Chapter 8987517

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Chapter NumberVI
Chapter Title
Chapter Urlhttp://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article8987517
Full Date1880-09-04
Page Number1
Corrections0
Word Count2948
IllustratedN
Last Corrected0000-00-00
Newspaper TitleThe Mercury (Hobart, Tas. : 1860 - 1954)
Trove TitleRonald Walton: A Tale of Early Squatting Life in Moreton Bay
article text

CHAPTER VI.

DoUBM-BANKINO, AND THE BlO RANGE SuK

mountbd.-Boorooma.-Tomux Jones, and His Peculiarities.

In the course of an hour the teams readied the foot of the range, and slowly wound their way to the top of tim first pinch, which was not accomplished without much shouting, and some strong lauguage, without whioh the popular belief is that the bullooks will not put forth their, best efforts. All hands were very glad of a spell, and sat down to have a smoke and a drop of rum, and to disouss the manner in which the bullocks, individually and collectively, had porformed their work. The poor beasts stood, all panting, and some with their tongues hang- ing out, from their rooent exertions.

" My oath ! " said Smasher. " That's a

buster ! "

"It's nothing to the nest pinoh, Smash," said Pinchgut.

" No more it Ain't, Pincher, But Ida sight rather drivo a load up that there un," pointing ' to the next ridge, "nor I'd bring a load of wocl ¡ down it. The first load of wool I drove down it,

the road irai bad, I tell you. There waa four of us, andnone too many at that We had to take the bulloo«» ontj and lower,the dray down tail ar*ti»wIUtwp»e from the pola and round (ha

trees ; but Bhe capsized, for all that The cove was with us, and ray oath 1 he did cuss and swear-though he'd been a parson before he took to .breeding jumbucks (sheep). Then we had to untwitch the ropes, and roll all the bales to the bottom ; put the polers in the dray, with a skid behind and locked wheels, and take her down gingerly. It was a blessed hot day, too, and by the time she was loaded up for a start, the boss was nigh without a hat, for he used to jump on it whenever he col in a scot."

The teams halted again at the foot of the dreaded pinch, and as it would have been useless to attempt it with single teams, Ronald gave orders to double-bank-that is, to take up ono dray at a time with two teams, equal to ten or twelve couples. The track was rocky and narrow, and not a few logs and stumps lay on it. The gradient was very sharp, and, in places, the sidelings were bad. The two white bullock drivers stationed themselves on the near side of the long string of bullocks, and Jupiter was told off as off-sidor. Ronald brought up the rear

with two chunks of wood to chock the wheels

with, to prevent the dray from running back when the bullocks wero stoppod for a few moments to get breath, now and then. Each dray was heavily loaded, and slow was the progress up that long steep ridge, for many stoppages had to be made. At last the top was reached, hut the bullocks being much distressed, had to bo epollod for a considerable time. Who but those who have been engaged in such work can realise the interest felt, and tho ex- citement experienced at such times ? During tho actual struggle, one does not noto his in- ward feelings-nay, the accidental fall ; tho piece of " bark" that is knocked off tho hand against a tree; tho loss of his hat, and other minor casualties, are unnoticed till tho difficulty is surmounted, and the sustaining excitement over. Then, the heaving of the chest, and the loud beating of the heart, which sends the scalding blood through every fibre, assert themselves painfully. One's scanty clothes are as wet as if they had been dragged from a water-hole, instead of having boen for a con- siderable period under the scorching rays of a tropical sun, and a fooling of exhaustion prompts ono to throw himself on to the ground, and await the ceasing of the tumult within. The poor bonsts' heaving sides, lolling tongues, mouths streaming with saliva, and occasional coughs or moans, all testify to the heavy strain thoy have so long sustained. Poor beasts ! without thora Australia's pioneers could never have made their conquests. Yet, how ofton cruelly usod, even while doing their best !

Ronald had often, during tho pull up that pinch, to run round to tho off-side of the long team, and assist Jupiter to urge tim bullocks forward, or to keep them off the trees at the bends of the road, for to get a dray fast against a tree in such a case is no light matter, and causes considerable delay in clearing it. Somo times tho tree, if not too large, and leaning so as to endanger the dray or the bullocks, is cut down and levered out of the way,

The other two drays wero successfully piloted to the top of tho pinch Teams No. 1 and No 2 take up the first dray ; No 2 and No 3 take the second ; and No. 1 and No. 3 take tho third ; so that no two teams made a second trip together-thus spelling one each timo. A great deal of time was consumed in surmounting the difficulties of tho Big Range ; so that it was late in the afternoon when the three drays reached the summit, which, when accomplished, did not afford anything of a view to compensate the travellers for their exertions. Nothing but an extensive prospect stretched before them, wearying the eye with its vastness and monotony. All beneath them looked like a great valley ; and an inexperienced person would never suspect that on its calm, sombre bosom, lay difficulties almost as great as those the drays had_ just surmounted. High, stony, and heavily timbored ridges ; gullies, rivers, creeks, swamps, and other obstructions, wore freely interspersed through that docoptive pro- spect.

They had not the same difficulties to en-

counter in the descent on the other side of tho range ; it was almost a table land. Two miles more ended their day's work at a good camp, just about dusk. There was a chain of large reedy water-holos, which was fortunate, as the bush grass at that altitude was very dry, having suffered much from the frosts of the provious winter, and had not yot been burnt off ; consequently it was not patronised by the tirod cattle, but they wore amply compensated by the abundance _ of succulent reeds and horb age on the margin of the water-holos. They were soon satisfied, and glad to lie down to rest

their wearied limbs.

Thoir way now lay through tolerably good travelling country, intersected by tho hoads of two or three important streams running in a south-easterly direction. Two bad places, that wore rather dreaded by the travellers, yot re- mained to bo got over. One of thom was a half-swampy, half-boggy spot, about a milo long, that could not be avoided, as ridges too steep to bo driven over Hanked oithor side. This, of coime, caused a vexatious delay, and entailed much extra work on our frionds. Each dray had to bo i elie ved of half its loading, which was stacked on a pile of crossod timber in a dry place. When tho half-load was got across, it was stacked in a similar mnnnor to that loft behind, which, in its turn, was con- veyed acrosB the swamp, and the dray ngain loaded. This proceeding cost more labour than tho inexperienced reader could imagine, for all the dead-weight is always put on the bed of the dray, and the lighter articles ou top ; conse- quently the second portion of the load had to be taken off as soon as it was got over the bad place, and the first, or heavy portion, put again on the bottom of the dray.

A bullock-driver has au inveterato dislike to unloading his dray, and unless in case of ex- treme necessity, will never do it. But in the in tho present case it was unavoidable, .as they all knew from dear-bought experience. In such a place as the one just described it would be folly of the gravest kind for any man who knew the ground to attempt to take over a heavy load We will imagine a case. The driver decides to make the attempt with a full load. He thinks-" Well, 1 can only get stuck, and if I do, I'll just double-bank. If it won't come, then I'll unload." _ Very well. By dint of hard work he succeeds in getting the dray thoroughly bogged, and some of the bullocks too.. He con aiders-if indeed he does not have to unyoke his team at once, which m nine cases out of ten lie must, to extricate them. He slues the team on to a place not so much like hasty-pudding, and goes back for his mate's team, which he hooks on in front of his own. Tho doublo team may possibly move it on a few yards further, but m the attempt, the extra number of bullocks turn up the mud to suoh a depth, that the dray becomes embedded above the axle. He slues the team about, but wrh no good result; onthe con trary, matters become worse, for the Bludge is stirred up to such a depth, that many of the bul- locks are bogged and have to be unyoked ore they are able to extricate themselves. Possibly, some have to be dragged out with a chain or rope round their horns, and two or four of their mates hooked on toit. In the course of his manoeuvring with the team, he is luoky if he does not smash, or at least spring the pole.

Finding jail his efforts useless for any other purpose than to knock his bullocks about, and make his dray a more permanent fixt'ire, he unhooks the team from the polo and hooks them on to the tail of the dray, and if possible draws it back on to comparatively sound ground. Then he has to set about what he Bliould have done while his bullocks weie fresh, viz., unload and make two trips. It is mortifying enough to be1 beaten in a feasible attempt, but how much more so in one that should never have been made 1 In any case, the driver is sure to be a mass of mud from boots to hat, after working1 ao long in slush averaging knee-deep. Bnt lie takes no account of that, and would prefer being up to his neck in it rather than fail.

lu five weeks from (he start the drays arrived at Boorooma all safe. No blacks had been seen' on the road, and no exciting incident occurred, except the affair at Currscurra. Blacks some- times stuck up and murdered mon travelling with drays ; but whether Ronald and his party were not attacked because no fair opportuuity offered ; or whether there wero no blacks about,

cannot be determined. Cortain it is, that, from1 whatever cause, the drays arrived at Boorooma unmolested; " . ?

The Boorooma run waa.magnifioent country; fortahaap,or «attie. Thara wera twelve thousand ahaapi and «ighihuudred head of cattl« depas- tured on it, bnt ita oapabUitiai, in »rang« good

Beesons, wore up to five times that quantity of stock. The head-station buildings were not extensive, but occupied a very beautiful sito. There was a modorate-sized slab hut, containing three rooms, and a skillion at the back ; aho a

verandah in front. A small kitchen and store

stood in the rear. Away to the right were two huts for the accommodation of the men ; and up to the loft on the same ridgo, was the stock-yard for th« cattle. At the back of tho men's huts avore several large sheep-yards. From the " house " (the hut first described abovo) a beau- tiful view gladdened tho eye. About two hundred yards below ran a very pretty creek, along the banks of which grew small patches of scrub. Beyond that stretched a large gum flat, about half-a-mile wido and three milos in longth. Tho spurs of low rolling ridges rose from it on oithor sido, clothed to their ex- tremities with splendid timber. At the head of the flat, or rather two or three miles beyond it, stood a grand mountain of peculiar shape, tower- ing to a great height. Just to the left, up tho branch of the flat through which tho crock ran, lay a beautiful lagoon about a mile long, the surplus waters of which flowed down the creek.

There was vory little attempt at ouibellish ment in the house. The walls of the room that served for both dining and drawing-room, avere covered with old Sydney Morning Heralds, which, in thoir turn, wore overlaid by numerous pictures from the Illustrated London News. Ronald's bedroom was beautified in the samo manner. The rough slab floors avere bare. Tho furniture was home-made, and of tho roughest 1 description-for iostanco, three-legged stools made of hardwood, and covered avith native dog and kangaroo skins, did duty for chairs ; tho other articles avero equally primitive.

Thero avere no females at Boorooma, but a smart young felloav-a Londoner-avho had sora'od on board a man-of-war, and had got into trouble after leaving her, avas cook and housemaid in one. Ho performed all the domestic work required by Ronald -even tho avashing. Indeed, ho was as good an " all-round " servant as ono could desire. Certainly there avas no cloar-starching to bo done, but if thero had bcon, ho would no doubt havo mastered that mysterious art. All that he required was showing onco or twico, and tho thing was done. He made beautiful bread, and the yeast to make it avith. Ho marlo pies, puddings, and preserves of wild fruits. Ho made candles and soap, and attendod to tho garden. He could make several different dishes of Bait-beef or mutton ; and sometimes, for iv chango, would make even kangaroo palatable. Then everything ho had to do with avas as clean as a new pin. If Bonald avished to turn down his shirt sleeves, or close tho breast of his shirt over his tanned skin, ho could do so avith comfort, for buttons avero always to bo found theteon. lu that respect ho was an oxamplo to scores of women in similar situation! in tho bush at the present day. The namo of this paragon of a man was Tommy Jones. But ulas, for Ronild ! This treasured institution avas destined not to last much longer at Boorooma Ho had nearly served his time as a Government man, and was about to apply for his discharge, with a view to setting up in business on hi3 own account. Ho had boen at Boorooma ns Ronald's assigned servant nearly four y oats, and had served threo previous years on tho roads in the vicinity of Brisbane

Tommy .Iones avas indefatigable ; ho nea'or seemed to have ns much as ho could do, so 3nick was ho at disposing of all he took in hand, n addition to tho accomplishments already enumerated, he had many others. Ho could shoe a horse, shear, mend a dray, clean a watch, split timber, and mend pots and pans as woll as a tinker-but. No, it was not his temper ; ho was tho personification of good temper and good nature-but. No, not dishonest ; he avas per- fectly trustavorthy-but. No, ho avas not self willed ; he was as obedient as a well-trained sheop dog, but he had a habit-a very pleasant habit whon indulged in moderation, but ho overdid it, and made a nuisanco of it. Not a bit of it, ho neither smokod nor drank to excess-but he was passionately fond of singing, aa-histling, playing tho violin, and dancing. No matter what ho was doing, ho must accompany tho avork avith a tune, cither whistled or sung, and whon possible, avith some action of tho feet. His violin avas an instrument ho had himself constructed. It avas very creditably made, though it avas his first attempt as a musical in- strument maker, and ho laboured under tho dis- advantage of having nothing but bush timbor and a bit of a deal box to fashion it from. The

strings avero made of kangaroo tail sinews. The bone avas composed of a spear of grass-tree and somo horse-hair. "Can you play it avhon it is finished?" his mates askod. His reply aa'as liko Paddy's to a similar question -"I don't know, but I'll try." It avas au instrument of torture. Tho cuts delighted in its music, and molrowod in concort. Tho dogs howled dolefully. Tho instrument avould havo enchanted a mob of Chinamen. Did tho roador ovor hear a home-made Chinese fiddle played by a Celestial ? Perhups a description of it may not bo out of place for tho information of those who havo not. Pigtail procures an empty two pound salmon tin-or some other vessel of that ilk-and makes a bolo in oach end, into winch he inserts a stick about 2ft. long. Ho thon fastens throo strings from tho tin to tho ond of the stick, straining _ thom pretty tight. Tho bow is made of a twig and a bit of string, tho latter being first passed under the middle Btring of the fiddle, and over tho other two. The performer avorkB the bow from side to sido, sometimes in jorks, at others slowly, apparently without tho least premeditation, producing a Borics of very terrible and erratic shrill notes, shattering to the nervous system of the Euro-

pean. _