Wednesday, 20 November 2013

THE CATTLE MUSTER

ABOVE. STOCKMEN SHOEING A HORSE/ BELOW. STOCKYARDS. Source: Personal Collection.
I used to love it when the stockmen came to Lornesleigh Station to muster. Usually only my parents and I lived on the station along with a sundry collection of pets. 

The arrival of six or seven stockmen meant a change from the isolation for me as we didn’t have visitors very often. For Mum and Dad it meant more hard work on top of what they were already doing.
 Most of Mum’s time was taken up with home schooling me ( she had her work cut out there) and keeping a large homestead operating. With the arrival of the stockmen, it also meant she had to cook two hot meals for the men and make lunches ( usually sandwiches) that they would take on the muster packed in their saddle bags.


 And for Dad it meant having to get up before dawn to wake the stockmen. After breakfast the horses were caught and saddled and the day began. It meant a long day in the saddle in all weather conditions, only stopping for lunch.  By late afternoon a cloud of dust could be seen, then the sounds of hundreds of cattle, cracking whips and shouting men as they came towards the cattle yards.
Unfortunately for my fastidious mother, the cattle yards, which held five hundred head, were located close to the homestead. As a result, lots of dust drifted into the house when they were being used. Poor Mum was always cleaning.

I would sit on a fence post and watch the men and the cattle with awe as they pushed the cattle into the yards. To a young bush kid, the stockmen were heroes. I remember Dad galloping after a breakaway steer and pushing it back into the mob with several cracks of the stockwhip. Dad was a crack rider, like most of his family. Another time I saw my cousin, Neville Coleman (he’s twenty years older than me), gallop beside a steer, jump off the horse, grab it by the horns and pull it down.

When I look back on it now, I wonder how the stockmen weren’t hurt or killed all the time. I think not only was there a lot of skill and bravery involved but also a measure of recklessness. To be continued.