Saturdays in Bigga

On the sixth of July 1973 at Tamworth Base hospital a new baby was born. That baby was me! Born in the Country Musical Capital of the Country and I spent the first five years of my life living in various country towns.

My Mum’s family hailed from a little town outside of Forbes, Binnaway if you are interested. My grandfather was a wheat and sheep farmer. My parents owned Country Pubs when I was little, in Dubbo and Narrabri . I remember when Treloars of Tamworth got escalators installed and I thought that was the most amazing thing in the world.

Then we moved to the outskirts of Sydney and I started school, but I will never forget the best memories of wide open skies, rabbits, horses, sheep and the smell of stale beer.

So when my friend Mrs. Webster asked whether I would like to spend a few days on her farm, I was IN.

Getting out of the city, let me tell you that my shoulders started to detach from my earlobes as soon as we hit Goulburn and by the time we reached Blanket Flat, I was all like “Whatever…….”

But I want to tell you about our little visit to the nearest township, a place called Bigga.

This is Bigga.

Bigga is a sweet old town with a population of 245. It is famous for producing super fine wool, like THE WORLDS BEST SUPERFINE WOOL! Bigga describes itself as “a small rural village located 2 hours from Canberra and 3 hours from Sydney.”

I describe it as ADORABLE!

There are a few things to note about Bigga. It has a general store.

The Olympia Cafe is more like a general store, which is run by a lady called Helen who has been around the sun 85 times. The floors are boarded and uneven and the offerings are, well…. let’s just say eclectic. Helen knows everything that goes in in Bigga, like who has moved in and who has moved out.

The store sells paper bags of mixed lollies at the counter for a buck a throw. There is an old soda fountain and a proper, industrial milkshake maker.

And to save anyone from being deadly embarrassed because they menstruate, Helen wraps sanitary products in plain paper packaging so your business remains your own.

Helen not only protects your cycle, but she is also the towns post-mistress, worm seller and dispenser of fishing licences. She has a collection of greeting cards which I noticed were mainly made up of those offering sympathy.

I also appreciated the fact that Helen was a huge fan of inspirational quotes and the store was dotted with them. Handwritten. By Helen.

Bigga is bigger than the general store though. There is the Bigga Golf Club which opens on a Friday and a Saturday nights for “special occasions” and advertises “COLD BEER” as it’s main drawcard.

There is the Bigga Recreation Ground in which you can camp in for free for up to three nights as well as an updated and pretty fancy Bigga Memorial Park, behind the Bigga War Memorial hall.

And of course, a country town would not be complete without the pub, and Bigga is happy to present you with The Federal Hotel.

The Federal Hotel also sold worms.

Now, as I explained, I grew up in country pubs and I think my actual first sentence was “schooner of new thanks love.” The Federal Hotel was a fine example of what a country pub should be. A suspicious landlady called Denise who took some time to warm to us city slickers. Two barking dogs alerted her to our arrival and she meandered in from upstairs and, after giving her our order, she dusted off the bottle of Gordons gin and made my three mates a gin and tonic.

But not me!

“Schooner of New thanks!” But I had to settle for a Carlton Draught which was delicious. As I knocked the top of that frosty, I took a tour of the Beer Garden.

Back inside, I quizzed Denise about the pub. She had been running it for twenty years and usually sorts the fisticuffs out herself. She had only had to call the police three times in all those years. There are three rooms available upstairs for accommodation and you can get a feed from Denise between the hours of noon until 2pm.

“What’s in the mixed grill Denise?” I asked.

Denise then managed to rattle off every type of meat known to mankind, plus a few ones I think she made up.

“Plus chips and vegetables….”

Turns out, the mixed grill was the most popular menu item, closely followed by the schnitzel.

I actually had ulterior motives for my visit to The Federal Hotel. For you see, two of our party of four are single and are quite desperate to feel the weight of a man on them, and I had expectations that we would fling those doors open to find a room full of handsome country squires who had all come into town to take a wife.

Or at least get laid.

And while Bigga was full of charm as a small country town, we left the pub “uncharmed”. (Unless you counted the two dogs who were delightful.)

And on the way home, we did a little greengrocery shop.

These little country towns are so important. They make up the essence of who we actually are. So next time you are travelling through one, make it your habit to stop. And let the “Helen” of the town make you a milkshake. Because the stories you will hear are a slow, thoughtful dialogue that the cities sometimes fail to provide.

And that, my friends, was Bigga.

Do you live, or do you come from a country town?

What makes it so special?