|Newspaper Title||The Queenslander (Brisbane, Qld. : 1866 - 1939)|
|Trove Title||Recollections of a Rambling Life: Pioneering in Queensland|
RECOLLECTIONS OF A RAMBLING LIFE. PIONEERING IN QUEENSLAND.
By THOMAS ARCHER.
(Published by arrangement with the author.)
CHAPTER XII (Continued).- Taking up Emu Creek.
There was, however, one occupation forced upon us on which we had not calculated. The winter continued very dry, and the sharp frosts bleached the grass and made
it liable to catch fire. This it did with a vengeance, and in a very short time nearly all the grass on the lower part of the run was burned, while the long absence of rain made the water very scarce in the upper branches of the creek. Here the shepherds had to run teir flocks, and managed to keep them in fair condition, as little water is required for sheep in cold weather. But presently the lambing came on, there was no grass to speak of on the lower part of the run, extra men were not to be had in that far out-lying country, and rather than see thesaheep starve and the lambs perish, your Uncle and I had to take each a flock and 'Tim Shea" them along the banks of the main creek down towards our lower boundary, where the grass had begun to spring slightly, so as to save as many of the young lambs as possible. "Tim Shea ing" means following the sheep as they wander along where they please, and camp-, ing them out wherever they happen to be at dark, instead of driving them into a fold. This is neither a very easy nor a very pleasant occupation, as one has to " bump one's swag"—namely, carry one's provisions,, blanket, and quart-pot on one's hack, and camp with the sheep at night, keeping a sharp eye on them, and lighting fires around them to keep the native dogs from rushing in and killing the lambs. After this kind of work has continued for a short time, one does not mind if rain falls In torrents, even if one has no shelter, and this was what happened, after about a month. Luck ily for me, I was then near a deserted blacks' camp where I got hold of an old sheet of bark, put it up slanting against a couple of sticks, and crouched under it, every now and then sallying out, parading around the flock, and replenishing the fires. Charlie was then some miles further down the creek with his flock, and was less fortunate, having no shelter save his single blanket. But this nights rain was the turning-point of our fortunes; showers continued to fall, in a few days the grass sprang, green and succulent in every direction, and our work be came less trying, as we could camp the sheep for several nights in the same spot, and were therefore no longer obliged to hump our swags every day. We had soon the con solation of knowing that all our toils and moils were rewarded by our having saved
many scores of lambs that must have perished under the ordinary treatment of folding them at night (As it was, a good many died from exhaustion and starvation, but the survivors were in splendid con dition, and raced and romped about as only healthy and well-fed lambs can do, and as I had never seen lambs do since we left Birallan on the Castlereagh. I was the first to get rid of my flock by 'handing it over to a shepherd, and after (having been so long out off from the civilised world, I determined to take a ride into Eskdale and find out how affairs had been progressing during those many months. Charlie's camp was on the way, and I called at it, but he was absent with his flock, and having been long destitute of such luxuries as pen, ink, and paper, I stripped a piece of bark from a tree, wrote on it with a cinder from the fire, " Gone to Grabam's ; back to-morrow," and put It where it was sure to be seen. I returned next afternoon, and we camped together that night, and spent a pleasant time over our pipes and our pot of tea, comparing our experiences, discussing the news I had picked up at Eskdale, and arranging our future plans. Shortly after this he also got rid of his flock, and we both returned to our luxurious quarters at Wooroongundie, the head station. Albout this time my brother William made his first appearance at Brisbane, on his way to pay us a visit. So greatly did he and I then resemble each other that a tradesman of Brisbane stepped up to him on the street, and, presenting him with a little out-standing bill of mine, requested him to pay it. This refused to do, the most unbrotherly conduct I ever heard of. He did not stay long with us, but soon returned overland to the luxurious life of a Wallero- wang and Yoolloondoorie swell ! Not long after this Charlie went down on some business to Durundur and Brisbane and as everything was going on smoothly at the station, I resolved to make a small exploring trip across the main range and see if I could find any good country on the Western or Darling Downs side. Getting hold of a half-savage backboy belonging to that country and mounting him on a horse and myself on another, we set off and followed the creek up a dozen miles to its head, then ascended the range, which here was not very high crossed it, and came upon the head of a blind or waterless creek which we followed down for three or four miles, when it suddenly ran out, and lost itself in a fine well-grassed plain. Advancing a couple of miles across the plain, we came upon a small, shallow, and muddy waterhole. where we camped, watered the horses, and re- freshed ourselves with a pot of tea,&c. While thus engaged I tried to get some in- formation about the country from my com panion, and, pointing down the plain, asked "Water sit down?"—a shake of the head, and a decided " Bel" (no) was all the an swer I could get, greatly to my disgust, as I could see the plain opening out westward into a beautiful expanse or country, with lovely open "downs" ridges, extending as far as the eye could reach. Knowing that a station called Yondarion (Jondaryan) must be situated somewhere to the westward, I continued our course in that direction across the Downs, the plain trending more to the north. After riding a couple of hours across this exquisitely lovely sheep country we suddenly came upon a camp of blacks, and the idea at once occurred to me that there must be water somewhere near, as these blacks would not be here. Riding up to the camp I asked, "Where water sit down?" " There along o' that fellow tree" was the answer, and one of them went up to a large box tree, in which a hole had many years before been cut, into which be inserted his hand with a small coolaman (wooden bowl) in it, and brought it out full of a dark brown but cool and not unpleasantly tasting water; the large hollow stem was in fact a reservoir, into which the rain water from the hollow branches above descended, and supplied the blacks with all they needed for drinking. I was much disappointed, espe- cially as I was assured that " Bel water sit down good way" with a swing of the arm all round the horizon. Starting again, we continued riding to the westward till dark, when we camped and tied up the horses, as I knew that they would wander off in search of water, and, even though hobbled, would be some miles off before morning. During the night I made up my mind to return In the direction whence we had come, but just before dawn I heard the distant and faint barking of a dog to the westward, and knew that there must be white men, and conse quently water, in that direction. At dawn we saddle up, and rode on in the direction of the friendly dog, and soon saw ahead of us, on the edge of a large plain, a hut and some sheepyards, which turned out to be an out station of Yondarion. Here there was a creek with lots of water, and the horses en- joyed a good drink, after which we went on, and in a couple of hours arrived at Yon- darion head station, where I was kindly welcomed by the owner, Mr. James Andrew, who soon had an excellent breakfast placed before me, whloh I thoroughly enjoyed, while my companion revelled in the luxuries of the kitchen, and the horses made up for lost, time in the well-grassed paddock. I remained here till the afternoon, and ascer- tained from Mr. Andrew that the boundary of his run was six miles beyond the sheep station we had passed, which left unclaimed a large block of the beautiful country we had ridden over the day before, and, lying as it did so near to our runs on Emu Creek and Cooyar, it would be a most valuable addition to them. But what was the use of it without water, was the question I put to myself and Mr. Andrew, who assured me he knew of no water in that directlon be- yond the creek on which his sheep station was. Abandoning all hope, therefore, we saddled up in the afternoon, and, taking the road towards Toowoomba, we arrived late at night at Gowrie station, then held by its original occupants, Messrs. Hughes and Isaacs, the former of whom I had frequently met in Brisbane, and who now received me with great kindness. Early next morning we again set off through the bush for home, whem my companion guided me across the range through a narrow pass between two dense scrubs, which saved us a considerable detour, and that, as far as I knew, was the only benefit I derived from his presence in the course of the trip. We got home late that night, and deep was my disappointment at having to abandon all idea of taking up that grand piece of country for lack of a few waterholes in it. I had occasion, a
couple of years later, to show a person the way across the range in nearly the same direction, only a few miles further north. After crossing the range we followed down another and larger creek than the blind one I had gone down before; very soon this creek ran out into the same plain on which I had camped at the muddy waterhole, and soon we came upon a fine large permanent looking hole, where the creek began to re form and in a mile or two brought us to another still larger, and then to another, on the side of which stood a couple of huts ! On my riding up to the larger of the two, who should appear at the door but Mr. Wiseman, the same person who, years before at Eagle Farm, had regretted that he could not ask me to lunch with the Governor, and who was now installed here as manager of a new station called Rosalie Plains, lately taken up by Henry Stuart Russell, the owner of another station on the Condamine. To my intense disgust I now found out that the muddy hole at which I had camped on my former visit was the first of a chain of holes that extended down the plain, and formed one of the heads of Myall Creek, an affluent of the Condamine. Thus I had made a narrow escape of secur- ing one of the best bits of country on Dar ling Downs. If, instead of striking across country to the westward, and making for Yondarion, I had ridden down the plain a couple of miles, the creek would have re formed, and I would have discovered these fine waterholes, and our whole future career would have taken another course for better or for worse, who can tell ? I think for better. But It was now too late to repine, and the disappointment had to be borne with the resignation always so conspicuous a trait in my character ! Moral., never believe anything a half-savage blackfeliow tells you, especially about water ; always follow down a plain if you want to find water, and don't strike across down ridges, be they ever so lovely : and, lastly, if you find a bit of good country unclaimed and unoccupied, return to it, instead of going on to Gowrie, and explore every inch of it till you either find or don't find water. The embryo squatter will contemptuously remark (to himself), " Why didn't you apply for and take up the country watered or unwatered, and, if un- watered, make dams on it ?" To which I answer, " Dams were unknown and unheard of in those days, and starting an original idea was never my forte." The next work I had to perform was very disagreeable, as it had to be done in con sequence of a great mistake we had made in putting the head station on a spot where the water was not permanent. This mis take arose from want of experience of the soil and climate of our new run, and we soon found out (though not soon enough) that the porous whinstone soil, though excel lent for grass, was ill adapted for holding water, so that ere our dry winter was over the hole where our supply had been obtained went nearly dry. and a well which we had dug in the bed of the creek shared the same fate. We had therefore, much against the grain, to shift the head station to a place four miles from the creek, where the water holes were larger, the soil more clayey, and therefore less porous. To work we went therefore, demolished the comfortable hut we had put up with so much trouble, and in which we had passed so many pleasant even- Ings, carted it and the kitchen to the new place, and there re-erected them. Here my bullock-driving accomplishments came again into play, and I did the transport business, while Charlie and the men erected the huts. While this was going on Charlie had to leave, and I camped by myself a few hundred yards from where the men were at work. One evening while I was eating my solitary supper, just brought to me by the hut-keeper, I was surprised to see a gentleman on horse back talking to the men at their camp. In a few minutes he came towards me, and I recognised him as a Roman Catholic priest whom I had met several times, and always found a very pleasant, kind, and jovial man, and I was glad, therefore, when he pro posed to camp with me for the night. After spreading his blankets and making himself comfortable on the other side of the big log which made the backing of my cheerful fire, and partaking of the frugal meal I could offer him, he informed me that he was on a tour through the district to visit his co- religionists, and attend to their spiritual wants. We then had a pleasant chat while reclining on our blankets, and he told me a great deal of news about men, things, and events that had occurred in Brisbane and throughout the districts during my long ab- sence from civilisation. There was at that time a good deal of excitement about affairs in Ireland, where Dan O'Connell was carry- ing on his agitation for " repale," and our conversation soon branched off into the question of Irish politics, on which we dif- fered considerably, though the discussion was carried on with perfect good humour on both sides of the log. Next morning one of the men saddled up the reverend father's horse, and his tall and handsome figure disappeared for ever from my sight. (To be continued.)