WE were in Laggan, near Crookwell, the other week where I spotted the sign that said Tuena 55 km, Trunkey Creek 85 km and Bathurst, a mere 142 km.
That sign brought back vivid memories of an unforgettable journey to Dubbo, years ago, which took a tad longer than we anticipated.
At the time, five of us Highlands hockey players were on our way to Dubbo to meet up with our team-mates for a series of state championship elimination matches the next day. This looked like a good shortcut, but was it?
IF you check a map of New South Wales, Dubbo is less than a six hour trip from Moss Vale, however, as we learned back then, if you take the short-cut via Trunkey Creek recommended by Highlands hockey stalwart Gary Roberts, for some reason, the journey takes all day.
We were making good time as we sailed through Goulburn, Crookwell and Laggan without a stop, but the rot set in when we hit Tuena and spotted a pub.
The pub had character according to Frank Shepherd and Gary was hungry, so we wheeled in. The door was open but nobody was home.
After a lot of bell ringing, the publican's wife appeared. She had been out the back hanging up the washing and hadn't heard us.
Without asking what we wanted, the good lady reflexively started pulling five beers. But alas, the keg was empty.
"Bugger," she said, swinging her legs over the bar before wandering off across the road.
We watched as she leant over a barbed wire fence and yelled out, "hey George, come up here and tap another keg, we've got some thirsty visitors."
So up came George, with bucket and spanner in hand, swearing at a scrawny kelpie bitch that was chasing a brindle steer up the main street.
In no time he had another keg going and we had a nice cold beer to settle the dust, but a counter lunch was out of the question.
We shared the only packet of chicken chips left in Tuena and left for Trunkey Creek, a mere 30 dusty kilometres up the road, where the publican assured us they do a "bloody good counter lunch."
DRIVING across the hills and into Trunkey Creek, we strolled into the pub with rumbling tummies and great expectations.
Alas, just like at Tuena, there wasn't a soul in sight. As Frank Shepherd observed, the only things moving in town were blowflies - they were huge and they were plentiful.
Then we spotted a bloke crutching a flyblown sheep in the paddock across the road, so we went over for a chat.
This fellow turned out to be the publican.
He poured a deadly cocktail of fly-strike mixture on the sheep's freshly crutched bum and came back to the pub with us, pulling five beers without even checking if we wanted a drink.
We asked about a counter lunch and he pointed to an old sign above the bar advertising Plume motor oil, Atlantic petrol, brylcream, chicko rolls, hot dogs and roo pies.
Our luck had changed.
We were going to have lunch at last, even if the choice was down to hot dogs, chicko rolls and roo pies.
THE publican turned out to be a well-known trotting trainer and the bar was lined with photographs of his horses winning at Taralga, Burraga, Bathurst, Black Springs and Harold Park.
As we settled into our roo pies, he poured us another round of beers, then filled up a bucket with Reschs draft, before wandering across the road to a horse yard.
To our amazement, he tipped the bucket of beer into the horse's nosebag, along with a few handfuls of chaff, pollard and a swig of some mystery potion that had been mixed in an old whisky bottle.
The sleepy looking trotter immediately pricked its ears, kicked up his hind legs and ran around the yard several times before being loaded into the horse-float, rearin' to go for the Friday night race meeting at Bathurst.
The publican waved us goodbye, jumped into his truck and headed off out of town, leaving us to our beer, the roo pie and his pub.
And our teammates couldn't understand why it took us a full day to travel from Moss Vale to Dubbo via Trunkey Creek.
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