My first day at Tanami mine could be described as stressful. I had to change five tyres some bastard had left behind from their last camp visit. The new boy gets these jobs even though the saying ‘you fucked it, you fixed it’ meant something back then.
Then I loaded two armour-plated Toyota utes with supplies to take to the exploration crew deep in the desert. The utes were bulldozers on wheels and we used them that way too. 10mm thick bash plates underneath, reinforced bull bars, and full roll cage braced to the chassis.
Since it was my first time out I was given a guide. A lad called Deaf Mick would show me the way. With around a tonne and half on the back of each ute in 44’s of fuel, food and other crap we drove off down the Tanami (goat) Track.
Deaf Mick disappeared in the dust and even at 140kph I couldn’t catch him. I also couldn’t see because of the dust he threw up. The overloaded ute wandered back and forth across the loose sand. I clung to the wheel, foot to the floor shitting myself. I had no chance of getting Mick on the radio. He had a habit of turning it off. He’s deaf, why would he bother with it?
I had to back off and only got to the camp late by following his dust trail from many kilometres back. He wanted to know what took me so long. I was too insecure to explain what a frightening trip I had.
Deaf Mick wasn’t much for conversation. He had a hard time making sense of what the rest of us were saying without seeing our lips. After I grew a beard he stopped taking to me altogether. Not because he didn’t like me, he just couldn’t understand what I said with all that hair in the way. He used to have a hearing aid but somehow it had fallen out as he’d leaned over a hundred metre deep open drill hole. Down it went. He wasn’t getting that back.