I’m standing on the verandah of the Middleton Hotel in Central Queensland. It’s dawn and the sun has just cracked the horizon, scattering its golden beams across the desert.  You can see the curvature of the Earth from here.

I’m reminded of a painting by an artist friend.  He used only two colours, red and blue. A visitor to his exhibition looked long and hard at the painting before saying to the artist, ‘you’ve been there, haven’t you’. Red earth and blue sky.

There are two men standing with me. One is my father, Kel, who, at 72, had never seen the Outback before this trip, like most of his generation.

The journey has a specific purpose. I had planned an event to involve old cars driving through remote areas to raise money for the Royal Flying Doctor Service. A survey had been completed but this land is fickle. Unseasonal rains have swollen rivers and the town of Innamincka is isolated, unlikely to be accessible for months. Too long to wait.

Dad is enjoying the experience. He is an affable fellow, mixing easily with people and appreciates the men of the Outback and their no-nonsense, laid-back attitude. He’s seen large towns like Longreach, one-horse towns like Windorah and outposts like where we are now, amazed by the vastness and the isolation of communities. Birdsville is coming up. He’ll love the famous pub.

The other man is Kevin, partner of Pam and a true bush philosopher. He sprouts gems like, ‘never live in a town where you have to wait to cross the road.’

Pam, who is preparing breakfast, has Clydesdale horses, a most unusual breed for Central Queensland. Or just about anywhere else in country Australia. She treats these magnificent beasts like pets who come when she of Kevin call them.

“How many eggs Kel?” she calls from the kitchen. “Fried OK?”

“Yes please, two Pam.”

“Come ‘n’ get it.”

The fried eggs are joined by bacon, tomatoes, sausages, fried slices of potato and an array of sauces. Then there’s toast with marmalade, honey, peanut butter and Vegemite. They eat well out here!

We’ve finished our banquet and the three of us are back on the verandah. A cloud of dust heralds the arrival of a vehicle. A Toyota Ute pulls up and the driver gets out. In the tray is a roll of fencing wire.

“G’day Col,” says Kevin.

“G’day Kev.”

“Where are ya goin?”

“Got a roll of fencin’ wire for old Bill James down on Jillandra. It’s urgent.”

“Urgent ay?”

“Yeah, urgent.”

“Got time for a cuppa?”

“Yeah. A’course.”

Col joins us on the verandah and we spend fifteen minutes or so saying not much and discussing even less.

Col stirs from his very relaxed state.

“Better get goin’.  Bill’s waitin’ for this wire.”

Col ambles back to his ute and a few minutes later he’s on the move.

“Good to meet youse,” he calls to Dad and me. “See youse later.”

We wander into the pub, gather our gear, preparing to leave. But not before Pam makes us a couple of sandwiches you couldn’t jump over.

I talk to Pam in the bar, asking what we owe. We’ve had a superb evening meal and a giant breakfast, accommodation for two (Dad scored a bed in the only room and I slept on a couch in the bar) plus numerous beers.

“What’s the damage Pam?” I ask.

“It’s on the house, love. We appreciate what you’re doing for the Flying Doctor. Just pay for the beers.”

We’re about to head off when Kevin drops another of his gems.

“See that tree over there, pointing to one that’s taller than its neighbours. “They buried a bloke down there and planted a tree to mark the spot. “Just goes to show that blood ‘n’ bone makes plants grow.”