North of the Tropic of Capricorn in Australia there are two seasons, The Wet (Summer) and The Dry (Winter), The hottest season is the Wet not to be confused with my ‘Wet’, and conversely the Dry is the cooler season. During the Dry the days are not cold temperatures between 24°C -34°C , but can drop in places to around zero during the night. But I’m not here to chat about the weather per se, I’m here to talk about the Wet’s both of them!
The likelihood of rain during the Wet at Shay Gap was remote, it did rain twice while I was there and I’ll probably rave on about that another time, but north of Carnarvon there was the distinct possibility of big rains. This is ‘Cyclone‘ season (Hurricane or Typhoon season for those in the “Northern Hemisphere“) and in bad times roads can be washed out for a couple of weeks at a time. And we depended on the roads for all our supplies.
Our airport such as it is was not set up for large commercial type aircraft, the runway was gravel and under 2000 metres in length, I suppose a DC3 could have used it mighty aircraft that it is/was but anything else I’d have my doubts.
So knowing the rainy season was coming my way I had to stock up on beer, I needed to have an extra supply on hand, I was in the habit of having at least two weeks supply of keg beer at all times. So I slipped in an additional order of 18 kils; I also had well over 2o0 cartons of various beers, my beer carton sales had risen from around 40 a week to 120 a week, so I doubled my order for cartons. I had big heaps of beer in stock and coming and I was ready for the biggest blow along the coast and could keep my boys happy and drinking for a couple of weeks, no problem.
When my new stock arrived it went into rotation and it was a couple of weeks before I’d need it and I ran the old stock out first.
Comes the time I had to use this beer, the Wet season upon us but luckily this year no major rain falls and no problems with supplies coming through, I had orders in, (I always had orders in, nothing worse than running out of beer because I forgot to get my order in on time).
Nice clean pipes, nice supply of new beer ready to go, I set up a new bank pulled a beer took a sip and spat it out; it was vile, it was “Green Beer“, I had a couple of hours to opening time and I didn’t have anything but a batch of green beer.
I flew round to the Township manager and told him of the disaster at foot, and the stupid clown said to me “Doesn’t matter the men won’t know the difference, just sell it!’ I said to him’ You’ve got to be joking there’s no way will I sell this beer, I won’t even give it away, it’s green it’s bad and it’s no good and I’ll not make my customers sick” He got the message, I was ropable the man was an ignorant fool when it came to booze!
I told him I needed to get some kegs quickly and I couldn’t get any from the Club, I don’t know if they had any from the same batch or not. So the TM rang Goldsworthy our sister mining town back up towards Hedland to see if they had any good beer to spare. They had 6 kegs that they could let me have until a new delivery was received.
The TM turned on a ute and driver and we headed up to Goldsworthy quick smart; Goldsworthy wasn’t much of a town this was my first and only visit there, it was not a clean town like Shay. Anyway we loaded up with the six kegs and headed straight back to Shay.
When I got back to Shay I told the TM that he’d better let Perth and the Swan Brewery know that I had a bad batch of 18 kilderkins as soon as possible. This was bad news for the brewery too.
Within a couple of days I had two men from Swan Brewery come to me at the ‘Wet’, I don’t know whether they were stationed somewhere in the North or if they’d been flown up from Perth anyway they’d come to test the beer; and test it they did each and every barrel. Verdict; all green all bad.
I asked them what they were going to do with these kegs and they told me, pour it all down the drain! I said “What?” “Pour it down the drain, it’s no good and there’s no point in sending it back and we’ll give you a credit and you can ship the empty kegs back as usual.”. I said “you’re kidding me” they assured me they were not and then told me the good part.
As there was tax and excise on the beer in the kegs and we were to receive a full refund the disposal i.e. me pouring it down the drain, had to be witnessed by an official of the Western Australian Government.
We only had one man in town that met that criterion, my old chum the Sergeant of Police. Yes indeed I had to call on my friendly law enforcement officer.
He wasn’t too happy to be summoned by me to the ‘Wet’ and when he was advised what I had to do and his job as witness he was even less happy, but the brewery people told him that it was The Law, and he being the upholder of that law it was his job like it or lump it, he was cornered.
Anyway the best way for me to pour this beer down the gurgler was to hook up a bank, turn on the gas, turn on the temprites and open the taps and let it go. (I used taps that had not been used since I took over), my good beer that I’d got from Goldsworthy was hooked up to my normal taps.
Then I settled down to wait and throw in kegs as they emptied, I had a couple of hours still before opening time for the night session but I had no worries now.
Naturally I had a book to read for such emergencies and settled in and the Sergeant just stood around, after 15 or 20 minutes he spoke up, I having ignored his presence the entire time since starting the pour; he asked me “how long is this going to take?” “Not long” says me “2 or 3 hours if we’re lucky” and went back to reading. I had over 320 gallons (that’s Imperial gallons not the Yankee 6 pints to a gallon rubbish, the full whack) to pump out. I was being light on with that time.
He blanched as said “You’re having me on aren’t you” we didn’t see eye to eye and hadn’t since our first meeting, and I assured him that I was quite serious and that it would take at least that length of time and we’d just have to sit there and bear it. I suppose I could have offered him a beer, I had a few hundred cans sitting nice and cold in the fridges and cold room but I never offered members of the constabulary a free beer; and I wasn’t about to start now!
After about an hour he’d had enough, I had too but there was nothing else I could do, I had to sit there and take off the empty kegs and throw in a full keg to keep the beer flowing down the drain every now and then. When he asked me how much longer again, I extended the time as it was going slower than I thought. He told me he had to go. I said okay I’d shut it down until he could get back.
I think if WA policeman had carried guns back then in those days he’d have taken out his gun and shot me.
“No” says he ” that won’t be necessary I can see what you’re doing and have to do it’ll be Jake”; me innocently says “I thought that you had to stay and witness the whole lot going down the drain Sergeant!” always liked to be polite talking to the members of the force. I knew darned well that he was required to stay there but I could do without him there was no way I’d bottle or sell the rubbish that was going down the drain. “No I’ll check back when it all gone and sign the papers” says he.
” Okay Sergeant ” says me, I opened up and let him out, got myself a can of beer and settled back with my book, it took me way past the pm opening time before the pour was done!