Two young men walk into a pub. They wear new royal blue work shirts with khaki pants. It’s early autumn evening and the Oriental Hotel in Tumut is filling up with dinner guests. (This story takes place before COVID and social distancing.)
Finding a free table, they sit down and peruse the menu. Both men are thirty-something, fresh faced with dark hair. They don’t speak much.
I crane my neck to read the words printed in yellow on the back of their shirts. “Need for Feed” is printed in large letters above “Disaster Relief”. A Lions’ Logo completes the picture.
This explains why the men are drinking soft drink. Truckies, they have volunteered their trucks and their time to deliver hay to farmers doing it tough. Established in 2006, the “Need for Feed” project of the Lions Club delivers stock and animal feed free to farmers affected by fire, drought and/or flood.
I walk over to find out more. The men have given up their weekend to be part of a ten-truck convoy delivering feed to farmers devastated by the Cobargo bushfire. One explains that “the rest of the convoy are still in Cobargo”. The other adds that they are “on our way home as we have to work tomorrow”.
They were part of the convoy I saw earlier when we were driving along the Snowy Mountain Highway up the escarpment at Brown Mountain. I remember asking my husband why there were trucks and unhitched trailers parked in bays on the side of the road. The trailers were loaded with hay bales.
Part of the “Need for Feed” convoy, they were waiting for the rest of their group to negotiate the steep winding road. The B-doubles (trucks coupled to two trailers), being too long to manoeuvre around the corners, need to haul their trailers up (or down) the road in stages.
These two young men are visibly moved by what they saw and the stories they heard. They explain that they delivered feed to separate farms in Cobargo. The farmers had different experiences of the devastating fire, but “both are doing it tough”. One lost all his feed to the blaze, while the other lost a property, his dairy and 60 head of cattle all of which were in calf.
The fires might be over but the farmers and residents of Cobargo are still hurting.
One of the young men leaves for the long drive home. We wish him well as he walks briskly across the road to where he’s parked his rig. The freshly cleaned white cab gleams in the fading sunlight, the empty flatbed trailers ready for a new load tomorrow.
As my husband says, “they’ll sleep well tonight having done good this weekend.”