Young Beef Producers Forum MC Joy McClymont described Clancy Mackay's story as one that gave hope to parents of all the really naughty boys, and it was one that held its audience of 250 spellbound for the half hour that he spoke.
It's testament to the 27-year-old that no-one wanted to miss a moment of his speech at Roma's Cultural Centre, told in a laconic Territory drawl, from his opening line that he'd given a speech at Marcus Oldham College at Geelong at the start of the year and that he hoped he wouldn't bore anyone.
He started off by saying that he hated stepping out in front of people and finished by telling people he was "big on stepping out your comfort zone and having a go, doesn't matter what you're doing, you just got to do it".
"It's the only advice I really got for you," he said.
Clancy has been in that position over and over in his life, through no fault of his own, after a childhood on 113,000 hectare Mt McMinn Station east of Mataranka, developed by his parents Jock and Kerry Mackay from a bare block.
With his parents busy clearing fencelines and building up the herd, he and his two brothers were often left to their own devices after two hours of School of the Air through Alice Springs, 13 hours away, each day.
After 12 years the family sold up and downsized to the 400ha Newstead property at Goondiwindi, to slow down and focus on family.
"The plan was for my old man to focus more on his cutting horses," Clancy said, explaining that he'd imported one of the first Quarter horse stallions back to Australia after three years rodeoing and working in the United States.
A year into life at Goondiwindi, the opportunity came up to purchase the butcher shop in town, which Clancy's father decided to value-add with a Dorper Merino-cross line of sheep and plans for lotfeeding sheep.
Dry times and long hours keeping the business going led to the marriage breaking up and Clancy being sent to boarding school in Warwick, then to agricultural college where he said saddlebronc riding put him on the right track.
After two years at college he worked with his father breaking in weaners at Brunette Downs on the Barkly Tableland, breaking in 36,000 in the first round alone.
In his second year out from college one of his older brothers started his own contracting business at the age of 21, and Clancy went to work for him.
"Everyone always thinks you need a few more wet saddle blankets, people told him, and he probably did, you know, but he knew what he wanted to do," he said.
A rodeo accident to his brother at the start of the season meant that 19-year-old Clancy was helping run the business.
"All Johnno's good mates and my good mates come with us so it wasn't hard to run," he said.
As Clancy tells the story, he did a lot of rodeo riding that year before following a mob of cattle processed at Lawn Hill Station and sold to Hewitt Cattle Co down to central Queensland, when the opportunity to go to the US western tourist town of Cody at Wyoming came up.
With 90 straight days of rodeo from June to August, the young man was in his element.
"If you were keen, you could get on 90 horses, or even more, because some nights there they were short on fellas getting on, you'd get on two under a different name, because it was a tourist town," he said.
After a couple of weeks doing that, he ventured north to Canada, before returning in August to try and make the rodeo finals.
"We got back at the start of August and I just went as hard as I could," Clancy said. "I got on 45 horses in 30 days, with rerides, and didn't have any injuries. I got stomped on a few times but I could still get on."
Next up was a scholarship in west Texas, studying boilermaking and rodeoing, until he received the news that his father had brain cancer, and he returned home to Australia.
Needing to make money fast, he decided that aerial mustering was the go.
"I ripped in and done it in four months and was out mustering in 2018," he told the Roma audience. "I didn't make huge money straight away but it was enough to support the old man."
That meant he was flying for Barkly Helicopters in 2019 when the monsoon descended on the Gulf.
He flew for 11 days straight then, before following the flood downstream to move cattle out of the way.
"It was coming so fast - you come back to that same area in a couple of hours, the water would be a metre deep," he recalled.
Keeping the experiences coming, Clancy then told people of his experiences catching buffalo around Borroloola.
"That day alone, there was four of us choppers there and we had 3000 head of buffalo spread across that plain - probably the biggest domestic herd of buffalo you'd see in the country, or the world even," he said. "I've never worked so hard."
Then Clancy moved on to crocodile egg harvesting in the wet season, either getting slung in to nests, or in a cage, poking angry females with a bamboo stick to keep them at bay.
"But you just feel naked out there," he said. "You're on a big flooding mat and the water's three metres deep and she's just ripped up the grass - I hated that."
He went through the exact science of egg collecting, worth $56 an egg with up to 1000 collected a day, which the Traditional Owners received royalties for.
The next opportunity for Clancy was the Currawong scholarship offered by the Conway family at Taroom, to attend Marcus Oldham College in Geelong.
"It was all about stepping out of my comfort zone and going down there and trying to learn something," he said. "I knew what I wanted to do and I just needed to get a bit of business smarts behind me."
He said he now has big plans to build up a stock handling course that would help with staff retention, which he hoped would start next year, with the help of private companies.
He also has a contract fencing business with a mate in central Queensland, and he plans to breed his father's horses.
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