Humorous Happenings whilst Droving

Humorous Happenings whilst Droving

Droving Incidents in SW of WA

Speaker: Fred Brockman
Date: 2010, speaking about 1930s onwards
Topic: Farming and Droving

The only bit of property that my father inherited from the original estate was the main block where the State Saw Mill eventually was built in Pemberton. He subsequently sold that and apparently got enough money out of it to buy Reveley farm which adjoined the Dudinalup Station as it was known then. We were eighteen miles from Balingup and nine from Nannup. Dudinalup was round about four thousand and Reveley was just under two thousand. Very, very steep hilly country; a lot of it had just been ringbarked and virtually cleared itself.

The mail run used to come through from Balingup to Nannup twice a week, so all our mail came from Balingup. Dudinalup; being a station property as it was called in those days; they had a registered private mail bag. That was padlocked and put on the mail to come and go twice a week. It was a job for little Fred, running over the river and getting the mail bag up to be collected on time.

I started school at Reveley. The Reveley was occupied by an Italian family, the house, and they were working for my dad. They were just a couple of old bachelors, they occupied the kitchen and that part of it. The big lounge room; which was a fairly big room and the surrounding verandas and the two front bedrooms were allocated as a school. That’s where I started and the teacher used to board with us at Dudinalup. Her name was Hilda Williams. She was a lovely person and like I say she taught me to swim and she loved getting out on a horse and riding around the place with us and so on. She was followed by a very large lady named Miss Symes. I don’t think I ever knew her Christian name. There was one very funny incident. I was terrified at the time, but looking back it must have been really humorous. She outfitted herself with a very smart pair of jodhpurs and a nice top and so on. She used to ride down to school and come to class dressed up in this outfit. One particular day, she’d left the horse tied up because she was going out that night with one of the young blokes from Nannup.
He was coming to pick her up so she was anxious to get home early. So straight down and onto the horse, and away she went. Well he’d had enough of being tied up all day. I opened the gate and let her out of the yard there. And away this horse set sail; straight up the road heading for home. She was trying desperately to hang on but there was a closed ‘cocky gate’ about half a mile I suppose from the school house. A cocky gate is a conglomeration of wire with a couple of small pegs at each end. The old horse charged straight up to it; didn’t realise it was shut ‘til he got there. I was following on quite a way behind. I saw him prop at the gate and this very large backside lift out of the saddle, sail straight over the gate, do a summersault and land flat on her back on the other side of the gate! During that exercise her top had become dislodged, let’s put it that way. This very large breast appears out of one side of it. She was completely winded of course. She was just lying on the ground ‘aaaaahhhhhh. Eventually she recovered and limped over, and took the horse’s reins and started to walk up the road. ‘Well you’d better help me get onto the horse,’ she said. I held the horse alongside the bank on the side of the road while she clambered aboard. Away she went at a very sedate pace from thereon. I never did enquire how she got on that night but it would have been rather interesting. I think she must have been very, very sore.

We bred our own horses. We never bred hacks. We had a Clydesdale stallion there. A lot of the farmers around the area used to send their hacks to be mated to the Clydesdale because they produced a sort of an all-rounder horse that was good in a spring cart or something like that and quite good to ride too. We mainly broke them in ourselves. I’ve had plenty of bruises to show for it I can tell you. My grandfather bred army horses at The Warren. They used to drive them from The Warren to Albany to load them onto the ships to send them over to India.

Originally when we were taking a mob of cattle down and just settling them down, we had just a blanket rolled up on the front of the saddle and a couple of saddle bags. But if we were going down mustering and would be away anything up to ten days or so; originally two horses and a buggy. Then later on we became modern. We had a rubber-tyred little cart made out of the back of an old utility. One horse in that, that my father used to always drive. He had a wonderful horse in it and he was a very good horseman himself. That horse would trot all day. You’d go from Dudinalup down to Jangardup. You’d be there by four o’clock in the afternoon.

I took my first mob down to Jangardup . I can remember the number exactly because I counted them about every five minutes I think, a hundred and eighteen of them in one mob. I was only thirteen going on fourteen then. I can tell you the dingos howled all night and frightened the living daylights out of me.

The last trip that Julius and I did together was down at Calcup; mustering down there. It was the most terrible wet day and he wasn’t the only one that lost something. We were crossing the Meerup Creek because a lot of our cattle had escaped away down on the next-door lease. We were heading down to bring them back and we had to cross the mouth of the Meerup Brook; that was really in flood. And a treacherous bit of country there with quick sand and you never knew what was going to happen. Anyway we had our leather chaps on, it was pouring with rain, great coat, tucker bag on the back. I was carrying a rifle because we wanted a kangaroo desperately for a bit of meat. We go in, Julius leading the way across the ford there. The horse that I had was riding; he was not much of a horse in the bush, a bit sort of staggery. Anyway he got out into the middle of the brook, staggered over and down he went in the middle of the water; unloaded me of course, gun and all. I eventually staggered out on the side of the creek soaked to the skin and freezing cold. Julius said, “Oh come on old boy, I’ll get a fire going;” which he did. Well I’m stripped down to my underpants there, standing in front of this fire and shivering. He’s holding the pants up and he’s talking to me like this and he looked around and he said, “God Almighty look at this!” He’d burnt the seat clean out of my trousers over the fire. Well you can imagine a very, very uncomfortable rest of trip. This was at about nine o’clock in the morning, riding all day through prickly bush that’s soaking wet. Anyway, we found the cattle and got back just about to The Colonel’s as we called it; the block at yards. We’re riding around a sand hill, round a very deep swamp and a bullock of Julius’ went straight down the hill and out into the middle of the swamp. Julius followed him, on his horse with all his gear on, straight out into the middle of the swamp to try and turn him round. His horse hit a snag and sort of stood up and unloaded Julius straight off the back of the horse. As he’s going down in the water, he opens his mouth to say something to me, and his horse. Then he made a grab and disappeared. He came up eventually, oh it seemed like half an hour but it couldn’t have been more than a minute, he came up gasping; “I’ve dropped me bloody teeth!”
Arthur Bunn had the hop garden down at the Beedelup Falls. He used to have a team of women in there at picking time. They’d always have the weekends off and they’d very often used to just go out wandering in the bush on Saturday afternoon or Sunday. This particular day we were coming back through to the block where we staged overnight. And it was a stinking hot day and we had a big mob of cattle. We were just at the last little creek that we crossed, heading up to the block and all of a sudden there was a commotion out the front. The cattle had headed off; obviously down to the water for a drink. I don’t know how many women there were there, but it seemed like hundreds of them, they were having a ‘skinny dip’ in the creek.
Well of course, a couple of hundred head of cattle heading for you; there was this awful commotion. There were naked women running everywhere, cattle going everywhere, my father in an absolute towering rage because of this business, dogs barking. Oh you never heard such a turn out! I stayed right out of the leading mob of cattle. I was too busy keeping the others together out the back. We got them altogether eventually. What happened to the women, I don’t know. I imagine they got their clothing together.
Down at Jangardup on the leases down there, there were a lot of big Yate trees. The fires going through would burn out a hollow in the middle of them. They used to finish up as what we called Water Trees, because during winter they’d fill up with water in the hollow inside. The cattle used to go there and drink. This particular day, we were coming past this tree, driving a mob of cattle through, heading back to Jangardup. Scotts always had a team of working bullocks that they used to turn out during the summer down there. This bullock with huge horns, he put his head in to have a drink and his horns were locked in the limbs of the tree.
Dad said, ‘Oh look, I’ll get him out, you keep the cattle together.’ I said, ‘Righto.’ So I headed out. I just got up to him and got our cattle all out of the way and this bullock got his head out. Over he ran, he swung around, he hit my horse with one horn and the horse shied and unloaded me. I’d had the tucker bag with our lunch in it on my back. One horn hooked through the strap over my shoulder as I came off and of course I thought, ‘I’m not going to be swung around here on the end of this.’ So the next thing I knew he headed off and he went off down the track after our mob of cattle at about a hundred miles an hour with this tucker bag swinging over his head. He just disappeared – we never found the tucker bag. And didn’t I get some stirring over that I can tell you. We had a very, very, very hungry day I can tell you!

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