|Newspaper Title||The Mercury (Hobart, Tas. : 1860 - 1954)|
|Trove Title||Ronald Walton: A Tale of Early Squatting Life in Moreton Bay|
A TALE OF EARLY SQUATTING LIFE IN
Br the Author of " Adventdresin Queensland."
, [AU Rights Reserved.]
The Two Bullock-drivers, Smasher and
Pinchgut.-Treatment of Convicts.-Camp-
Ronald's" two white bullock-drivers were named respectively Smasher and Pinchgut. Ab before stated, they liad been convicts, and were assigned to Ronald from tho Govern- ment service, as was customary iii those days. The system worked very well in some respects, for it relieved tho Stato of a good deal of oxpenso in maintaining prisoners nt unprofitable work ; and it also assisted the settlers, who would have found it difficult to procure free labour, in tho early days of that essentially penal settieniont. Tho men, whon kindly treated, wero generally good and faithful
servants. Of coursa there wero some irreclaim-
able characters amongst them, who could never behave themselves well, either as bond or free. Ronald had many assigned servants in his employ. As soon as they entered his ser vico, lie would tell thom that as long as they con- ducted themselves woll and honestly, they should bo put under no restraint, but rocoivo the samo treatmont as freo men. Ho supplied thom with sufficient clothing and food, _ and ^ little money. Undor theso conditions, his experionco wont to show that assigned servants woro as good labour as free. On the othor hand, there were many employers who ruled their mon with a rod of iron, the i- .jkast infringement of_ their rules being punished
wfflrth&lasli, so:ni-starvation, or other crueltios ; the resultTioing that tho poor vvrotches in many instances took to the bush, and lived a lito of lawlessness, not only robbing but murdoring ; in some cases tho martinets wero the first victims. No owner of assigned servants could sentenco his own men, but A., a magistrate, would send his offender» to his friend B., another magistrate, who would sentouce them as directed. Then B., would send his mon to A., who would comply .with B's. wishes, on tho principle that " one geod turn deaervea another." Govornmont women were, considering their sox, troated by their ovorscors and gaolors with oven greater barbarity. They wero actually ducked with ropes round their waists, occasionally when in a .condition that should havo excited tho pity of fiends ; and wero flogged and othorwiso ill
Smasher dorivod his name fiom tho offonco for which ho had boen sent out, viz., passing counterfeit coin. Pinchgut received his from the fact that he had worked in chains on a small island of that name iu Port Jackson. What the truo patronymics of theso two mon wore, neither thoir master or any one else in that qnartor know. They themsolvcs gave tliOBe names, and ns they worked as well under them as they possibly could havo undor moro high Bounding ones, thoy wero never cross questioned. They had boon with Ronald several years, and had always given satisfaction. Thoy required most looking after whon thoy were in town, and especially when about leaving it, or thoy would bo suro to treat and be treated by their frionds, till thoy wero not ?. ablo to discern tho leaders from tho polers "j '?' their teams. However, as Ronald was Past r'Y 'ku t0,nl WÍUl tll0m' h° kept a plete(lnis°30ti °" tllom> mld lmrvioA tllem ¿nd resumed w,;doratoly inebriate condition. Once 2 o'clock the 3lt roa" *nGy misht bo trusted, for then left continni always carried a keg of spirits completed at l(thoy were honest enough to bo alive evening two Iocsonsibilities, and took no moro than Edwards. One od. On the present occasion Ronald Sargeant who diih tho drays, ho being more anxious other_ was a T«out tho blacks on tho road, thoy
hat'i/y^iawn symptoms of an inclination to bo troublesome for some timo previously.
The roulo for tho first two days lay through ; a not vory interesting country. On tho Í second night they camped at a placo called
Limestone-now Ipswich. Horo was an » abundanco of grass and water, and a fair
prospect for miles around. , As,the bullocks were unyoked, tho tired animals walked lei- surely down to water and slaked, thoir thirst, after which thoy all quietly headed away' to- wards a patch of burnt feed about a milo' off, of which*they know tho wboreabouts, ns thoy had discovered it on their down trip. No matter how much rich old grass may bo growing in tho neighbourhood of a camp, if thoro is a bit of burnt feed, i.e., young grass that springs in place of old that has boon burnt-within a reasoiublo, or sometimes unreasonabledistapco the bullocks will be suro to smell it, and m uko straight for it. . i .
Tho preparations for a camp when travelling with teams, nro few and simple Thorp aro. always favourito camping-places on-a'liho of road into the intorior, which can be reached, barring accidents, ovory night. Tiloso places have grass and water for tho bullocks and other animals, in all ordinarily good soasons ; but woe to ;the bullock-drivers and their off aiders, if a largo mob of Bheop has been camping there previous to their arrival, for cattlo will not oat grass ovor which shoop havo travelled, but wnndor and scatter for miles, discon- tentedly. Tho first thing to bo dono after the dray is drawn on to a suitablo spot, is to chock the whcols and drop tho propstioks ; unhook tho bullocks from tho polo, and draw them alongside tho dray. Then the greatest roguos aro hobbled, bolls aro stropped round tho nock« of others, mid tho unyoking pro- ceeds, beginning with tho polers. Tho chains, bowB, yokes, and keys, aro dropped just where they aro token off. When all tho bullocks are free, tho driver procoeds to slip every bow into its proper holes in tho yokes, and the keys into tho bows, that every thing may be roady for yoking-up in tho morning. If it is a camp vvhoro dingoes, or nativo cats abound, the keys aro put into a pocket at the Bide of tho dray, or tlioso destructivo animals would probably oat the groen hide - or leather ties by which thoy are fastened
to the bows, and givo the driver tho trouble of cutting a fresh lot. Tlioso voracious animals havo been known to run away with, or oat on the spot, whips, bridles, portions of saddles, or anything thoy could find lying about, especially in the wintor when pressed with hunger. Thoy have indeed boon bold enougli to gnaw saddles under sleepers' hoads, and carry oil' their boots.
The unyoking completed, and tho tackling sot in order, the next thing to bo considered is tea. The quart pots and billies aro unstrapped from 'the tail of tho dray, whare thoy havo swung and rattled at every jolt, from break- fast till dinner, mid from dinner till tea, _Tile '_'prog" bag \ia haulod from its nook
_ amongst tho loading, or from botweon tho ' folds of tho tarpaulin ; a fire is modo, and tho ,billioB and quarts aro tillud with wator, and put i on to boil. In moro modern timos, if tho party I is largo, a galvanisod iron bucket is substituted. 1 While tho temperature of tho water is rising to I 212dog.-tho lowest that good tea can possibly \ bo made at (this is a hint to ladies who prosido \ at toa)-tho bullock-drivers and thoir mates go I to a waterhole and wash, or, if it is hot weather, \\ havo a dip. Thoso who consider cleanliness
I in tho light of a superfluity-and thoy aro I j legion-tlu'ow thomsolvos on to the ground
,' and smoko. Whon all nro again assembled,
and the salt-beef and damper are shot out of the bag on to a tin dish, or pioco of bark cut for tho occasion, each mau dips his pannikin into tho sugar bag, thou pours tho scalding toa from his quart pot into it and back sovoral timos, till his allowanoo is swootouod to his taste. Then they sot-to with their knives, and hack off "junks" of damper and beef, which they hold in ono hand, and slice off anything but delicato lumps to cram into their mouths. 'After their mool, they spread tho tarpaulin ovor each dray, letting tho aides fall to the ground . all round ; the blankets, and bedding if any,
are unrollod, and oithor spread before the "f| blazing log firo, or under tho drays, according to '.the fauoy of the owners, who, if no1 too tired
alter their day's labour, would smoko and yarn. Tho cheerful blaze is vory provocative of yarns, and often, in those days, a good talo was elicited by tho apparently oflbnsivo, but generally as well received as good-naturedly put question, " I say, Bill, what were you laggod for 1" When tired of yarning the party would roll themselves up in their blankets for the night.
With tho earliest stroak ol daylight Jupiter wu roused up and tout to catch tho old
s^screw," and go after]the bullocks, which
ho sot about willingly and amartly enough, after a stretch and rubbing his eyes till they were thoroughly open, for black-boys aro always hard to wake in the early morning. He lit his pipe, warmed his clothes at the Aro before putting thom on ; and then hanging his bridle round his neck, and putting his saddle on his head, stalked off on the tracks of the old horse. The stock-whip is caroleBsly thrown over his shoulder, and trails behind in the dowy grass. Ho carries a blazing firestick, the invariable accompaniment of an Australian black, summer or winter, wet or dry. Ho tracks the horse unhesitatingly through the long grass, notwith- standing tho confused network of rccont cattle tracks, and tracks of dingoes and kangaroos, among which the old screw has threaded his way in hobbles. Ho is found and saddled, and Jupiter sees that the tracks of tho bullocks are trending towards the burnt feed as ho oxpectod. He finds twenty-oight out of tho thirty-four in- different mobs within a mile or su, and leaves thom whilo lie goes in soarch of tho missing ones. Ho says, as ho looks for their tracks,
" Thom old divils is always a pokin' about, and can't behave theirsolves like 'spoctablo animals no how. By jingo ! I'll rattle 'em up when I como across 'em, the old cusses !"
Just thou ho comes upon the tracks of a small mob leading towards a bit of scrub three quarters of a milo down a big flat, and after examining them attentively for a few moments, he canters away in tho diroction they havo taken, saying,
' ' I know you, you old cows ! You'ro Bangor, Diamond, Nolson, Boxer, Spot, Downy, and -why, whoso tracks is that ? By jingo ! you trip mo up, for I don't know you. I could a sworo it was that old cow-faced Bally's tracks. " Ho thought that to call a bullock a " cow," or "cow-faced," was on insult of tho highest order to the beast addressed, and com mensuratoly hurtful to its feelings. "No, it ain't Bally no ways, for I seen him with tho mob. This nigger gives it up then."
Ho rodo on puzzled, and somewhat out of temper on that account, for ho prided himself on knowing overy roguo's or rambler's track in tho mob. He shortly reached tho scrub, and found to his delight that the bullock whoso track ho could not mako out, was a black and whito stranger. On collecting tho bullocks, and driving them towards the camp, Smasher, whoso oye was sharp, noticed tho stranger and pointed him out oro the mob readied the drays, saying,
"I do beliovo that's Magpie, as Jim the Sloggor-lum as drives for old McArthur, of Curracurra, at tho Big Range-lost a year agono. Ho slipped his nobby old head out of tho yoko near the camp wo stop nt to-night, and bolted, and tho country was too boggy for the black-boy to pull him ngen. Ain't ho fat ! Shall wo tako him on, air 1"
" Yes," said Ronald, *' if we can do so with- out losing timo ovor him. Wo go within a mile or so of tho Curracurra head-station, and can deliver him up when wo got there. Butlox pect wo will not bo nblo to koep lum till thon, for ho is a terrible old rogue. I hate poley bullocks, tiley aro always roguish."
" Leavo him to mo, sir. I'll lix him so's ho won't get his head out of Chancery. I'm fly to
tho likos of him."
"Bet yor a bottlo of rum, Smnslior, ho'll dodgo yor," said Pinchgut.
" Dono, with you, mato."
Tho two shook hands, which was tantamount
to bookin!» tho hot, after which it would havo ! boon considered highly dishonourable for either to draw out of it, thus proving tho old adage, '* Honour amongst thieves." Each man looked pleasod at tho certainty of winning tho bottlo of rum from tho other. ,