Hope you have been keeping safe and well. My children and I have just returned from a delightful long week-end away at Bribie Island. We stayed at an Airbnb just across the road from the beach. The balcony was on that side so we had a wonderful view of the sunsets. My children enjoyed the fishing and were pleased to catch some keepers. My youngest son cooked them to perfection. Along with a glass of wine, we sat and enjoyed our meal to the backdrop of a beautiful sunset.
I have been having some pesky tests over the last few weeks… the kind that involve blood tests and MRI’s. Mainly just routine check-ups… it mostly involves travelling to one of our major cities.
Kadi is in the process of exams for her uni… programming and web design… way out of my league… My uni course module is finished. Now I can concentrate on getting ‘Jewel of Dulahrane’ out to you and finishing the sequel to ‘Her Father’s Shadow’. I haven’t been game to check how far behind I am in my goals for my writing, but do know I was supposed to have finished the sequel at the end of March. I did learn from my course but it was very time consuming.
This blog, I am going to take another walk down memory lane… helicopters and mustering.
Background on this Blog…
First, some background info. For some, this article may contain some upsetting issues. I apologise in advance. Often, due to the size of stations and the rugged terrain, cattle evaded the muster. Many cattle became rouge cattle and joined the outlaw scrubbers up in the mountains, hills or thick, thick scrub and were never seen again. But these wild cattle often mingled with and often spread disease to the other cattle.
Diseases such as Brucellosis and TB started to spread through the stock, making not only the handling of the contaminated livestock unsafe for all humans along the food chain… but also the use of any meat products from these diseased animals is often classified unfit for human consumption.
Brucellosis and TB are diseases that can be transferred from stock to humans… from animal to animal. To eradicate these diseases, the DPI clean-up became a necessity… not only for us humans… but also for animals. Stations needed to be cleaned up so that future clean stock would be free of these diseases. For the meat industry as a whole, clean cattle meant that people working with the cattle on stations or in the meat industry would no longer be exposed to these diseases.
This meant that for both those working with stock and future clean cattle, these clean-ups were a health protection. But, they needed people who would go in and remove every last rouge beast… often many cattle that had never been yarded before… from the difficult and nasty terrains on these massive stations… and that is where my ex-husband’s and my expert contract mustering team came in.
Way Back When…
In the days of the radio, when I was about eleven, we used to listen to the radio each night. One night, one of the features was ‘last minute’ sayings. Now, I have a vivid imagination so I never forgot these two. The first was a saying heard as the person fell… yes, fell… past the fifth story window of a seven-story building… “I am okay so far…”
The other last words was one that stuck in my mind for the wrong reasons… An army helicopter with soldiers on board had a nasty ending when the ‘Jesus’ nut on the propeller gave out… each of those men only had seconds to send a brief message to their loved ones before it crashed. So, back then, going up in a helicopter wasn't on any of my wish lists.
The methods of mustering cattle and sheep, progressed during my younger life… horseback to motorbikes… then aeroplane assisted mustering… followed by the helicopter for spotting and buzzing stock out from under the bushes, scrub and up in unreachable terrain.
We used a combination of horses and motor bike. Then, to have a more successful muster, we would also hire a helicopter and pilot to cover more rough terrain. My older children were always looking to go up in the helicopter. Not always the nicest experiences.
One morning, with water turning to ice as it splashed from the water drum on the tray of our four-wheel drive, my son went up as a passenger. He was about seven. No doors on the helicopter… so by the time the helicopter landed, he was folded up like a closed up pocket knife… nearly frozen. He was quite happy to join mum in the four-wheel-drive.
Now this particular mustering contract was a TB and Brucellosis clean-up for the DPI. The cattle had to be cleaned off the property… totally… so they either went to the meat works, or, if they couldn't be yarded up, they had to be shot. So, the kids and I did our best in the four-wheel-drive to turn the scrubbers into the hessian wings that tunnelled into the mostly hidden portable steel yards.
Our men were on horses and a motor bike. Now, my ex-husband was a passenger in the helicopter with a very big gun… had to be a big gun to put bulls down humanely with one shot.
In the four-wheel-drive, the kids and I would be tearing along trying to turn a bull before he made the scrub… but often, we could see we were failing… then, before it made the safety of that thick scrub, it would drop like a ton of bricks in front of us…
I am so pleased my ex-husband was a terrific shot… we were only metres behind those bulls! Shooting at a moving target from a moving helicopter isn't an easy job. My older son, though, told my youngest son, that although his father was a terrific shot, I was even better… But I never shot from a moving helicopter. And to be honest, I still believe he was a way better shot than me.
Sometimes, it appeared the massive bull won. The hessian which was hung on wire, was like a tunnel that hid the portable yards from the cattle while bringing them safely to the yards… Now I had an uncle-in-law who often squatted behind the hessian ready to run in and shut the gate behind the last beast. One day, squatting and waiting, a bull decided to go over the hessian at that particular spot… nearly landing on top of Uncle. So, Uncle bolted towards the scrub and by no design other than to get away from man, the bull did too. Each time one changed course, the other did as well. Therefore, Uncle decided he was being chased… when in reality… he wasn't. But Uncle had to be picked up in the four-wheel-drive a long way from the yards.
Now these cattle were in the mountain ranges and therefore the portable yard was in the foothills… the cattle were scrubbers… some had never seen humans before… therefore, didn't take to being mustered the conventional way so moving them on foot wasn't an option. Fortunately, we found a great truck driver who actually was game to bring his truck into the yards. He said there were many times he shut his eyes and hope he came out the other side of some of the deep, steep creeks safely.
One issue we had when chasing wayward cattle in the four-wheel-drive was that big Australian stations were measures in miles… just one paddock was miles long and wide… not the sort that could be stick picked for logs etcetera. So, when one had to chase a beast at high speeds, gullies and fallen trees could effectively halt one’s progress with a rather sudden abrupt nasty stop… or the four-wheel-drive might bounce over the fallen tree… splutter rather unhappily, then finally gain momentum again.
The truck driver said, “after what that four-wheel-drive had endured and survived, we should take it back to Toyota so they could see why it was still working…” The exterior cab also showed some wear… holes that bulls had inflicted on it when they decided they were going to become the predator and horned the vehicle.
Years later, on another station, one of the owner’s sons was piloting the helicopter for a normal sheep muster. He could make that helicopter talk! Knowing this gave me courage. So, I got brave and took my first passenger flight mustering sheep… I buckled up thinking the seat belt was a poor excuse for any sort of safety apparatus to keep one from falling out.
The pilot assured me not even an orange sitting on this seat had ever fallen out on him as the pressure holds one in… But he had never heard the famous last words uttered on my radio as a kid! This whirring beast also had a Jesus nut holding the prop on that could abscond… And yes, as is normal for helicopters doing aerial musters, it had no doors. So, when the pilot banked to spot below, I was looking down… down… down… through a couple of hundred feet or more of empty space to the outline of puny mulga trees below… normally, on the ground, they were medium size trees. Little specks of wool were running along, all in the one direction. But I must admit I enjoyed my first helicopter flight.
As you can imagine, back then, in our mustering camp, it wasn't an easy life by any means… sleeping on the ground in a swag at night… teaching kids their full quota of lessons each day… cooking for men in a camp oven in the rain… washing our clothes and the men’s - carrying buckets of water up and down river banks… baths in freezing creeks in winter, paddling out to the bank only to find that the last three feet were black silt and one’s legs came out black mud… yet it was a simple clean life and we all found reasons to crack a joke and laugh. I never heard one man complain… except Uncle. But that was his way.
Today, life is so cushy… a bed to sleep in… but I miss the horse bells as the horses feed around the camp at night and when they were brought in to be unhobbled... A shower with running hot water… yet looking up and seeing a wallaby on the opposite bank of the creek was breath taking… hanging clothes on a barb wire fence and listening to the birds calling is beyond compare to the noisy hum of the electric dryer.
Yet time and unforeseen circumstances can overtake us all. My life is so different now… And now it’s winter… icicles are abound… So… well, like the boy in “‘Camp Grenada’, please disregard this letter”, I will stay indoors for now. lol.
Kadi's Reads :
Hi Guys, so for this week we are featuring a book my Marta Perry this is part of my favourite series/collection of book known love inspired suspense - so clean romance with a lot of suspense, there are some really great reads among this lot so have look through the entire collection and I will probably featuring some of favourites from here as time progresses.
So the book I'm featuring is Twin Targets by Marta Perry, this about a girl Jade, who's twin sister was killed while under witness protection. Jade is then targeted by the mob the for reasons unknown to both Jade and the US Marshals... it's more interesting than my blurb lol... So check it on Amazon, but unfortunately this book is currently only available in print (which most would agree is best ...)...
Well that is all for this week