Drop by for a drink and a feed, but perhaps avoid the Diamantina cocktail.

Story Kirsty McKenzie  Photos Ken Brass

The population of Middleton doubled when Stoney Cain and his partner Clara Fisher took over the pub in the tiny hamlet on the northern edge of Queensland’s Channel Country. Stoney and his parents, Val and Lester, bought the pub in 2005. Stoney was a silent partner until his parents retired last year to the relative ‘big smoke’ of Longreach, approximately 320km to the south-east. When Stoney and Clara took over, they brought their kids, Oscar Cain, aged 5, and Jaxon Sentinella, aged 9, and so Middleton’s population grew from 2 to 4 residents.

For Clara, who grew up on a cattle station between Normanton and Burketown in the Gulf, it was a baptism of fire, as she confesses she hadn’t been inside a pub for 15 years. Stoney, who spent his childhood on his parents’ sheep and cattle property between Stonehenge and Jundah, was better prepared, having watched Val and Lester run the pub for 16 years, lending the occasional hand. 

While both were accustomed to living remotely, they say the feast-or-famine nature of patronage has taken some adjusting to. “In the middle of summer, you might get one or two people drop by in a day,” Clara says. “But last year on the Sunday after the Big Red Bash, we did 240 meals. We only had 17 plates and there weren’t enough tables for everyone to sit down, but somehow, with help from a friend who had a broken foot, we survived without killing each other.”

This story excerpt is from Issue #145

Outback Magazine: October/November 2022