After a lifetime driving trucks across southern Australia, before semi-retiring to work in the public gardens in the Campaspe Shire in Victoria, Bruce Neilson is now enjoying his retirement driving a covered ex-milkvan around the back roads of the Riverina and northern Victoria.
Bruce now lives in Girgarre, in northern Victoria which is a leisurely drive by horse and wagon across the border and into NSW.
Perhaps he is following the ageless idea of hitching his lifestyle to the stars with time spent on the road.
But attaching his half-bred draught horse to the wagon is easy for Bruce as he has always had a connection with horses even though he drove big rigs for a long time.
“I decided to drive a horse rather than ride one as I got older,” he said.
“One day I saw a fellow with a covered wagon drawn by a horse and I thought ‘that would be the life’!”
Bruce said he found his wagon which had been used for milk delivery by Metropolitan Dairies in Melbourne up until the late 1960s and restored it 15 years ago to it’s present comfortable appearance.
A bit like Toad in Wind in the Willows, Bruce is now taking in the bush driving at an easy pace and camping wherever and whenever he feels like a break.
“I leave camp about 8.30 and pull up about one o’clock when I see a good camp,” he said. “After unhitching ‘Captain’ and pegging him near feed and water, I gather a bit of wood and light a fire to settle in for the afternoon and night.”
One day I saw a fellow with a covered wagon drawn by a horse and I thought ‘that would be the life’!
At the time The Land caught up with Bruce on a back road between Mathoura and Deniliquin he had been on the road for three months and expected to be back in Girgarrie by the end of August.
“I have been up to Urana and as far west as Moulamein travelling down the stock routes north of the Murrumbidgee before heading for home,” he said.
“This is my first trip, but there will be many more … it is such a great way to see the country and you get to meet many wonderful people who call at the camp and on the road.”