On the Beaten Track with Dan 'Hoofbeat' Harper


3/6/20242 min read

G'day, let me spin you a yarn 'bout Dan Harper, a farrier by trade, but a bush legend in his own right. Dan, or "Hoofbeat" as the locals fondly call him, is as Aussie as they come – a true blue, dinky-di character with a thick accent that you could spread like Vegemite on your morning toast. Maybe you know him, or someone just like him.

Dan’s trusty steed ain't a horse, but a Toyota Landcruiser, battle-scarred and dust-coated, wandering from farm to farm across the Aussie outback. Inside, it's a jumble of horseshoes, an anvil, tools, and a well-worn swag rolled up behind the seat. And let's not forget his constant companions – an Akubra hat, a bit battered by the sun and wind, perched atop his head, and those RM Williams boots that have seen more miles than a grey nomad.

Each day, Dan rolls up in his Landcruiser to a different farm, greeted by farmers who respect his know-how and easygoing nature. "G'day, Hoofbeat!" they'd shout, and Dan would tip his Akubra with a grin. "Ready to get these nags sorted, mate?" he'd reply, rolling up his checkered shirt sleeves and revealing arms that told tales of hard yakka.

Dan's belt, crafted by legend Steve Craigie himself, held up jeans that had seen better days but were loyal as an old dog. He'd set to work, tending to horses with a skill that made it seem like he was whispering secrets to their hooves. "Easy there, girl," he'd murmur to a feisty mare, "let's make you dance like Fred Astaire."

Now, Dan wasn't just about hammer and nails. He had a yarn for every occasion. As he worked, he'd regale the farmers with tales of the road, the characters he'd met, and the odd beer or two at outback pubs where the floors were as dusty as the jokes.

But it wasn't all beer and skittles. Dan had his moments. Like the time he tried to shoe a donkey that turned out more stubborn than Pauline Hanson. "Blimey, you'd think I was askin' it to do a tap dance!" he'd laugh later, nursing a bruised ego and a cold tinny.

When the sun dipped below the horizon, painting the sky with streaks of crimson and gold, Dan would find a spot under the stars. Out would come the swag, and he'd roll it out with a contented sigh. Lying there, under the vast, starlit sky, Dan felt like the king of his own endless kingdom.

Money was never the big picture for Dan. As long as he had enough for fuel and a feed, he was happier than a kangaroo with a pouch full of grass. "This ain't just a job, mate," he'd say, "it's a bonzer lifestyle."

So there you have it, the story of Dan 'Hoofbeat' Harper, a farrier with a heart as wide as the outback. With his Akubra, RM Williams, and a swag for a throne, he travels the land he loves, one hoofbeat at a time.

And should you ever find yourself wandering down one of those sun-baked, dusty red roads of the outback, where the horizon stretches endlessly and the air hums with the song of the bush, keep an eye out for Dan. If by chance or serendipity, you see him, give him my warmest regards.

© Peter Pickering 2023. www.peterpickering.com