In the mid-Nineties, as I’ve written before, I was the chef/cook at Collinsville’s Town & Country Hotel-Motel. As well as being a popular watering hole and feeding trough, the Town & Country regularly hosted a variety of entertainers. Well-known Aussie country artists from throughout the country who travelled the wide expanse of this land of ours often performed at the hotel; mostly on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday nights. The back lounge bar was a large wide room with a slightly-raised platform where the bands and singers played and sang; and a small dance floor in front of the “stage” for those patrons who wanted to dance a jig or two. And there were many who loved to do the latter; including me!
For the nights when live entertainment wasn’t on the agenda, well-stocked jukeboxes blasted out popular tunes; mostly country-flavoured melodies; with a lot of alternate-country, Blues and country-rock thrown in to add to everyone’s musical enjoyment; again, including me. The main public bar had its own jukebox as did the lounge bar.
I’m sure Steve Earle made a fortune from “Copperhead Road” royalties. Not a day went by that it didn’t spin on either one the jukeboxes in the Town & Country; barely an hour, let alone half an hour went by, it seemed, without Steve belting out his tune and plucking his strings. Not that anyone complained. Who could possibly get sick of “Copperhead Road” - not I, for one!
And then, the Swedish band, Rednex showed up and shocked everyone (and probably themselves) when they released their cover of “Cotton-Eye Joe”. The Rednex version of old Joe set everyone’s feet a-hopping. The place was never the same again!
To add to the confusion, 4 Non Blondes appeared on the scene with “What’s Up”. There was no escape. If you were a person who didn’t like music, the Town & Country Hotel-Motel wasn’t the place to be. I love music; of all genres; I’ve a catholic taste in music. And, country music is way up at the top of my list.
George Strait kept Dolly company. Kathy Mattea, Wynona, Patti Loveless, Reba and Martina watched on in envy. That was until Alan Jackson, John Michael Montgomery, Clint, Garth, Travis, Vince, The Mavericks along with Brookes & Dunne and so many others joined the party. Faith had faith in Clint. Dwight strolled in from LA; and strangely, he wasn’t treated as an outsider; he was made very welcome by the others. Trish Yearwood had earlier declared “She’s In Love with the Boy”; and a few years later that “boy” turned out to be Garth Brooks; who in turn she married. She didn’t care that he had friends in low places.
Rodney Crowell only had eyes for Rosanne, but, I had eyes and ears for him, too. Rodney had stolen my heart and ears when I was living on Newry Island. But if I have to be honest…I’m not in any way monogamous when it comes to country music! I love them all…well, a hell of a lot of them!
And it would be sacrilegious to leave Willie or Waylon off my list; so I won’t even think about doing that; and Kimmie Rhodes and Iris Dement; Joe Ely and John Prine have to stay with the gang, as well; but I won’t get too carried away; you might get the wrong idea about me. It’s difficult to stop…..
The locals, many of whom were miners at the nearby coal mine, along with graziers, ringers and jackaroos etc., from the surrounding cattle properties were never at a loss for entertainment in Collinsville. To some, Collinsville might appear to be a one horse town, but it’s not; it’s a few horses town because, as well as the coal mine, the town is surrounded by beef cattle properties.
And when I lived and worked in Collinsville it was a boot-scootin’, line-dancing, swinging, rocking little township!
One Wednesday night a massive mechanical bull was set up in the middle of the lounge bar. An excited crowd crushed through the hotel doors. On-the-spot meal orders as well as a hot and cold buffet were on offer for the hungry prospective bull riders. Ominously, the mechanical bull stood ready in the middle of the room; ready to take on all-comers; with its flaring nostrils and evil glint in its eyes, the bull knew it would always be the winner in the end!
Jody, a sometimes wild local lass decided to go “out on the town” that night.
To give you a little background on Jody –
When I worked in Collinsville the first time around; employed by Morris Catering as manager/chef of the Mess Hall/canteen and single men’s accommodation for the miners who worked for Collinsville Coal, I was also responsible for the rental of a house. The house was down the other end of the street from where I lived; also in a house owned by Morris Catering. My house came with my job; it was part of the package deal.
I was acting landlady of the house “down the road” on behalf of the company.
Jody and her then partner were tenants of the house. The bloke she lived with was a very “dark” fellow – I mean “dark” in character. There was something about him I didn’t trust. I didn’t like him at all; he made my skin crawl. I could barely bring myself to acknowledge him when our paths crossed. I found him to be quite sinister. As it turned out later, I wasn’t off base in my assessment of him.
Whenever it was necessary, I preferred to deal with Jody, not her partner.
Jody, no matter how wild and erratic she appeared to be on the outside; and from the many stories that circulated about her, kept an extremely tidy and clean home. I was very surprised, to be honest, the first time I had to inspect the house. Often I had to chase them up for rent money. They always paid up in the end, but at times it was a battle extracting the money from them. However, I could say nothing negative about Jody’s housekeeping. Obviously, she was a perfectionist when it came to housework.
By time I’d arrived back in Collinsville to take up the position at the Town & Country, her live-in boyfriend had left town, with some encouragement, I was told, to take up residence in a building with bars, but not the kind of bars at the Town & Country Hotel!
Whenever Jody decided it was time to hit the town and kick up her heels the publicans of the town’s two pubs shook in their boots and readied themselves for her appearance in either’s pub.
Both pubs – “the Top Pub” aka The Central and “the Bottom Pub” aka the Town & Country were diagonally situated on opposite sides of the town’s rather short main street.
Everyone knew a wild, crazy time was in store when Jody appeared on the scene.
Jody isn’t her real name for legal and obvious reasons. She was in her late thirties, at a guess!
Jody was from one of two long-established, well-known families in Collinsville. The two families were a bit like the Hatfields and the McCoys; the two feuding families of the West Virginia-Kentucky area in the 1800s; or perhaps akin to the disunity of Shakespeare’s Capulets and Montagues. With not as much violence – just the odd punch thrown throughout the years; along with a few suspicious glances every now and then; bandied to and fro also were cursory curses that’d make your grandmothers blush. I’m sure you get the picture!
Jody had legs as long and as skinny as those of an emu. Urban legend was that when she was a tear-away teen the local cops could never catch her when they’d spotted her up to mischief. She’d take off at speed; at full flight across the paddocks, leaping fences, leaving the exhausted police in her wake. Jody wasn’t bad; she had a heart of gold, really, if anyone cared to take a look; but, during “her moments” she liked to stir the pot!
When one of the publicans had had their fill of her, he’d politely and firmly nudge her on; pointing her in the direction of the other pub up the road. This went on back and forth until she’d finally go home; and then, we’d not see her again for another couple months or so. Most times where possible, the publican and the bar staff…speaking for those I worked for, would only serve Jody beer. They did their utmost to keep her off the spirits as much as they possible were able to do. They weren’t always successful. Once she set foot out of our doors, she was out of our control. People still are responsible for their own choices.
Returning to Collinsville after my short stint in Townsville, I purposely got to know Jody a little. At first she didn’t like me at all. In her eyes and mind, I was the “evil landlady” who was always chasing her for rent money; but in time I wore her resistance down. Every time I saw her, I greeted her pleasantly by name, asking how she was and how her children were.
She had a daughter of whom she was rightly very proud. The daughter had won a basketball scholarship to the US; and the daughter was living and studying in the States. Jody showed me photos of her daughter and she was a beautiful-looking young lady.
Jody’s teenage son was in the custody of the children’s father, Jody’s ex-husband (not the fellow behind bars). And again, her son was very bright and a handsome, clean-cut lad. From what I could tell, Jody loved her children dearly.
So she and I became passing acquaintances. I could see her walls regarding me were gradually disintegrating. I had no intentions of being her best friend, but I felt there was a certain amount of vulnerability about her; and I thought she suffered from lack of self-confidence; both of which made her act up after she’d had a few too many drinks. There was more to Jody than many folk gave credit.
Some of the local barflies made her the butt of their pranks at times, knowing they could get a “rise” out of her. And because she always took the bait, they continued with their thoughtless stupidity. I thought it was unfair. The behaviour of some of the fellows made me feel ill-at-ease. I never joined in with the laughter when they played their games. I felt they were being very childish and quite cruel; and I told them as much.
A lot of it, of course, Jody had brought on herself because of her wild behaviour at different times when she’d had let her hair down after having a bit too much to drink; but Jody was Jody. She meant no personal harm to anyone else. She wasn’t a bully; nor was she vindictive in any way.
A few times when chatting with her, and not meaning or wanting to offend her, I’d quietly suggest that she not rise to their occasions; not take the bait when the fellows started teasing her and playing their tricks on her; for her to try her best to ignore them and their childishness; to look in the opposite direction and let their idiotic antics run off her back like water off a duck’s back.
It was because Jody always reacted, the fellows continued acting like little, naughty boys. The thing was, if Jody was a bully and a nasty person she probably could have taken any one of them out with a single punch. She was pretty fit; she was fiery; but that was not her style! She allowed herself to be their prey. I do believe, however, that as time went by she did follow my advice, perhaps a little; things did start to settle down quite a bit….after a while!
Let’s be honest…it takes every one of us time; it can’t be done overnight - to make our own personal, individual changes if and when they are needed…Jody was no different.
Jody loved country music.
In those days I had a friend who was an ABC radio announcer, operating out of the Townsville ABC studios. Stuie had his own country music programme every Friday night; it was a “ring-in-a-request” show. What Stuie didn’t know about country music and country artists wasn’t worth knowing.
I always had the kitchen radio tuned to the ABC; and on Friday nights whenever I could sneak a stolen moment I’d ring Stuie for a request or two. Even without my calling in, he would always play a couple of songs for me. Stuie knew the songs and artists I liked.
I loved having music playing while I cooked in the hot kitchens, no matter where I worked. Music helped me get through all the busy, hectic, stressful times in the kitchens; and I can assure you, there were many; usually every service!
Quite often, I’d ask Stuie to play a song for Jody. As I mentioned, she wasn’t out and about on the town every night of the week. The majority of Friday evenings (and the rest of the week) she was at home, alone, listening to the radio – to Stuie’s popular Friday night country music programme.
Sadly, Stuie McInnes passed away in February, 2010. But I’m happy in the knowledge that he’s still spinning those turntables up there in radio Heaven.
The first time Jody heard a request on the radio made on her behalf, she couldn’t believe her ears; she couldn’t fathom that someone would do that for her. Jody got such a thrill out of my simple little gestures; and it was just a simple gesture. I got a thrill just seeing how happy a small action like requesting a song for her made her feel.
It is the simple things in life…..
I felt that throughout her life Jody had really been misjudged; and probably misunderstood; that no one bothered to take the time to discover who she really was; the inner Jody. There was a lot more to Jody than some folk believed.
People are keen to pre-judge another; and I felt too many pre-judged Jody without looking beyond some of her behaviour…her wildness; and, facing the facts; the reality; it only reared its head once in a while; but that was all that some people saw or wanted to see. They didn’t want to delve deeper; that would take too much of an effort.
Sometimes folk enjoy seeing the worst in others; or what they perceive to be the worst. All some people need is one, slight little glimpse of what they think to be a fault in another and off the ball starts rolling….
And, I must be honest here; when I first met Jody; when she was a tenant in the Morris house; when I was her “acting” landlady; I, too, was guilty of being prejudiced.
It was after I saw how clean and tidy she kept the house, that I started seeing Jody in a different light; and then later, when I returned to Collinsville, the light became clearer and brighter as time passed. There was more to Jody that met the eye.
However, the night the mechanical bull was in bucking mode, so was Jody!
I didn’t stick around for long once I’d finished up in the kitchen. It had been a long day and night. The evening service had been extremely busy and full-on for me. I was pretty exhausted; contented, but exhausted. All I felt like doing was to sit down in a quiet spot at the end of the bar as was often my wont to do at the end of a busy shift; to sip on icy cold beer before seeking the peace and quiet of my own four or more walls; away from the smells of food, grills, deep-fryers, hot plates, bars and people.
I wandered out to the lounge bar to watch the activities of the “bull riders” from afar while I enjoyed a cold beer. I had only the one chilled, most welcome beer; a VB aka Victoria Bitter, and then I headed for home to my two cats, Pushkin and Rimsky; and one dog; Missy, a cocker spaniel; my three very spoiled pets!
From the colourful stories I was bombarded with the next morning when I turned up for work, I’d missed out on a wild night! The wildest night in the West!
Jody, spurred on by spirits of the liquid kind; and by a spirited encouraging audience, decided she was the best bull rider in the north, the west, and the south combined!
She commandeered the mechanical beast as her own, allowing no others near it or atop of it!
As was her habit to do more often than not, when she’d imbibed than her share of alcoholic beverages, off came Jody’s habit. Jody became a flasher!
So there was Jody, astride the bucking bull; her tee-shirt up around her head; bra-less!
Oh! Yippee-i-o-ki-ay! Yippee-i-o-ki-oh! Oh! Give me a home where the buffalo roam!
And I was roaming at home, missing out on the show!
Bone-In Rib Eye: Preheat grill to high. Well season 2 thick, bone-in rib eye steaks, about 700-750g each, with coarse salt and freshly-cracked black pepper. Set on grill; turn from time to time; 7-9mins per side or as desired. Remove from grill; let steaks rest 10mins. Arrange thick slices of beefsteak tomatoes on plates; top with chilled, blanched asparagus spears; sprinkle over crumbled blue cheese and crumbled, crispy-cooked bacon. Drizzle with vinaigrette; add steaks to plates.
Rump Steak with Stilton Sauce: Grill 2 thick rump steaks to desired doneness; let rest 10mins. Sauce: to drained, but not cleaned steak pan, pour 75ml port; stir quickly to incorporate the caramelized meat juices. Cook on high, 30-45sec; stir until port reduces and becomes a little syrupy. Reduce heat; add 150ml cream; once warmed through, add 100g crumbled Stilton or any blue cheese; stir until cheese is melted through sauce. Pour sauce over steaks; serve.
Roasted Sirloin au Poivre: Preheat oven 260C. Place 1 whole sirloin on rack in shallow roasting pan, fat side up; sprinkle with salt; spread Dijon mustard over top of beef; sprinkle with crushed black peppercorns; add some unpeeled garlic cloves to the pan. Add a little water to pan; roast 15mins; reduce heat to 160C; cook to desired doneness; don’t over-do it. Transfer meat to platter; keep warm. Pour pan juices into cup; don’t clean pan; freeze juices, 10mins; spoon fat off top; drop fat into pan to melt; add 1/3c minced shallots; sauté, 2-3mins; remove from heat; add 3-1/2c beef broth and 1/3c brandy. Return pan to heat; boil until reduced; add reserved juices and 1 to 2tsp crushed peppercorns; add 1c thick cream; reduce 1/3rd; stir in 1tbs butter. Serve roast with juice on platter and the sauce.