In a tiny Queensland hamlet, outback character and former truckie Dennis ‘Mad Dog’ Madigan painstakingly restores an old Diamond T.
Coincidence is the best way to describe my recent reconnection after 14 years with 64-year-old Mad Dog.
He’s one of just five people who live in the small rural town of Maxwelton, which is 50km along the Flinders Highway from Richmond and 150km from Julia Creek in the other direction.
A few weeks back I yarned to a Richmond based truckie who mentioned he had recently stopped off at Maxwelton. The subject soon got on to whether we both knew Mad Dog… of course we did.
But I hadn’t seen or heard from Mad Dog since 2006, then out-of-the-blue he phoned me.
“I was searching though some old stuff and found your Big Rigs card and wondered if you were still alive,” Mad Dog said.
I last saw Mad Dog at the Richmond Fossil Festival in 2006 and before that at a Pig n Dog weekend and a rodeo there.
“I got the name Mad Dog because I breed dogs and everybody knows me by that,” he said.
Mad Dog was a former truck owner-operator when he was based in Charters Towers in the 1970s and 1980s.
“I drove a White AEC which was a good truck and loved it at the time,” he said.
He moved to Maxwelton about 35 years ago which is now a virtual ghost town and that assessment comes from Mad Dog.
They reckon if you clap your hands you kill 10 flies and when you open your mouth you swallow 20.
“The flies aren’t too bad here at the moment but they can be in big numbers,” he said.
‘Maxy’, as it is known, used to be a thriving town with a school, the Northern Star Hotel, a post office, a railway station, a shop and other facilities.
“The bloody pub got eaten by white ants and then got blown down by a cyclone more than 30 years ago. It used to be a great place to have a beer and I only had to wander 100m up the street for a drink. As people left so did everything else,’’ he said.
Mad Dog knew the writing was on the wall for Maxwelton to become a ghost town when the local school needed 10 students to stay open.
“It had nine students and when the education department inspector visited to check it out, the 10th student was always away sick. His name was Skippy and they really had a kangaroo on the school roll instead of a boy,” he said with a laugh.
Mad Dog still has a collection of old trucks and other vehicles on his Maxy property and his main entertainment is travelling into Richmond from time to time.
“I restore these things and there used to be a big USA military camp and airstrip here during WWII,” he said.
His prized possession is an old Diamond T truck which is a work in progress to restore.
Maxy is a sleepy little place and as they say, “Rome Wasn’t Built in a Day”.
“I bought the Diamond T from out near the Three Ways in the NT more than a decade ago and it used to cart rocks from there to Cloncurry. I put a V8 Perkins motor in it and it has 22 gears,” he said.
Being fair skinned, Mad Dog has had his share of skin cancers either frozen off or surgically removed and urges everybody to slip, slop and slap.
If he gets bored at Maxy, Mad Dog drives his old car into Richmond where he will have a few cold soft drinks at his favourite pub the Federal Palace, or the nearby Mud Hut Hotel.
If he catches up with a mate, he may even be tempted into having a beer, although he says he doesn’t imbibe much these days.
From time-to-time he will even rent a room overnight at the Federal Palace in a town which is the “big smoke” compared to Maxy.
“That is when I may have some beers because it gets very hot in the outback. It is 36 degrees today,” he said.
Mad Dog is also a history buff and has found old graves about 20km from Richmond at a place which was once a Cobb and Co stagecoach changeover depot.
“They are from the 1880s,” he said.
Living in Maxwelton, which is 550km inland from the east coast, has some advantages apart from the peace and quiet.
Mad Dog said his biggest thrill was getting a visit from singers Lee Kernaghan and Troy Cassar Daley some time ago.
If you are traveling between Richmond and Julia Creek, look for the turnoff to Maxy which is 500m off the Flinders Highway.
Pop in and see Mad Dog and tell him I sent you. But, be warned, take along the bloody insect repellent.