“Me Bloody Big Truck”

28 January, 2010 1:11PM AEDT

Life inside the cabin of Jane’s bloody big truck

By Jane St Catherine and Anthony Scully

Words and pictures from inside the cabin of a Singleton mineworker’s bloody big truck. Warning: contains coarse language.

(I was trying to make this a copy of the post on the ABC Hunter Valley and Pilbara websites, but I’m sorry I’m unable to copy the photos and poem to my site, so try this link instead….)
The poem and slides go for about seven minutes.
This is the photo and words Anthony included along with my poem on the ABC site but for the poem and slides you need to follow the link above and press ‘Play’.

It was an adventurous spirit that led Singleton mine worker Jane St Catherine into a job in the mines in the Pilbara a few years ago.

And almost immediately after starting to drive enormous dump trucks around the alien landscape of Pannawonica, Western Australia, the words started flowing.

“Everything was pretty new and exciting and one day the poem just came to me while I was driving the truck,” Jane says.

The poem “Me Bloody Big Truck” was one of the first read out at the recently formed Singleton Writers Group, a collection of half a dozen locals who attended visiting writers talks at the local library and decided to get together and practice their craft.

“It was pretty annoying really,” Jane  says, of the moment the inspiration to write the poem took hold.

“I was trying to focus on the new job, and backing up every few minutes. . . every time I took off from the loader the poem kept coming back into my head, so I just had to scribble it down as fast as I could.”

The poem contains a confusing array of terminology used over the radio communications in the mines, and outlines in a humorous way Jane’s coming to terms with the new workplace.

And, as Jane explains, it doesn’t come easily at first.

“There’s an awful lot to learn right at the beginning,” she says.

“I’d never had anything to do with a mine site, or trucks, or any of the equipment.”

“And they were driving around and telling me ‘this is a digger and this is a loader’ and I was thinking ‘what’s that got to do with me?’ (laughs) ‘I’m going to be driving a truck!’ because I just had no idea.”

Jane, who has a background in environmental science and has worked for government departments in Canberra in a previous life, describes how she came to be working in WA and living in a ‘donga’ or renovated shipping container used by mine workers.

“It was a fairly major career change,” she says.

“I was hitching a ride in Cape York, and the bloke that picked me up worked in the mine in Pannawonica’ and I said ‘Panna what? Can you spell it for me?’

The lift turned into an opportunity for Jane, who sent off her CV, but discovered that you can’t just land a job with a phone call. You have to be there to be considered.

“I didn’t know anything about where to go and where to start,” she says.

“So I just jumped in my car, and drove for 11 days across the country from Cape York, and wound up in Pannawonica, and ended up with the job.

“That’s actually part of the reason I wanted to drive, I think, was just for a bit of adventure and something interesting to write about.

Compared to the wild frontier of the Pilbara, Jane says the relative civilisation of Singleton and its generations of mining families is very different.

“I actually really, really love it, but I’m not very big on heat,” she says.

“I belong in the mountains with the snow I’m afraid.”

So it seems that the wanderlust of Jane St Catherine, writer, mine worker and adventurous spirit, is far from satisfied.

“When I’m about 100 I hope I’m still climbing mountains,” she says with a laugh.

And as if to prove her intentions, a camper sits in the backyard of her Singleton home, primed and waiting.

“Absolutely, I can’t bear to part with that,” says Jane.

“It looks a bit ridiculous driving around town and to work and back. . . it’s the sort of thing only a mother could love, but I’m hoping to take off in it and have some more adventures.”

Poem written and read by Jane St Catherine. Story and soundscape by Anthony Scully.

Watch and listen here:
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