When Karina Bliss, Joan Kilby and Sarah Mayberry got together to write a series of linked novellas, they knew they wanted to do something in the Outback, and they knew they wanted to find some place where all their stories could start. If that “some place” could also be fun, colorful and uniquely Australian, all the better. Joan suggested a bachelor and spinster ball, and within minutes The Outback Bachelor Ball trilogy was up and running.
Since B & S balls might be a new concept for some, the writers thought it might be fun to share a bit of Outback lore to get readers in the mood. Without further ado, here’s Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About B & S Balls But Were Afraid To Ask:
As Aussie as kangaroos and koalas, or Hugh Jackman and Crocodile Dundee, the Bachelor and Spinster Ball (B&S) is an Australian icon. Sixty-odd years ago B&S balls were a way for isolated country girls and guys to meet a potential marriage partner.
Nowadays, the balls are more about meeting new people, catching up with old friends, and having fun. Basically it’s a giant party, with several hundred to a thousand people. Attendees aren’t just farmers. You’ll find anyone who lives and works in the country there, from schoolteachers to plumbers to truckers.
The balls are characterized by live music, dancing and drinking. People often drive for hundreds of miles in their utes to the ball. The dress code ranges from fancy gowns to casual clothes to costumes. The only hold-over rule from the old days is that men wear a black tie. Women wear cowboy boots beneath their dresses because of the dirt and to protect their feet.
Some things you might see, or do, at a B&S ball: Whip cracking, arm wrestling, circle driving, drinking beer out of your cowboy boot, get covered in food dye, dancing till the wee hours, wrestling in jelly (women),naked butt contest (men), revving your ute engine (unsurprisingly, appeals mostly to male.)
Must haves: Full esky, swag, boots, white shirt and black tie, a love of Bundy and a party-hardy attitude. This song by the Sunny Cowgirls says it all really.
Sophisticated versions of the B&S ball do exist, like the one our heroes and heroines attend. No food dye, no wet T-shirts or naked butts, responsible service of alcohol. Just a whole lot of good-natured, country fun.
Bachelor and Spinster balls perform a useful and important function in rural Australian society. Volunteers from the local community organize these not-for-profits events. Any money left over after the band, security, food and beverages, venue, etc., are paid for go to charity, local service or sporting clubs, community groups or scholarships.
And who knows, after the dust settles, the food dye washes off and you sober up, you just might be lucky enough to find you’ve met the guy or gal of your dreams.
Glossary of Australian terms:
Speed hump – speed bump
Esky – A cooler. Ideally filled with grog.
Grog – alcohol. Mostly beer or Bundy
Bundy – Bundaberg rum. Another Aussie outback icon.
Swag – combination tent and sleeping bag. Sleep on the ground or in the back of your ute.
Ute – short for utility truck. Is a trayback vehicle. At a B&S ball utes are used in circle work.
Circle work – two or more utes driving in tighter and tighter circles, often ending in a collision
Stubby holder – can cozy – neoprene sleeve for keep beer bottles cold. Named after the individual sized bottle, known as a stubby (short for stubby bottle!)
Mad as a cut snake – crazy
Feeling a bit crook – feeling sick
Flat out like a lizard drinking – very busy
Kangaroo loose in the top paddock – mentally deranged
No worries/No drama – everything’s cool, not a problem
Up at sparrow’s fart – awake at the crack of dawn
Root-fest – orgy
Root-in-a-ute – sexual relations in a truck