Cattle Muster in the Barmah State Forest

38 Comments

Sheep ready for sale at the Hay Sale Yards, NSW

Sheep ready for sale at the Hay Sale Yards, NSW

The sheep were delivered to the sale yards as requested by the stock owner. Our dogs, in their element, scrambled over their backs and nipped and pushed them up the narrow races of the Hay Sale Yards as we sorted them into manageable lots of 1000 per yard. Our journey with these sheep had come to an end.

Sheep are generally mustered using motor bikes and dogs unless the terrain dictates the use of horses. However, I became a Jillaroo primarily because I love horses and cattle. In addition, the drover I was working for was moody and self absorbed. I found the evening silences to be oppressive and depressing and I was reduced to constantly second guessing my abilities and decisions as a result of  no positive feedback to draw upon.

I can’t remember how, but I was invited by another old drover to move over to his team after the sheep were “docked”.

This job filled me with excitement. It had the promise of an adventure that I yearned for.  In the time that we were moving the sheep, rain had bucketed down days upon days. Rivers were flooded and cattle needed to be moved off the sour grass that had been leeched of all nutrition by the swollen river. 2000 cattle had to be mustered from the Barma State Forest and taken onto “greener pastures”.Barmah Angus cattle

My new Drover was older than the first. At the time he seemed ancient to me but he was probably only in his early 60’s. He was serious, but humble and had a twinkle in his eyes that belied the hard life he had by now accepted. I was allocated a horse that was reliable and well versed in the in the job we had ahead of us. Ten additional Stockmen, with their wily dogs and eager horses were also employed to cooperate in this massive job of “hide and seek” we had ahead of us.

The cattle were spread though hundreds of acres of forest. Some in large groups, but others in groups of two or three. Others were solitary; but all were doing their best to eke out the maximum nutrition from their increasingly diminished pasture.

On the first day of muster, we arose at 5am to a dark and stagnant edge of dawn. By the time we were dressed and breakfasted, the dreary light of a daybreak confirmed itself, promising nothing more than loaded black clouds and fat, unrelenting rain for the mission ahead.

Barmah Cattle with rising steamDespite the ominous and foreboding prediction the dawn inspired, by the time the team of horsemen had gathered, rays of sunlight streamed through the gaps in the clouds like the fingers of God; caressing the damp earth and drawing a blue haze of eucalyptus steam from the thick bush beyond. As the plan for the muster came to bear, the men sucked their hand rolled cigarette, horses fidgeted and jingled their bits, saddles squeaked as weight shifted, oilskins creaked and dogs lay and slept, scratched or licked. Smells of wet horses, tobacco, leather and sodden bushland mingled, and an air of excitement took hold that made me feel at odds with this experienced tribe of misfits.

We headed off down the dirt road and disappeared in groups of 2’s and 3’s into the wild Australian bush to commence our seemingly impossible task of drawing this scattered mob together for their journey ahead towards the lush stock route awaiting them.

Barmah Muster

Advertisements

Grecian Horse

11 Comments

I painted this a while ago and now it hangs on my wall at home. I have drawn a series of animals in this vein which I will get to painting one day. Hope you like this one.

p.s. Sorry about the crappy photo. Will get a better one soon !

Rocking Horse

11 Comments

Here are some pictures of a rocking horse I painted for my niece a few years ago. One side is “Black Beauty” and the other is “Circus Horse”. I found the horse itself on somebodies trash pile and painted over the ugly stencil that was already there.

GALLOPING FEET ON A LONELY ROAD

71 Comments

Image

 

His breath expelled in short rhythmic bursts, steam pouring from his nostrils into the cold and still night air. My legs wrapped around the saddle and my bare ankles feeling the warmth of his heaving sides. His neck was stretched out, reaching towards our destination; rising and falling with the pulse of his thundering hooves. The tail of my dressing gown along with the damp clods of earth flew out behind us as if we were shooting machine gun bullets at the devil behind us.

Nearing our family bridge, I imagined the age old sentry pine trees at the farm gate and the warm and inviting light coming from the century old homestead. My family would perhaps be sitting around the table with a fire blazing, playing cards, watching television or colouring with the oddments of pencils and crayons Granny kept in her chiffoniere draw. Granny herself would more than likely be knitting in her favourite chair. The wool trailing into a muddled basket and her gnarled and arthritic fingers in the shape that the knitting of jumpers, cardigans and dressing gowns for her 21 grandchildren had set them.

It’s not how it was though. This was the escape I conjured in my head whilst my Uncle molested me at his family home not far from the farm. His rank alcohol and cigarette-laced breath exhaled unapologetically in my face, his neck stretched out seeking and reaching for my affection, his sides heaving with desire and his careless, stumpy and grown-up fingers touching my innocent seven year old flesh. I left on my horse and flew like the wind every time he came to my room.

(I’m sorry this is a bit heavy for a first entry but I have only recently started to understand the impact this has had on my life. I also am very aware of the amount of women who have suffered similar circumstances as children. I believe that, as women, brothers, parents and friends we need to share and discuss these experiences more openly so that we can understand and better protect the little girls that are our future).

%d bloggers like this: