Saturday, August 11, 2012

Joes Place

For 45 years Joe lived at power pole 251 on National Highway One. Living under a tarp with his radio as his best mate. A few who traveled the road frequently got to know him, bringing him water, food, magazines, books, batteries for the radio and the occasional treat.
Hidden away from the world Joe lived his life with the few things he needed, but his friends knew where to find him. Almost deaf , with little vision and missing a few fingers Joe lived his life, but still kept up with the *footy, particularly Port Power who he could tell you almost anything about.
In May 2007 Joe was found on the side of the road. He had fallen and broken his hip so he dragged himself to where he might be found. In hospital Joes health declined and he agreed to move into a nursing home, never having registered for the **dole or pension this was also arranged for him.
Sadly, after his health deteriorated Joe past away 27th June 2007. He never got his first pension cheque.
Joe was 85.

* Australian Rules Football
** Unemployment benefits.

*Pretty much the only photo of Joe taken a few years before his death, sitting there on the end of his bed.

After his passing Joe Sutton was cremated and his ashes spread at his home camp, free in the place he loved.
Joe's place still remains today. A memorial has been placed at his old camp  and a plaque has been placed on power pole 251. Visitors can also sign a memorial book located at the site.
A Geocache has been placed in memory of Joe to preserve his story as long as possible. Hidden just off the highway its another piece of history that shouldn't be lost in the scrub.

14/1/1922 - 27/6/2007

My Opinion.
In this modern world we don’t see things like this anymore, I was one of the millions who traveled that road from time to time and whipped past old Joe without ever knowing he was there, less than 100 metres from the nations busiest East/West highway.
I found his camp after he died when it was first made into a Geocache, we walked into it feeling like it was someones home because that’s how it was set up. His bed and clothes bundled under a low tarp against a tree which in which hung an assortment of personal objects. Glasses, comb, watch, a hat, a coat. The area directly around his bed was swept clean with a dry branch leaned against a tree and further away an enormous pile of old food cans, each with the label removed no doubt for fire starting. His hearth was tiny so he obviously only used it for cooking as the area still had bountiful supplies of fallen wood.
We looked through his things and walked the whole area wondering where he got food and water out here in Summer.
He never told anyone where he came from or why, his last name wasn’t even known until he was forced to apply for a pension and he only did that so the free hospital coverage would pay for his treatment. 

*The camp as we approached it from the road, his bed to the left under that tree, his only chair placed to get the afternoon sun
What would you call this old man?
I'm tempted to say he was an old time ***Swaggy but he didn't move, he just stayed there under his tree.
He wasn’t a Bum in the sense that he didn't ask for anything, he took no money and those that dropped by did so because they wanted to have another chat with Old Joe.
You can see by the pictures we took that he didn't have much, what he did have would barely fill a small cardboard box. I walked the camp and could make out that it had been shifted a few times over the 45 years but was still within 30 metres of where he finished up.

* The view to the North, nothing but small trees and a far off range of hills.

I've traveled the bush a fair amount and I often come across remnants of camps, you can see by the refuse how long they were there and when they were abandoned.
In the middle of bloody nowhere I've found old boots, a broken bottle or some long ago forgotten thing that says a man once passed this way.
How many Old Joes are there out there?
How many dropped dead where they were and are still?

***A Swag is a bed roll made of a blanket and any clothes etc you might have, it's slung over your shoulder as you walk. Swaggies walked the country looking for work or just living off the land.

*Looking through the trees to the West just on sun set.



Twisted Scottish Bastard said...

It's nice to know that even in our modern world there's still some place for awkward old buggers to survive.

It gives me hope.

River said...

I remember reading about Joe when he was found and taken to hospital, and hoping he'd get well and go back home. Sad that he died surrounded by walls, when he was clearly the type of person who preferred not to have them.
I remember thinking how nice it was that people would stop and chat, bring him food sometimes.

Kal said...

What a remarkable story about a guy who lived his life the way he wanted. Thanks for sharing this with me.

Belle said...

I can see my youngest sister living like that. She hates to be under obligation to anyone or anything and likes to be on her own. It was a struggle to get her to live with us when she had to leave her last place. She was going to live in her van.

Interesting story, and I hope his life was a happy one. I would bet it was.

Windsmoke. said...

I'd call Joe a survivor.

Sandra said...

It's a wonderful story, I'm so glad you shared it. I guess where Joe lived in Australia it remained warm enough that he didn't have to seek "shelter" during -40 C weather. In Canada though, old Joe would be considered homeless, and I can tell you that nobody would have been doing much to ensure he got a pension or a place in a personal care home after his health declined. And that's sad.
Loved this post Tempo!

Tempo said...

Hi TSB, there's so much unused land in Australia that it's still possible to disappear completely if you want. Many years ago station owners drove their flocks to market along the nations roads, a 100metre free zone was allowed for the passage of stock. When and if you give up on the human race we have a place right here close to main roads just for you.
Hi River, It was a well known case AFTER his accident but for so many years no one knew anything of him at all. Apparently he worked as a station hand for many years until he ended up on the side of the road.
Hey Kal, It makes us all consider running away from society and living in the bush but consider no running water, no hot water.. no roof to keep out the rain or air conditioning for the bitter Winters and horrible hot Summers.
Hi Belle, My cousin keeps saying she wants to live in a shack somewhere in the bush and it's known that I'd consider living in a cave if there were any around here.
Hi Windsmoke, I really dont know what to make of Old Joe, was he running away from something or simply embracing a more simple life.
Hi Sandra, His camp was about 50km North of here so the Winter temps get to around -3 before sunrise but generally only 13 to 15C during the days of Winter. It does get to around +50C in Summer though. We have homeless people in the cities but they are considered pests and beggars (or worse)I think it was because he lived out in the bush and bothered no one that he was considered a true Aussie bushman.

Steve said...

Always interesting to read about an old fashioned "character". I've known a few myself.

Joe Pereira said...

Great story Tempo, thanks for sharing it with us

Tempo said...

Hi Steve, a character for sure and Australia is full of them but this guy was inspiring..not to sit on your ass in the bush, but to do what you want to do no matter the cost.
Hi Joe, A very interesting story for sure