Imagine following a 500km cattle trail over dunes and across stony gibber plains, without meeting another soul. In the 1930s, before phones and portable radios, Tom Kruse did just that. Once a month, Tom delivered supplies and mail from Marree to Birdsville, along the Birdsville Track. The Track wasn’t yet a road – just a meandering thread through the wilderness – and only 10 years earlier, camels had been performing this task.
Tom had no mechanic or support services. If something went wrong, he had to fix it himself. Battling sand storms, ferrying freight across the Cooper in flood times and performing ad hoc mechanical repairs, Tom always got through in the end.
In 1952, filmmaker John Heyer created a documentary about the Birdsville Track mail run, called ‘The Back of Beyond’. The movie won international prizes and acclaim. Almost ten per cent of Australia’s population saw Tom in the movie and he became a household name.
One of Tom’s trucks is parked opposite the Marree Hotel. It says ‘EG Kruse’ on the door because Tom’s real name was Esmond!
Hear more about Tom and the Birdsville Track mail run in the Birdsville Track Audio Tour.