we seek very little of what the modern world has to offer, but without books we are culturally bankrupt. Your children need books and you need books.’
‘But I can’t read or write,’ complained one bloke.
‘Then we will teach you,’ laughs Milly. ‘A whole new world will open up once you learn to read .
Time out for another wee dog’s nose and then I will explain the last part of phase one of “Fair Suck of the Sausage”. Just be warned, this is where you become physically involved.’
‘Wow, you sure surprised me and all,’ said Clappers. ‘What next do you have hidden in your box of tricks?’
’Not much at all for phase one of the project, Clappers, and that my friend is where I am going to rely on your persuasive talents. You see, what this town sees is a weird collection of dole bludgers whose welfare cheques we rely on for our existence. I happen to see a collection of mostly skilled people who for personal reasons have opted to remove themselves to the fringe of normal society.
Now I am going to call upon those hidden skills to volunteer their services, with the pouring of the slab.
‘I have here the design and measurements which is in excess of the church requirements, but necessary for what will arrive in phase two. All those fivers you have collected are to pay for the cement and other supplies you will urgently be ordering tomorrow.’
‘So when are you going to tell them?’ asks Clappers.
’I’m not, you are … right now! It takes a bloke to tell a collection of happily unemployed blokes how to volunteer for a community project. Believe me, when that building is stocked with books, they will feel well rewarded for their labour.’
As they watched the signwriter paint the final letters to “Ockerroo Town Library” over the front door, Clappers was moved to remark, ’Don’t know about you lot, but it still looks like a church to me.’
‘That,’ answered Milly, ‘is because it is empty of shelves and books on the inside. Give it a few external modifications and you soon lose the churchy design. Besides, the extra new addition has yet to arrive.’
‘And when is that due?’ questioned Clappers.
‘Friday, then come Friday night there will be the second of the town meetings at Mulligan’s Pub.’
Like before, Milly sat on the bar. There was no need to call for attention this time. Everyone crowded even closer, eager to hear the second part of project “Fair Suck of the Sausage”.
There had been much civic discussion the past week about the success of the relocation of the old church building. Heaps of back slapping and self gratification. Today they watched the unloading and installation of yet another building, not as wide or as high as the church, but equal in length, and far more modern in construction. What the industry called a prefabricated demountable. It arrived complete with a screw-on sign which Milly kept covered, not to be erected until after the pub meeting.
‘My Friends,’ … The pub went dead quiet. ’Some weeks ago while on a rummage through the school of arts storeroom, I came across an old handwritten recipe book that once belonged to our earliest of residents, a Mrs Flora Kala-Ryder. Flora, it seems, possessed an inherited epicurean soul and whiled away her hours creating culinary wonders, often enhanced with local herbs and spices, some of which had long been used by the Aboriginals. There were recipes for the usual scones and cakes, but one recipe in particular was most intriguing, for it typified the very essence of life in and around Ockerroo.
‘I discussed this recipe with my friend, Herman Fleischer. We thoroughly tested it and came to the unanimous decision that the product was so unique and excellent it deserved to go commercial.
This was Flora Kala-Ryder’s gift to Ockerroo.
‘My friends, starting next Monday, we are going into the production of genuine emu sausages.’
This announcement caused a mass muttering, along with numerous orders for fresh beers to help recover from the shock. Then a bloke, more vocal than the rest, stopped the chatter with his question … ‘Fair suck of the sausage, Milly. One day you have me hugging emus, now you want me to strangle them to death?’
‘No, no, no, no,’ says Milly. ‘We are not going to kill emus at all. Now, if you please, settle down and I will explain what’s going to happen.’
’The town urgently needs to raise funds with which to purchase the library books. Now as many of you, correction, as almost all of you, are on some form of welfare and not allowed to earn cash and still keep the dole, we cannot rely upon your small donations.
’A friend of mine, back in the big city, recommended I contact a Mr Marque Duffield, purveyor of fine game foods, both import and export. He tried the emu sausage made to our secret recipe, and believe me he is not just impressed he is totally enthusiastic to sell our product as soon as possible.
’As an indication of his boundless enthusiasm, it is he who has supplied the demountable building, attached to the town library, together with a cold-room and all the latest equipment for the production of sausages. Mr Marque Duffield will be given sole marketing rights for our unique product.
‘Now I will allow all that information to sink in while Clappers kindly buys me another dog’s nose.’
‘So’, says a self appointed spokesman for the largest group. ‘If I understand you correctly, we cannot kill emus and we can’t earn any money for our troubles. I might be dumb, but how do we obtain the emu meat and how do we buy the library books?’
‘Well, money question first,’ says Milly. ‘I have registered Ockerroo with the Australian National Library Association. Under a federal government act, Mr Duffield can attract certain tax benefits for his company by making large donations to registered public libraries. On the other hand I do not want to receive cash, because of various accounting problems associated with such payments.
So, by agreement, Mr Duffield will, as each accounting falls due, make a donated delivery of books to the library. I have suggested he purchase new remaindered books. That way we will receive top value for our unearned dollar.’
‘Fair enough,’ said the spokesman, ‘now tell us about the emus.’
‘Please, please,’ says Milly, ‘do not call me a genius. I am far too modest for such accolades. We are not going to kill any emus, because they will already be dead’.
Milly allowed the full import of that statement to sink in and patiently waited for the murmuring of wonderment to cease.
‘What I plan is we fit a small cold-room on the back of the Telecom emergency ute, then just before dawn, several nights a week, we do a run to collect the fresh road kill, butcher it on the spot, collect the meat, and leave the carcass so we keep the crows and wedgetailed eagles happy.’
‘I reckon we can score four to five emus a night, at around twenty kilos per bird, ten sausages per kilo. By working just a few hours per week we can keep Mr Duffield happy with several thousand sausages each delivery to his depot in Burke.’
The self-appointed spokesperson seemed still unhappy with the news. Like they say, if you donated a whole pig to the barbecue, some idiot would still complain that you had not supplied the apple.
‘Why stuff around with sausages,’ moans the spokesman. ‘Why not just give him the meat?’
‘Because,’ twittered Milly, ‘Mr Duffield does not have our secret recipe, which is known to only Herman, Sal and I and will be locked in the police office safe.’
The whole town was allowed one day for inspection of the sausage plant, after that it was restricted to staff only.
‘Cripes, says Clappers, the moment he clapped his eyes upon the gleaming stainless steel interior. ’When Sal said it only required two ladies to make the sausages, she wasn’t joking. Seems like it is mostly a case of pushing buttons!’
‘Spot on,’ says Milly. ‘The road kill comes in one end, goes out the other as sausages. This is the grinder that changes the meat into mince, then moves it onto the scales for correct weight. Now this bit, looking like a cement mixer, is where the mince is mixed with all the other secret ingredients that Sal has pre-mixed.’
Milly, totally the entrepreneur, was enjoying every second of her guided tour.
“Finally, this is the sausage maker. Pop the mince in one end, sausages come out the other, then into the cold-room to await delivery. No heavy lifting or sharp knives. The work is mostly just packing and cleaning.’
‘And how long does it take to make a batch?’
‘Marque Duffield reckons with a staff of two you can churn out one thousand sausages per hour.’
‘Fantastic! What about the locals who want sausages?’
‘Volunteers on each shift score a kilo, the rest can be bought from Herman’s butcher shop. Any profits go to buying the secret ingredients and paying for petrol and such.
‘Tell me about it,’ moans Clappers. ‘Sal has six months secret spice supply locked up in one of my cells right now. Even has Oscar standing guard at night. Not too sure he enjoys the smell of all those spices. Still, it beats sleeping up on the water tank.’
‘The real rewards’, laughs Milly, ‘will come to the locals by way of their fantastic new free library.
Oh, and by the way, I really need the fellers to speed up the library shelving, Marque phoned to say he thought it unfair for us to be looking at an empty library, so an advance small consignment has already been shipped. It should arrive in about ten days.’
’I’ve gotta hand it to yer, Milly, you are one in a Milly-ion and, like the sign says for all those emus to read when they are out wandering the road at night …
“EMULOUS R. K. SAUSAGE FACTORY”.
Milly Centerfold displays her entrepreneurial talents when it come to Ockerroo project “Fair suck of the Sausage”.
Daniel Albany the trucking developer, proves a generous civic minded soul when it comes to unwanted churches cluttering up his new development.
Marque Duffield is right into sucking sausages, books and jumping out of his sausage skins to help Milly.
Ockerroo is in for its first major cultural change in one hundred years.