Locals help the drought affected at hay run event
"ONE farmer related his despair at having to shoot around 20 head a day to put them out of their misery. The hay he collected will buy him a few weeks of not having to do this."
This was just one of the horror stories Louise Laffey heard when she travelled out to Ilfracombe, western Queensland, last week to take part in the Burrumbuttock Hay Runners event.
It was the second time Ms Laffey had volunteered to help farmers and families suffering through the drought and on this occasion, she was accompanied by an entourage of 13.
Ms Laffey said when her group arrived at their destination in Ilfracombe it was a sight to behold.
"The trucks started to roll in at around 5pm and kept coming for the next two hours," she said.
"258 prime movers with 420 trays of hay, 27 front end loaders, about a dozen support vehicles and the Burrumbuttock Hay Runners merchandise truck.
"After unloading their hay, the trucks formed a line and when all had lined up, they turned their lights on and blew their air horns, it was a very surreal sight, almost like a transformer scene from a movie."
Ms Laffey and her team had 100 hampers packed for people in need plus a huge range of items and goods from local businesses and farmers to hand out over their stay.
"The stream of people did not stop the entire day and, at an educated guess, we handed out around 500 boxes of groceries and produce," she said.
"There were tears from some, hugs from many and requests to pass on thanks to everyone in Bundaberg."
Ms Laffey said the farmers gasped in disbelief when they saw the goods on offer, from gift bags, groceries, books, toys, craft supplies and more.
"We had not only our truck loaded with farm fresh produce but Rossco from Griffith parked his truck beside ours and was loaded with watermelons, rockmelons, oranges and limes as well so we pretty much had the full range for the farmers to choose from," she said.
"We had four long trestle tables choc full of toiletries, first aid supplies, perfumes, hand creams, sunscreen and beauty products."
Ms Laffey said on her second trip to the area, she still found the desolated landscape shocking and the image would always remain vivid in her mind.
The colour of the landscape has changed from bright red dirt in January to a lifeless brown dirt now and a few more straggly little saplings have sprung up with the little bit of rain in February.
"The tumbleweed is still rolling across the plains, the bones still dot the landscape and the flies are still multiplying with the maggot riddled carcasses providing perfect breeding grounds."
Ms Laffey said it was the effort of volunteers that helped to keep the spirits of those drought-stricken families strong in such a hard time.
"Everything we took out there enabled more time for the herds to stay alive. This is why we go. This is why you give. This is how we should live, helping one another get through the tough times and these people are doing it so tough at the moment," she said.
"They don't ask for help, they only take what they need, not want. Even the children, when asked if they wanted a treat, said, 'no, thank you, we don't need those'."
To help raise funds for the next Burrumbuttock Hay Runners event in three months time, the St. Ursula's Old Girl Network and Oldies Angels Inc. will be holding a giant farmers cent sale at the basketball courts.
The cent sale will be held on June 19 from 1pm in Flindt St with money to be raised for fuel for the next run.
If you would like to donate goods for the cent sale, you can drop off to Angels Inc at the basketball courts from Monday to Friday, 7.30am to 4pm or phone Sue on 0411 592 594.