The camp

Back in Narrogin it was down to business. I was sent out on the pipeline with an experienced welder for the day to be assessed to see if I was indeed a competent welder. We pulled up on a dirt track that ran alongside the pipeline.

“See how you go on that,” he pointed to an unwelded joint. The pipe was close to the ground and I was required to lay on my back to start work on the underside of the weld. The next day the foreman, happy with my ability, allocated a petrol driven welding plant and a trade’s assistant – I was on the way!

Ray’s tent, Narrogin – Sunday 28th April 1963

A few degrees above the horizon, the sun, filtered by the screen of eucalypts, penetrated the canvas of my tent, warning me of the time. I crawled from my sleeping bag, quickly dressed and opened the tent flaps. The camp was already busy and the familiar chatter of the Italian workers from the next two tents made me smile.

“Buon Giorno Ray!”

It was my first week working alone along the pipeline and I was both nervous and excited. Billy had been assigned to assist me, moving the welding plant and keeping his eye out for any welding sparks that could possibly ignite the tinder dry grass close to the pipeline.

“Buon Giorno Mario,” I replied, trying to mimic the Italian accent. “Come stai?”

“Very good Ray. You are learning well.”

Meals were eaten in the ‘dining room’. This consisted of trestle tables and benches situated under a huge sagging tarpaulin sheet that was strung up on poles tied to three gum trees. The meals, produced in the small caravan kitchen by a huge bald-headed Russian cook, were terrific.

The timber forms on either side of the tables were occupied by fellow workers who had already started breakfast. Breakfast was baked beans on toast, followed by thick slices of bread with an assortment of jams.

As I ate, I mentally ticked off the tasks I needed to complete before leaving the camp:

1. Fill the two 20 litre petrol drums and put them on the truck.

2. Welding rods, mask and tools.

3. Fill the canvas water bag.

4. Check the knapsack spray unit.

5. Get everything on the truck

PWD camp dining area, Narrogin – Wednesday 6th March 1963

Next: On the pipeline

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