Saturday, 26 April 2014

SWIMMING WITH CROCODILES




My uncle, Richard Bell with a 18 feet ( 5.5 metre ) crocodile he has shot. Late 1940's.


For many years crocodiles filled the rivers that my family’s cattle stations were situated on. They had not taken a human being during the hundred years that my family lived there but that wasn’t for want of trying.

The danger with crocodiles is that you could not see them in the water even if they were right near you as the water is very murky. You would only see them when they came out of the water and grabbed you. The crocs could always see you. Dad remembers an Aboriginal stockman filling his billy can at the river bank one day. The stockman couldn’t move quick enough to fill his billy and jump back from the water. He knew they were there.

Crocodiles were always a danger to cattle especially when they wandered down to the river to drink. Dad had seen bulls over the years with large claw marks on them. Those cattle were the lucky ones, probably only saved by their weight and fighting spirit.  The closest one of the my family had come to being taken by a croc was when my father tried to cross a river one night, only to be confronted by two orange-coloured eyes coming towards him through the water. The water was up to his chest and he luckily had time to get out of the water.
Choosing discretion over valor, dad decided to sleep that night on the river bank.Unfortunately for dad, when he arrived back at the homestead in the morning for breakfast, my mother got very angry with him. She thought that he had been drinking all night with his brother at the other station. Dad went to the gun cabinet. For the sake of domestic harmony that croc had to go. More of that story in my next blog.  

Until the 1970s, crocodiles could be hunted and so my father and uncle had made a concerted effort to rid the rivers of the man-eating reptile. They finally succeeded in the late 1950’s. Dad is always credited with shooting the last crocodile.  I was born in 1958 and don’t remember seeing any crocodiles in the rivers as a kid. But there was always the myth that not all had been shot.  To be continued.