ANYONE from the outside looking in could easily be forgiven for thinking Rawlinna is a ghost town.
That is except for one weekend a year when the Nullarbor Muster restores the once thriving outpost back to its somewhat former glory.
The three-day traditional rodeo returned with a bang last month, after it was cancelled in 2020-21 due to COVID restrictions and uncertainty.
To most people rodeo is a contest where cowboys and girls alike have the opportunity to show-off their bull and horse riding skills.
But for Nullarbor pastoralists - scattered across the sparsely populated red dirt - the outback event holds greater meaning and purpose.
It fights loneliness and isolation, while jumpstarting a cascade of mateship and generosity on a flat plain far from the hustle and bustle of any major city.
"It is all about bringing everyone together," said Nullarbor Muster Club secretary Faith Day.
"We are such a broad community with a few hundred kilometres between a lot of us.
"This is the biggest social event of the year and is really important to us."
The muster has quietly evolved in 39 years from a casual catch-up between neighbouring stations to a public event known to attract anywhere up to 1000 revellers.
Rawlinna was home to a number of families - as well as a school, bank and post office - well into the early 1990s, but closed down when the train stopped pulling in.
Despite this, the Nullarbor Muster was kept alive and continued to thrive.
This year's action-packed weekend featured horse racing, gymkhana events, skeet shooting, the Peter Hogg Memorial arm wrestle, novelty iron men and women's competitions, a high and dry boat race, entertainment from Kalgoorlie cover band Middle Ground and perhaps one of the biggest drawcards - bull riding.
"With the iron man and woman event, participants have to skol a beer, run to the end of the pole course, pick up a tyre, and weave it back to the top of the course," Ms Day said.
"Obviously the first person to the finish line wins, so that is always entertaining.
"Middle Ground performed in the shed on Friday night of the muster and it went off.
"I think everyone enjoyed having a live band and it really added to the atmosphere."
The main rodeo event was held on Saturday night and was a hit with more nominations than expected.
Ms Day put this down to more people wanting to "give it a crack" after watching from the sidelines the night before.
Brandon Vanzyl stole the Friday night rodeo show, winning both the novice bull ride with 65 points and the open bull ride (72pts).
There were no winners in both the local bull ride, as all competitors were bucked off within the eight second time.
Jack Collins was the star on Saturday, winning round one of the open bull ride with 76pts and also the saddle bronc with 44pts.
Meanwhile, Wade White and Jeremiah Day (67pts) won round two of the open bull ride and Brandon Vanzyl the bareback bronc (65pts).
All were bucked off in the local and novice bull rides.
Kit Lievre and Clint Vandenbroeke served as the rodeo clowns with Edmund Forrester and Reece Jasper as the pickup riders.
Bull stock was supplied by B & D Day of Gunnadorah station and Collins Livestock.
Horse stock for the bronc ride was supplied by Al Oversby.
In the gymkhana events, Brigid Wood was crowned leadline champion rider and Maddie Hogg the leadline encouragement rider.
In other results Ziva James was presented as the sub junior champion rider, Layla Bowkett - sub junior encouragement rider, Zoe Hazelwood - junior champion rider, Aaron Holley - junior sportsmanship, Matt James - senior champion rider and Jimmy Wood - senior sportsmanship.
Skeet shoot winners included Byron Jones (men's), Chantal Cornthwaite (women's) and Robert Johnson (juniors).
As well as creating a sense of togetherness and friendly competition, the muster also proved important in raising money for notable bush and rural charities.
The iconic Royal Flying Doctors Service (RFDS) flutter was particularly important in fundraising with events including the can race, boots and saddles, barrel races and the Texas keyhole.
As part of the contest, spectators bid on their favourite horse in the 800 metre race with a chance of winning two thirds of the proceeds raised.
Amy Forrester, Jimberlana, and her horse Max won the race and were backed by MLG and Top Drill.
The winning bidders decided to donate the entire $2310 prize money back to the RFDS.
"We are really grateful for their generosity," Ms Day said.
"It was a huge contribution back to the RFDS - an important organisation, which helps out rural and isolated people in and around our community."
The Nullarbor Muster Club is now looking forward to celebrating its 40th anniversary next year having purchased the block it operates on.
This has been made possible for the non-profit group thanks to sponsorship.
"We are a non-profit so having no show for two years has been tough," Ms Day said.
"Through the help of sponsorship we have been able to get the funds together for the land purchase, which is super exciting and gives us an added sense of security and freedom.
"We wouldn't be able to put on the show without the support of our sponsors and of course our members who go above and beyond.
"Even with donations, everyone put their hand in their pocket and helped out, it didn't matter if it was a few bucks or a few hundred - every bit helped."
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