There was a big demand for Rabbits in the City, buyers would travel to many of the country towns where the hunters would store their rabbits in mobile freezers or chillers and ice work factories. My father used to store all his rabbits and some kangaroos in a big ice works factory in Collie, where also the Grocery Stores would store all their vegetables. As a fifteen year old I used to work in one of these Stores and my job was to ride my pushbike and pick up peas and beans in hessian bags out of these big chillers, for the stores in them days did'nt have freezers like today.
My father also had orders in one local Deli, when he first approached the Deli to see if they were interested, she said she would take six pairs, these people also owned a boarding house and the standard weekly order became 100pairs. She also made pies for the Deli which supplied my local school, these pies were full of vegetable and rabbit and my mouth still waters, also many of the locals would say to me whenever your father has got rabbits we will have a pair at the cost of 2 and sixpence a pair (in today's language 25cents).
My mother would Pot roast rabbits on top of the Meters wood stove. I also used to pinch the kidneys from the rabbits he had hanging in the shed, I would place them on the top of the wood stove and hold them down with a butter knife, they would sizzle and pop in about 30seconds each side. I have four boys and my Grandchildren fight over these kidneys today.
My father tells me another story, he was trapping rabbits on the hills that run down to the coastal plains, he would travel down alongside the railway line, this particular day there was a farmer burning the bush between the railway line and his farm, this was done for a firebreak in case of bad summer fires. He stopped my father and told him that it would not be long before the smoke clears and he could pass through, he then asked my father what he was about, he told him that he was a rabbit trapper, the farmer said you come with me have look (this man was Italian).
My father said "another day", the man said "you look now" so dad went with him because it was only one hundred yards, looking across a gully to the next hill my father said he'd seen some sights but none better than what he was looking at. He said it looked as though the hill was moving (with rabbits) On his way back to the car the farmer said "you cut fence post" my father said yes the farmer said "you cut fence posts for me" Dad looked at the trees closest to him and said what from these trees here, the man said yes, and my dad said no, because he could pick the quality of a tree and he knew by the grain and twist in the trees you could'nt make wages off them. I'm not to sure if it's off this mans property but my fathers record in a nights catch from trapping was 332.
The price varied and he was about to find out how much, for he had been setting traps on another property when the smoke cleared dad continued to follow the railway line which ran into a major railway line running from different country towns back to the City, there was a small town on the Junction of the railway lines called Brunswick Junction. Where there was a small Hotel, the old bushman called them a watering hole. When my father walked up to the bar and ordered a beer he did'nt realise until he started talking to two old bushies they were also rabbit trappers, the conversation got around to the prices they were getting for them at this particular time, dad was getting one shilling a pair (or ten cents), then the trappers told him they were getting one shilling and sixpence,(15cents)
My father asked them how much their buyer could handle. They seemed to think there was no limit. They told my father that they also stored their rabbits at the iceworks at Brunswick Junction and other trappers as well, the buyer was due to turn up the following day. So the next morning my father turned up with his nights catch, one hundred pair. When he visited the iceworks the man there running the show told him he was very sorry there was no room in the iceworks, my father explained he came from Collie, then the man suggested he go and ask the local butcher if he had room to hold the rabbits until the buyer came, the butcher told him he had no hanging space but he was more than welcome to the floor, this was no problem as the rabbits still had their fur on.
The buyer arrived. Dad was introduced and told the buyer the rabbits were at the butchers, he inspected the rabbits and did not hesitate to pay my father one & sixpence a pair. My father was a perfectionist and prided himself on presentation on whatever he done. He then said to the buyer "what can you handle," the buyer said "you can't catch enough", he said "how long will you be here," the buyer said "why", dad said "have I got time to go to Collie and back", the buyer said "yes," dad went to Collie and returned with another 200pair. There are lots more hunting stories to come.
He tells me of times when the kangaroo was hunted only for it's skin, which seems a shame the carcass was left to rot in the bush, this was in 1930's and 40's. My mothers father hunted 20to30 years before this. This was a time when very few people had a car. My father was told by the local Bicycle Shop owner who was an old Collie identity, Mr Ed Riley senior, that my father was his best advertising for the toughness of his bikes, for my father used to ride his bike 40 or 50 kilometers on little winding roads through the forest.
He would meet up with an old bushman who also used to ride a bike to his camp, his name was Skin Laurie.They had different locations in the bush where they would meet up after they separated, they called these locations ( Blackboy Hollow) , ( Good Gully) ,( Bush Camps), (Sandy landing) and (The Fireplace) where in later years my Mother and little sister and I would sit and wait for my father and brothers to return.
Some day's my father would shoot between 6 or 12 big male kangaroos, he would skin them and put the skins in a hessian spud bag, two of the kangaroos he would take the skin from the top quarter and fold it still joint to the hind quarter. He would then place one of the hindquarters on the handlebars of his bike, tying the two legs to the crossbar he said that you would be surprised how easy it balanced. I think he then used to lean it up against a tree, he'd put the hessian bag which had rope tied from one end to the other over his shoulder like a backpack. Also the 303 over his shoulder which had a strap, the second hindquarter on his shoulders and ride home.
My father carried a rifle with him for whatever reason he was in the bush, I remember one time we were returning home from cutting a load of wood, again with the rifle sitting between us. We were travelling along an old railway line (or formation) when my dad spots a rabbit up in front of us, we pull up alongside of it, the rabbit flattens out or squats, then he say's to me can you see it and I said yes, because I was only just big enough to see out the window, he then slides with his back up against the dashboard and the window, with the rifle out the window, he's now taking aim left handed, all this time my eyes hadn't come off the rabbit.
Remember my dad only had two fingers on his left hand. He then whispers to me pull the trigger. I remember saying did "I "get him and he said yes. Before I got big enough to hold the gun steady on my own, dad would support the gun with one hand I'd take aim and pull the trigger. I slowly got good enough to hit the target pretty consistent. This was when I was about 6 or 7, I remember shooting my first kangaroo when I was 9 years old. I remember times my dad would pull up under a big gum tree, we would hop out the car and dad would pick out little clumps of gum-nuts, these trees would maybe be 50 to 80 ft high and we would stay there until I could knock them all off.
My father used to say you never shoot a rabbit anywhere other than the head, he used to say zero in on the eye of the rabbit like a bullseye on a target. My favourite tucker from the bush was the wild bush pigeon,(know as the bronze-wing) He also insisted we shoot for the head. My mother used to cook these on top of a meters wood stove in a pot and I can still smell it today when she lifted the lid. Many old bushman that I have spoken too over my time have told me there was no better with a rifle than my father, on the run or sitting with a 303.
When my father tried to enlist in the army, because he only had two fingers on his left hand he was rejected, this hurt my father. Insult to injury he had to prove he could handle a 303, my father would never brag and he prided himself on being exactly right if he told you a story about whatever he caught fishing, or shooting it was the truth. He told me the fellow in the army that took them through their shooting test put my fathers target on the wall in his office no doubt so the enlisting soldiers could see the ability of the 303, the score card read out of ten, nine bullseyes and one that completely missed the target altogether, I believe by putting my fathers target in his office that fellow knew the tenth shot went through the same hole as the previous shot, ten out of ten, no doubt.
Sometimes I'd remind my father we were coming back through the bush from getting another load of wood, it was the same formation as where I shot the rabbit, there was a little bush track went off to the left on my side and I spotted two kangaroos about 100 yards away, we hopped out the car and snuck back to where I saw the roo's, he sits down on the road on his bum and takes aim off of his knees, the two roo's were in line with each other he whispers to me "I will get two with one shot", he fired and they both hopped away. I remember looking at him with a funny grin on his face and he shakes his head.
This is a photo taken in the mid sixties of hindquarters of two kangaroos which were sold for pet meat, my father would help finance his holiday's whenever we went away. We would travel to the southwest of Western Australia to a small coastal town called Augusta. Where my father befriended many of the locals
To some people viewing these photos, it may not seem to be the right thing to do but if you check the statistics on kangaroo related accidents they are in the tens of thousands Australia wide. I would add to this many lives are lost (HUMAN and KANGAROO) , because at times we would witness smashes and rollovers on our highways and wonder how this accident happened, and the reasons vary. But you can rest assure many are caused by swerving to miss a kangaroo. If this kangaroo comes onto the left side of the road you will automatically swing the car to the right, remembering we drive on the left side of the road in Australia. This can cause a head on collision, the kangaroo will hop away and were left wondering how this accident took place on this straight road.
The photo on the top shows me holding the arm of a kangaroo, which a lot of people would think it to be the back leg because of its size. This would feed Nipper for three or four days. Many families in Collie hunted and lived off kangaroos to help support and survive the hard times. My mother tells me her father also hunted kangaroos, their bed covers were made of kangaroo skins, my mother is nearly ninety, her short term memory has faded but her long term memory is good. She remembers her fathers kangaroo dogs names,(RATTLER, BULLER, SWIFTY.) She also remembers her father returning home in a horse and cart full of kangaroos, I presumed he done the same to these skins as my father, pegging them out to dry.
They say they used to tan the skins with the resin from the Redgum trees, he would then work on the skins until they were pliable enough to then stitch together, he would turn them into bed coverings. They say he had a big demand for these and the money was good. Also they would eat a lot of the meat, kangaroo rissoles and kangaroo tail soup and would share with other people. My grandfather died young leaving my Grandmother with five girls and two boys to feed and no income times were hard. My mother tells me she remembers nights hearing her mother crying unable to feed them properly.
This photo shows a duck trap which my father had made, they are called Main Geese, they are a grain eater and considered the best eating of the wild duck, they are a nuisance to the farmers, not so much that they eat the grain it's the amount of ducks in one flock, I have seen a flock myself of maybe 500 where this photo was taken, they would turn the dam water green with their droppings and the sheep would not drink it.
My father once told me a story when he was trapping rabbits about 70 or 80 kilometres east of Collie in the farming country, again he told me about a sight he'd seen with rabbits drinking at a farmers dam, I believe the way he spoke they were in their hundreds, he was talking to the farmer about it and I'm not too sure who came up with the idea, they decided to fence the dam off with rabbitproof netting, with little funnels leading inside the fence for the rabbits to get to the water, the corner posts that supported the fence had what they called struts leading from the ground to the top of the post to help support it.
They then went about setting their traps in a different location. I'm not too sure but I amagine the amount of traps depended on the size of the warrens and amount of rabbits, I know at times they would set a couple of hundred traps. When they finished setting this particular time and returned to the dam they had fenced off, again my father said it was a sight he had not seen, battling to count the amount of rabbits they decided to leave them, there was'nt enough time before dark to start killing them. Also they had to have something to eat before they started going around their traps at night. My father also said while they were setting the traps you would hear rabbits squealing in the traps behind him
Remembering that times were hard and they relied on the money they were getting for the rabbits, my father said they had a good night with the traps. Thinking of the rabbits in the fenced off dam it was going to be a good payday, I can amagine the look on my fathers face when they arrived, there was not one rabbit at the dam, they then started to walk around the fence looking for any disturbance, but there was no difference from when they built it, he called into the farmer to tell him what had happened and was opened to explanations.
The farmer thought for a little while and said you placed those struts on the inside of the fence, my father said yes, he then said once one or two of the rabbits realised and run up the strut and cleared the fence, the rest followed like sheep, telling me the story , he laughed, he could still see the funny side fifty years later.
I can remember nights when we were spotlighting, a couple of my brothers on the back of the ute, one of them using the spotty, the other one holding the rifle.
I would be sitting in the front between my mother and father, and I could not wait to be old enough to stand on the back. When they spotted a kangaroo they would tap on the roof of the car, my father would stop, no one would move for if you did the shooter might miss, my father would look at the kangaroo's, if they were females and smaller roo's he would drive off. I don't believe any of the other hunters would have done this, for we were selling them by the weight, so the more kangaroo's the more weight and more money. But my father was as fair as you could get.
When we decided it was time to head for home, roughly around midnight sometimes later. We would have to take our roo's to the local pet-meat shop in town. Which was an old weatherboard building, one of the originals, which had a big old brick chimney on the outside, one of the bricks was loose and the key was hidden behind it. We would skin all the hindquarters, weigh them and hang them on the racks. A piece of paper with the weights and our name sticking to the side of one of the hindquarters. Other hunters used to do the same. Dad would say by the size of some of the hindquarters, they were shooting to many small ones. He also tells me he was offered the chance to buy this shop and a 4wheel drive ute for 400pound or $800 in todays money. But he was working in the mines and the brothers were too young.
My older brothers took over from my father supplying the pet-meat shop. Now I was old enough to spotlight on the back and shoot, I done this for 5 or 6 years for my oldest brother Tom, his wife Daphne would stand on the back of the ute and spotlight on nights that were bitterly cold and some nights raining, but other summer nights you could spotlight all night with a singlet on.
Daphne had a phobia of spiders and I have seen my brother have to slap her, for she would go hysterical. Daphne you shouldn't read the rest of this. Because one night while you were spotting we had gone through a big spider web across the bush track, a bit later when I looked on your shoulder, he was sitting there, I quickly backhanded it off you screamed and said "what was it" , I laughed and told you it was a leaf. Because I knew I would have been on the back by myself.
My second eldest brother Bob, also supplied the pet shop with different mates he hung around with. My addiction grew stronger. I remember one night when I was maybe 12or13 it was a Friday night and I was off to the movies, I'd arranged to meet a girl I was keen on, when my brother Bob and his mate asked me if I would go out and spotlight for them. I told them I was meeting a girl at the movies, he said you can shoot the first roo, I couldn't get my good clothes off quick enough. I shot the first four roo's with a single shot 22 open sights with 4 shots.
My brother would never let me get too far in front. He shot the next 4 and then his mate shot 5. He was the son of the pet-meat shop owner, his name was Jimmy Delfante. When I was 11or12 he would pay me to spotlight for him, also I knew the bush tracks better than him. He used to pay me 2shillings or (20cents in today's money)for every kangaroo we shot, we would get maybe half a dozen or 10, which in the late 50's was good pocket money for me. My father had not stopped hunting, for his kangaroo dog nipper would catch him some Sundays a half a dozen or nine which kept him happy, for the pet-meat shop would always take his kangaroo's.
My father educated myself and my brothers to everything possible in the bush , the rivers and the sea. In time I will show you photo's and tell you stories of every animal that is in our bush and everything that lived in our rivers.
The above photo's show my boy's 30 odd years ago, we are out hunting for dog meat. For my addiction has changed, the dogs in the photo are pig dogs.
Over the years of hunting the damage I done to these vehicles, made it that there was no trade in value. I seemed to be paying off new vehicles most of my life. This particular car was a EH Holden sedan 1964 model, it was also used as the family car.
When I took over from my Father supplying the local Pet-meat Shop, I would take the back seat out, to make room for the Kangaroo hindquarters. I used to hunt on a Saturday night, which allowed me to hunt most of the night and be able to sleep in on a Sunday.
Also the pet-meat shop would take whatever I could shoot, for she had all week to sell it. Mind you she would sell it in a couple or three days, then a couple of other hunters would supply her to finish the week. Quite often they would not get enough, and then she would ask my Father or myself if we could supply another ten or twelve to see her through. Also one or two of the local policeman were known to drop in the occasional kangaroo.
I remember one night in particular, we were unloading the kangaroo hindquarters at the back entry to the shop. The bonnet of the car was up with the spotlight connected to the battery and lying on the ground to show us light into the shop, the back doors of the car was also open, the boot was up. We'd carry half a dozen hindquarters into the shop, I had just started to skin them.
When two torches shone on me, when I looked up there was two policeman, I nodded my head and said how ya going. They shone their torch from the car to me a couple or three times. I didn't stop skinning, I thought what happens, happens. Because I had borrowed my Fathers double barrel shotgun and 22 rifle and they were laying on the front seat. I was thinking the worst, when one of the policeman said," by gee you've had a good night ", I agreed and said I believe this is the record for this shop. For sitting in the car was 21 hindquarters packed to the roof and we couldn't fit anymore in the boot.
The policeman in those times used to walk the streets, no doubt they saw the reflections of the spotlight through the shop window. One of the policemen said it's a quiet night we'll give them a hand. There was two of us skinning the roo's, a young fellow who was about 14 or 15 at the time,( his name was Neil, and he used to carry a packet of band-aids in his pocket for when he nicked himself with a knife.)( joking),mind you he did cut himself a few times.
Every time we'd finish a hindquarter, the policeman would take it and put it on the scales, his mate would write the weight on a bit of paper, he'd then take the hindquarter into the meat room, return and repeat that until we'd done the 21 kangaroos. He then asked us what price were we getting for the roo's, at that time we where getting either 9 pence or 9 cents a pound( not sure) This took place at maybe 2 or 3 in the morning. They handed the piece of paper to me, the weight of the roo's was 700lb, also the value. As they walked away they said you've had a good night.
So you can imagine the toll this sort of treatment had on my vehicles. The second ute was a HR Holden 1966 model, you can see it's bogged and the dog doesn't look too happy.The last photo shows a 1974 HQ Holden( brand-new) the reason it is half red and white, the front-end was that battered from the bush, maybe it shouldn't have been on the road. A friend of mine Brian Miffling who used to travel to work with me to the mines, his brother was involved in an accident, his vehicle was a Red HQ Holden sedan, it was tailgated and wiped off, Brian's trade was panel-beater, spray-painter, he suggested if I wanted to, he would swap the front-end of his brothers vehicle with mine, I agreed and one day when we knocked off on day-shift at three o'clock, I went around to Brians place and I drove home that night with a new front-end, he did not charge me, nor his brother. It became known as the Cocacola bus. It made me a bit conspicuous.( WHICH FOR ALL YOU UNEDUMICATED PIG HUNTERS MEANS YOU COULD IDENTIFY WHERE I WAS PARKING AND HUNTING FOR WHATEVER REASON)
I can remember for the first time walking through the forest with my father hunting, when I was maybe 10 or 11 and the words he said to me, if you keep making the noise that you are making you wont be coming out next time, because you have to walk as silent as you can, to be able to get close enough to shoot the kangaroo's. It was a little bit different when hunting with his dog, the dog would travel in front by about 2 or 300yards, he was a silent hunter and many times we would first hear him growl before he started barking with the big male kangaroo in a bail up. He had walked onto them as they were camped up.
My father always told me to shoot for the heart in a bail up. We would use a small caliber 22rifle. By hitting the heart or the area around the heart, they would stay on their feet until they were all but dead, when he fell to the ground he was unable to kick the dog. If you shot this same kangaroo in the head, he would hit the ground instantly, and the dog would grab the throat, his big hind legs would be as powerful as if he was still hopping. Many dogs have been killed by these hind legs. If not dead your dog would be out of action from these wounds.
There was no Veterinary Practice in Collie. Many of the old bushman would stitch their own dogs. There was a solution they used to put on their wounds called Stockol and Tar. The old bushman used to say it would heal a (crack in concrete).
Again when I was maybe 10 or 11, and the dog was barking in the distance, my father handed me the rifle and said you can go and shoot it. I had shot quite a few kangaroo's by this age. My father also told me while shooting a bail up I was to look down the barrel with both eyes open until your all but zeroed in. For doing this you could watch the dog before pulling the trigger, in case he cut in line when you fired. Again many dogs were shot this way.
When I reached the bail up, I don't know if it was because the big kangaroo saw me, but he broke from the bail up, the dog had to chase him again and I could hear him barking in the distance , when I caught up with them a second time he had him bailed up in a Dam, maybe this is why he broke away from the first bail up, because a big kangaroo will take a dog to water, where he will stand about belly deep and if that dog makes the mistake of going in the male kangaroo will grab him with his front arms and you would think he's done this many times, he would hold the dog under the water and look around as if there was nothing going on. But it was natural to the big kangaroo.
Knowing that I knew I had to shoot him as quick as I could. I shot him in the chest, I missed the heart he then started to swim to the other side of the dam, I ran around to meet him at the bank and I shot again for the heart. The motions of his last few kicks took him out to the middle of the dam, I heard my father cooee!! I answered him, when he got to me he said where's the kangaroo, I told him he was in the dam, but when we looked he was'nt there, my father said to me then you will have to take your clothes off and dive down and get him. I walked into the dam with my head just sticking out of the water, I feels the kangaroo with my toes I ducks under and pulls him out, my father helps me snig him up the bank, then I look and I must have had about 30 leaches on me.
I remember when Don Roney came to my fathers place, after I was given permission to leave school, he asked me if I could drive a car, I said sort of. So he took me out on a gravel road or unsealed road about 10kilometers, hopped out and told me to drive home. I don't no how he felt but it scared me as I couldn't drive real good. It was a 11 seater school bus, he had removed all the seats, so we could pack all the hindquarters of the kangaroo's, when we were spotlighting. There was a little manhole on top of the bus, where I used to sit with my feet through the manhole. It was more comfortable than when we used to stand on the back of the ute with my brothers, shooting for my father.
Because we were paid by the weight of the hindquarter, my brothers and I became good at guessing the weight before they were weighed, it became a contest. The weight's varied roughly between 20 and 80lbs. Sometimes we would guess within a couple of pound, sometimes we would guess it right.
I still remember our best night shooting in that school-bus. It was 56 kangaroos and the weight was 1,124 lb at 9pence a pound. Which was good money in 1961.They were long shifts, we would start some evenings about 5 o'clock, we would travel out to the farms from our camp, we would sit at the table with the farmer and his wife. He'd explain the best way to go around his paddocks.They'd sometimes have a bottle of beer, which the old bushman called a King Brown. I can see the farmers wife's face, when I pulled out my own tobacco tin and rolled a smoke, 13 yrs old, she should have kicked my arse and threw it out the window, the cigarette not me arse.
Then we'd go out and check all the paddocks and the layout of the farm, because if you did'nt you could very well get lost in the night, all be it momentarily but you'd waste a lot of time trying to find the right gate to get out. There was nothing you could get a sighter on, it was all flat paddocks and fences, this particular farmer said the roo's were that much of a problem, that he was growing crop outside of his fences in the bush to stop some of the roo's coming into his crops, also I remember this farmer stopping us on the highway before we knew him, he asked Donny if he was the roo shooter, Donny said yes and he asked him if he would come and shoot the roo's on his property, they were destroying his crops. I remember Donny hesitating and saying we were shooting on another property, the farmer said I will supply your petrol and your bullets. So Donny decided to help rid him of his problem.
While we were sitting at the table with the farmer and his wife, they said they were having hard times, this was reasonably newly developed farm land. Between the roo's eating their crop and the wild dogs (dingoes) killing their sheep. They showed us a photo of a white dingo, which had a bounty put on him. This dingo would kill on their property one night and a few nights later would kill on their neighbors farm, a couple of nights later he would kill on a different farm. This dingo would complete a circle, and in three or four weeks would return to their property and kill again. I'm not to sure, but I think each farmer put in maybe 5 pound, and there had been a few dingo hunters trying to get him.
Also the Govt would employ bushman to hunt the dingoes, they were called Govt doggers. They told us that an aboriginal lady was the best trapper they'd seen, she got the white dingo. While we were checking his paddocks before dark, we could see many roo's feeding among the sheep. We never used to shoot while we were checking the paddocks, for it wasn't long before dark and we didn't want to scare the roo's, but there was one real big kangaroo feeding to the side of the sheep, Donny couldn't resist, he shot the big kangaroo and half the sheep stood up, they were kangaroo's feeding.
When it became dark enough to start spotlighting, we shot 20 kangaroo's, we would throw the whole kangaroo in the back of the school-bus, drive out of the farm into the bush, we would gut the kangaroo's, take the top quarter off them and stack the hind quarters into the school-bus, drive back into the paddocks, we shot another 20, done the same as the first 20 and stacked them with the others, returned to the paddock, shot 16 it was breaking day. Time to head back to our camp, we had a truck with a big box freezer, we would hang the hindquarters. Then we would jump into the farmers dam with a cake of soap, that was our bath. A long shift.
We would do this roughly every night for a week before we had our load to take to the buyer in the City. After 4 or 5 nights it was taking it's toll, and we were worn out. I remember this night very clearly, we had shot our first roughly 20 kangaroo's, gone back into the bush too clean them. When we finished Donny said he was going to have a quick snooze. While I made a fire and put the billy on, I remember looking at the billy for a little while then I started to doze. I remember shaking my head and looking around and I could see some little tree's, so I went over and started to climb them.
They were called Mallee or Jam tree's.They were only half as thick as your wrist, but they were as hard as steel, the farmers used them for fence posts and I think some still stand today. I remember almost getting to the top of the taller tree, I was doing this to keep myself awake. I wasn't ready, for it broke all of a sudden, I remember hitting the ground from about 8 or 10 feet. Also I can recall laying there rubbing my wounds, thinking that I won't do that again. The ground couldn't have been as hard as I thought it was, because the sun woke me up the next morning and I hadn't moved a hair. No water in the billy. I thought what had I done,( realizing the worst,) I still had to wake Donny. I could see myself running down the road with Donny taking aim at me, he was a good shot. But I think he realized it was towards the end of the week and we were burnt out.
I remember one morning we had returned to the camp, we'd sorted the roo's out, had our breakfast, and going to catch up on some sleep. Donny had got into his bunk and I wasn't tired, so I asked him if I could take the rifle and go for a shot, he said I could. I remember walking and looking through the bush to the paddocks, I could see a big male Kangaroo heading towards a dam for a drink of water. I watched him go over the wall of the dam, I thought about sneaking to the dam and shooting him, but I felt he would have seen me come over the wall of the dam and it would have been a running shot.
So I ran back to the camp, Donny had a kangaroo dog, his name was Peter, I whistled for him to come to me, we started to run back through the bush to the dam, but he was a one man dog, he turned and went back to the camp, so then I had to wake Donny and tell him what was going on. He jumped out of his bunk, we got in the school bus with the dog and as we approached the dam the big boomer was going across the paddock. We let the dog out and he had the boomer in a very short time, a belly full of water would have made it a bit easier for the dog to run him down.
He was a good kangaroo dog. I remember some nights we would take him with us spotlighting. I don't know if it was to save costs or that we were getting down on bullets. I remember him catching 19 one night. We would only let him go at the biggest of the big boomers. His eye's would shine like neon signs as he came in to the beam of the spotlight, all this time we were traveling pretty fast to keep with him. The big boomer would turn to fight or as it is known as a bail up and we would shoot him. The dog had learnt that if the boomer was running left to right, the dog would not run straight to him, he would cut out to the right and cut him off, making the run easier for himself.
If you said to him give us a grin, he would show you every tooth in his head. I remember Donny telling me he would come into their house, the same as Nipper did with dad, his wife would tell him to get outside and he wouldn't, she'd get the broom and he would show her every tooth in his head. I don't think he was grinning.
Donny Roney was the grandson of Jim Gilbert, who the next story is about.
My mothers brother married one of Jim Gilbert's daughters Mavis. His name was Bob Scott, so maybe the dog was named after him and if the dog was half as good as Uncle Bob, he was a good dog. I had never heard him raise his voice or bad-mouth anybody. He spoke the truth.
My father used to tell me stories, when he used to ride his pushbike to a little farm that Uncle Bob owned and they would both ride their bikes out hunting kangaroo's. Sometimes with the roo-dogs running along side of them. He told me one time the roo-dogs got away from them and out of sight and they could hear them barking. When they got to them, they had a big boar. He said "I dropped it with a 303". They had no use for it and it was left.
Then they continue riding their bikes through the bush, shooting roo's, which they would skin and leave the carcass. They both had a hessian spud bag strapped on their back to carry the skins. Like I've said before the last couple of roo's they shot they would take the hind-quarters for the dogs.
Most of the hunting was done on foot, they would hide their bikes and walk for hours, up the big gully's, over hills and then follow a different gully back to the area of their bikes and it was this style of living that made the old bushman as tough as they were.
My father once worked on the irrigation drains at the base of The Darling Ranges roughly 40klms from where he lived. He would ride there on his pushbike early Monday morning in time to start work and then ride back home Friday after work.
Uncle Bob worked for the Forest Department, which was run by genuine bush people and not by a white collar out of University, that did not know shit from Clay. Incidentally that's why Sonny Liston lost the fight.
I remember my father saying, when they quarantined the Forest and closed the roads, he said there's a saying !you do not know what goes on behind closed doors!. I witnessed the start of that and in time I will show you where it started and what took place.
The photo above shows the kangaroo dog and tells us he's been around since the start of time or at least since the first settlers. I would imagine many stories were told of the roo-dogs ability by old bushmen or kangaroo hunters sitting around a fire. Unfortunately a lot of these stories are gone, like the old bushmen and I consider myself very fortunate to have been brought up by a man who loved and respected the forests and rivers and like I've said I became addicted.
I remember times when I would go out with him to cut firewood, I was maybe 10, 11 or 12, there was an old abandoned mill settlement in the area he was cutting. Dad would let me off there with the rifle which was a Beezer or BSA. 15 shot bolt action, a full packet of bullets. He'd be gone for maybe 2 hours and when he returned, most times there'd be no bullets left. He never queried it.
Sometimes I would go out to where he was cutting wood with him, he would tell me to take the rifle and follow the bush track that we were on. He said take every bush track to your left which I did and I would return to where he was cutting wood, maybe an hour later. I don't believe too many young fellas would have been brought up that way. I can see myself now with the rifle over my shoulder. It had a strap on it and I practiced the quick draw like the last of the mohekins, (kidding myself).
The rifles in those days were all open sights, I did not know of anybody with a telescopic sight and my Father had zeroed the Beezer in to the finest sight you could possibly take and in it's range maybe 30-40yrds I would say it was equal to the telescopic sight's and it allowed for when your target was further away. You would either take a half sight or a full sight.
I'd like the money back I wasted on bullets. I remember when I was first good enough to throw a bottle with my left hand and take it out with open sights in the air. I remember the first telescopic sights my Father brought for my brother Tom. He paid for it with money from Roo skins. I brought my first rifle with telescopic sights when I was 17, it was a Gevarm automatic.
I also remember times when my Father would take myself, a couple of friends and some camping gear also firewood and leave us on the river. This particular time one of my friends had his dog and I remember a sight that stay's with me today, it was early morning and just breaking daylight. It was a frost and bitterly cold.
When I poked my head out from under the blanket, I was looking at a white mat of steam or fog about 2 or 3ft high covering the length of the river. My mates dog was sitting on the bank and staring at the river as though he was impressed with it too. I remember one time, my father came out to check how we were going. I can't remember if it was that frosty night or if it was raining. Now and then we would hear a noise similar to a babies scream. It was a bad sound, so much so that one of my mates went home with my father.
I found out what was making that noise, as I was coming back with the torch after checking the baits. There was a big green frog on the ground. I give him a bit of a poke with the snare stick and he let go with that bad scream. I've heard similar noises like that many times over the years camped on the river. I believe water rats were the reason and the variations in the sounds we were hearing came from smaller breeds of frog.
In the summer I've seen countless hundreds of little frogs as big as your finger or thumb nail around the banks of the river pools that were starting to dry up. Especially on the Harris River. I've seen times when the wild pigs, would roll the reeds and vegetation like you would roll up a carpet. No doubt feeding on the frogs and worms.
I also remember a time when I was doing that study on the wild pigs and we got two boars, when I gutted them, their both feed bags were full of frogs. The gentleman that was with me took the feed bags back to Murdoch University also the two boars.
Another time I was driving along a bush track, traveling into the wind I heard the dogs start to scream and when I looked in my rear view mirror, the dogs were standing on their back legs with their front legs on the cab. I said to whoever was with me there's pigs up in front of us, so I put my foot down and when I came around the bend , there was a boar standing in the middle of the road, throwing his head up and down on the road. He did not know we were there, until we were about 20yrds from him.
He bolted but the dogs had him in about 50yrds. When we finished tying him up. I said to the two fellas carry him back to the ute and I am going to check what he was doing on the road. There was a big green frog about 4 inches long and he had pulverized it.
Oops I've got carried away again with that pig hunting, the missus has just told me we are supposed to be telling the history of the kangaroo dog.
This photo shows a bush camp of a Mr Dowdell and his son, which was another way of hunting kangaroo's, on horseback and kangaroo dogs. What a shame that this is a life-style gone. But it should never be forgotten.
The photo above shows my oldest son Dave in the middle and his brother Brett on the right, the lad on the left is the son of friends of ours, Don & Jan Mc Cartney. The photo was taken maybe 30 yrs ago. The lad on the left is PAUL McCARTNEY. He's been queried on his name many times over the years. One time when they were pulled over by the law and when asked his name he said "Paul McCartney", the lawman said I suppose that's "Ringo Starr" sitting along side of you. He said no with a smirk on his face.
Over my life time of hunting, I have lost count of how many foxes I have shot, also many feral cats.
This photo shows two kangaroo dogs killing a fox, they belong to a farmer.
The top photo shows Pauls brother Craig with a fox, the other one is Paul with our son Brett, holding on to a couple of ducks
The dog in the photo above is a half breed roo-dog bull terrier cross. He was no relation to my breed. The reason I finished up with him, was his mother was poisoned when the litter was 4 weeks old and the fella that owned it was going to have a battle bringing the pups up not having a mother. My brother-inlaw Neil was interested in one, so I kept two of them at my place in the lounge and the wife would feed them three times during the night. She done this until they were 7 or 8 weeks old. Then Neil took his pup.
I named the dog Senior and he came up under Lady, who was the start of my breed. When I put the American pit-bull over her and produced Rusty. Learning from his father, he was the second dog to learn to hunt with the wind from the back of the ute, at any speed. Including bitumen highways.
Senior also came up under Rusty and learnt to scent with the wind, but he had a lazy streak in him and I've seen him lay down in the back of the ute and wait for the other dogs to scent the pigs. I remember one time with Senior, we were going out for a barbecue. The wife and kids, a friend, his wife and kids also they were following us in a little family car.
When we pulled up and got the barbecue out, I said to the wife "were going to go for a drive to see if we can get a pig, while you's get dinner ready". As we were driving around and I looked in the cab revision mirror, I could see big Senior laying down with his head stretched right up in the air, trying to scent the wind, too lazy to stand up. When all of a sudden I watched him scramble to his feet like someone had put turps on his arse. I hit the brakes and he was gone into the wind on the scent of pigs.
The photo below shows the results, Senior left the ute twice before we came back to the barbecue. The first time I think he got the three little one's and the second time he got the big boar, you can see the head of, which our oldest son Dave is holding. Then the wife holding a little pig also our youngest son Craig holding another one, our next door neighbour at the time and his daughter Melissa holding another little one.
I remember another hunting trip with Senior and a couple of other dogs. I'd left home maybe an hour before daylight, allowing me to get to a particular mob of pigs as it was breaking daylight 70-80 klms from home. I was driving around the apartments of a pine plantation which had a river running through it.
As I was approaching an intersection, I could see two bodies laying on the embankment of the road. It's just breaking daylight. As I drove passed, maybe 10ft from them, they did not move, I said to the fella with me they looked close enough to being dead. So I turned right and went around the apartment and came back to them. This time I was even closer and I slapped the side of my ute and yelled. I seen one move his fingers a bit. One was a black fella and the other was a white fella. Better known among the aboriginals as a Noongah and a Wadgilah. I didn't stop, I went off hunting. I said to Barry, "at least one of them is alive".
We hadn't gone far when the dogs got onto a big boar, he was all black. We took him alive. These big boars when their in the back of the ute, tied and their wriggling trying to get free they will shake the ute. As we continued to chuck loops on the apartments. I deliberately went out of my way to check on those two fellas again.
This time their standing a couple of hundred yards from where we saw them. When I pulls up the aboriginal say's " hey mate, where dat here thing dat go ober da ribber like dis ear" and he put's one hand straight out in front of him. I knew he was imitating a flying fox, a steel rope that goes across the river. Before I could say anything, he say's " dat out here dis a way eh". I said "no it's not, it's out the opposite way". The white fella said, "our friends are back where the rope goes over the river". Which was a few klms.
I knew I could spook the Noongah here, they are scared of dogs. I said "jump in the back and I will take you to your friends". The Noongah say's "I'm scared of dat dog like him" and pointed to big Senior. I said "you'll be right, I've not long fed him". Then I said "don't look at his eye's". I think he was that scared he didn't realize they were wagging their tails. I watched him through the revision mirror come over the tail-gate of the ute and squatted on his haunches. Ready to spring out if Senior made his move. All the way back he stared at the big boars arse rather that make eye contact with Senior.
When we pulled up at their friends, we didn't realize what had taken place. A young Aboriginal lady walked over and she said " Where da f!!ks my car". The white fella said "you tell her you were driving". Apparently they had gone out looking for firewood the evening before. He said " I was dribin, lookin for wood ober here, and I run op da road ober dare". Apparently there was a steep drop off and that's where the car was.
Just then the big boar give grunt and shook the ute. She went up on her toes, looking into the back of the ute and said "wot da f!!k dat is". I don't know the outcome, we left them and continued hunting.
I remember another time Senior had gone on a run and when he returned, I knew he had killed. He'd also had a wound and was bleeding from his top lip. I asked him to show me and he took me back maybe half a kilometre through the forest to where he had killed a fox. I done the wrong thing by patting him and saying your a good dog.
Because the next time I goes out, I was traveling along a main gravel road at about 70-80 klms, when Senior started to howl and spin around in the back of the ute. I hit the brakes thinking this is pigs, he went over the tailgate and back up the road from where we come from. I quickly turned the ute around and put my foot down.
I caught up with Senior just as he was leaving the road, I watched him go across a flat and as he was going up the hill, I could see a fox in front of him. I don't think I got that habit out of Senior. Which didn't worry me too much because I had bred two pups from Rusty, which were Sandy and Red and I gave Senior to my good mate Bobby Carroll, who had hunted with Senior since day one.
I remember one afternoon when I knocked off from day shift in the mines. I went out hunting with Senior by himself. Rusty must have been out of action. He got 7 pigs before dark and one mob that he scented with the wind from the back of the ute, were on the other side of the backwaters of a weir. I watched him swim across and after about 10-15 mins I could just make him out barking.
I had to drive around the back waters for a couple of klms and back to the big hill. When I got to Senior, he had a mob of pigs bailed up in their camp and it shows you the ability of a dog to scent with the wind. Also we had a couple of pigs in the ute when he done this and Bobby Carroll was more than happy to have him.
Quite a few times over the next 7-8 yrs when one of my dogs was maybe killed or wounded, Bobby would give Senior back to me as a back up for Rusty. They both got to old age.
The photo below shows Senior introducing himself to a kangaroo. You can also see a cow in the background. The farmer had trouble with pigs. I grabbed Senior and let the kangaroo go. The photo below was taken I think late evening, you can just make out Senior in the foreground and Rusty in the background and the big white boar is a domestic, he had a ring in his snout and was running with a big mob of wild pigs.
There was many farms in this area, whether he had wandered from there or someone had released him to put a better strain in the wild pig, I don't know. What I do know he was as savage as any wild boar and while he was chasing one dog, the other dog would slip in and grab him by the family jewels. That's why he has positioned himself with his arse under a black-boy. He seemed to pack up easily he was totally exhausted, he'd had enough. He went over to a low lying black-boy and poked his head up under the fronds and laid on his stomach.
I went over and grabbed his bristles and pulled him onto his side and he could not resist me while I was kneeling on him tying him up. By the time he recovered it was too late, I had him tied. Then came the job of loading him into the ute, there was only two of us. There was a low log maybe 15inches off the ground. I reversed my ute up to it, dug two holes, so my back wheels could drop into it and rolled the big boar into the back of the ute.
The fella I was with, his father used to take quite a few pigs off me. He only ever wanted the biggest of the boars and when I delivered them and they were tied, he would take their, (were not too sure what to say)the wife say's nute them. But a lot out there wouldn't understand, so he cut their nut's out. He'd put a solution they call stockol and tar on the wound and in 4-5 weeks of good tucker, he would use them and make some of the best bacon you would taste.
This photo shows the two oldest boy's Dave 15yrs and Jamie 13yrs on one of the cold winter nights, when the temperature's could range from 5 to zero and they were on the back of the ute spotlighting for rabbits. After we'd shoot half a dozen or 8, they would want to light up Blackboy's (grasstrees). Then they would hold the rabbits while I cleaned them by the warmth of the fire.
It was a quick way to get warm, even if we'd have had 2 inches of rain, if you touched the bottom of these Grasstrees with a match, they would ignite, within a minute they would look like you can see in the photo. Then the boy's could'nt wait to start spotlighting again. I remember this night, we had 22 rabbits to put in the freezer. And a couple of kangaroo's for dog meat. We were finished at quarter passed nine that night.
This photo shows you Buller the great-grandson of the original Buller also his younger half brother Rebel. All pig-hunters and owners of kangaroo dogs say theirs are the best and I'm no different. A man becomes jealous of his good dogs. I've heard old bush-men say, this dog is one in a hundred or they say you only get one dog like this once in a life time.
All my dogs from the original Lady and Buller were as good at retrieving ducks as they were at finding pigs. The photo above shows Buller coming out to the bank with a duck. We had shot 11 and he retrieved them all, bar the last two. One was still very lively and would go under the water when Buller got close. After awhile the dogs a bit worn out and he sits on the bank having a rest.
Then I said "come on get him out", so he's back in and after him again. I could not believe what I saw. When he gets close the duck goes under, so does the dog. Their both out of sight. I said to the fella I was with I have never seen that. So I ran back to the car and got the camera.
When I returned Buller was sitting on the bank again. I said "get him out". The exact thing happens again. They both go under and the photo below shows you Buller breaking the water with the duck in his mouth. Another thing the water is dirty and it must have swam into him. If you look to the right of where they surfaced, you can see the ripples and a bit of white water, where he went under to get the duck.
The hardest thing about duck-hunting is removing the feathers. Especially when you have got a spud bag full like you can see in the photo. But if you have a device like you are looking at, it becomes the easiest. It's called a duck-plucker. The gentleman in the photo is giving us a demonstration,his name is Banjo Paterson. We were timing how long it takes to pluck the duck. Would you believe just short of a minute.
You can see the motor is mounted on a frame and a v-belt comes up around a pulley that is attached to a circular drum. They drill 4 holes about an inch apart in a line and each line of holes are about 2 inches apart. They poke about a 4 inch rubber finger through each hole that is tapered so that it jams and cannot come right through. When it is turned on it spins real fast. You hold the duck up to the fingers and it will pluck the duck better than you can. Like I said in less than a minute.
Before I knew this method existed, I would return home with a few mates, their women and kids would be at my house. We would light the copper I had set up outside. When it was boiling, we had a production line. One of the men would dunk the duck in the hot water and pass it to people who were standing around a rubbish bin and you could all but wipe the feathers off with your hands it was easy. They would pass it on to a laminex table and I would do the rest with a knife. Some women would not have anything to do with the wild duck. Which pleased me, there was more for my freezer.
I remember another incident with Rebel, I'm not too sure if Buller had passed away or was out of action with wounds. We had shot another 8 or 9 ducks in a dam. Rebel had retrieved all but one, again he was too lively and Rebel couldn't get hold of him. So I said to the bloke with me, we'll walk back to the car, which was a fair way off. Rebel came with us, we jumps in the car and drive back up to the dam. I said grab another bullet and finish that duck off.
When we walks over to the wall of the dam, the duck is gone. Both of us run our eyes around the edge of the water, sometimes they will hide with their beaks sticking out. I said he must have come out of the dam and he's gone. I said to the dog "get him out" and he starts running around the dam getting worked up. I said "where is he". This time when he runs around the dam he's not looking he's got his nose to the ground and we watched him hit the scent and take off across the paddock.
He was running up and over a hill and out of sight. I said to the fella with me jump in the car and we took off the way we last seen him. I said there's a creek dam over the hill in the next gully. We caught up with Rebel just as he was getting to the dam, it's only small about 15ft wide and maybe 30ft long. The edge is covered in long grass.
Rebel looks at me wagging his tail, I said again "where is he". He runs around the dam looking into the water all excited, then looks at me as if to say I know he's here somewhere. I said "where is he". He does another loop of the dam but this time, he's got his nose to the grass and I'm running with him. We gets to the opposite side and Rebel just stands there looking at the grass at the edge of the water.
A dog loves you to talk to him and spook him. I said "show me" and he darts both his front legs into a clump of grass. I'm kneeling along side of him, saying "whats in there". I had to pull the grass away from the top and make a hole. Here's the duck squatting down underneath the clump of grass. He'd came up from under the water. Rebel's reward is when you wrap your arms around his neck and while your roughing him up you repeat a few times your a good dog and he cannot wait to repeat that for a cuddle from you. On my Fathers memory every word of this is the truth.
This is one of many good times with Bobby. We were sitting at the bar early one Saturday, Bobby turned to me and said " What about we head out the Murray River and get a few marron". Also he said " I've got a brand new two-man tent and I'd like to set it up and see what it's like." So we left the Pub and went home and loaded up the camping gear and some tucker, also the dogs and a esky full of cans, that we knew we couldn't drink. But we were going to give it a go.
When we get to the river and carry all our gear down to where we were going to camp, there was a bit of weather around. I said " Bob we should put the tent up first before we start marroning". He said "no we'll put the baits in first". Which we did, maybe half a dozen.
This was in the 60's and I have never seen marron in any river that could equal the Murray. I will tell you later how I was introduced to it by a policeman. The same one that held the torch when I shot my first trout with a 303 dum-dum. As Bobby and myself were walking back from putting the baits out, they were lumps of meat that were tied on about a 2 -3 ft length of rope.
I got to the camp, Bobby has gone to have a look at the first bait. They're only 15-20yrds from the camp. Bobby yells out "I cant see the bait, it's black with marron". I said "Bobby we've got to put the tent up before that rain comes". He say's "no no, bring a can down and one for yourself". When I pass the can to him he is laughing and he said " the little critters are everywhere". That was a saying Bobby had, he even used it for a big boar. He would say he's a nasty critter.
We had two snares as I would snare one marron and pass it to Bobby, he would give me the second snare, without hesitating or waiting. We took thirteen marron off that bait. Then moved to the next bait. Bobby would run over quickly and grab another two cans. Another thing, when we finished taking the marron off a bait and we were going to move to the next. You could still see a lot of marron that were coming to the bait.
This all took place in what we call the narrow-necks. They were channels that connected the pools to each other. They ran all year round and you could barely see the ground through the ribbon reeds. I don't know for sure, but I think there were too many marron for the pools and not enough food. Because sometimes when I was putting the snare over a tail of a marron and there was a stick in the way, I could lift the marrons tail up with the snare stick and move it away from whatever was interfering with the snare. They would not let go of the meat or flick their tail.
I've seen times, when just for a joke and to show somebody, I would lift the meat up out of the water and onto the bank and a couple of big marron would still be holding onto the meat. Also I've seen times after snaring 15-20 the snare wire would weaken and it would snap at the stick as you were lifting a big marron out. Even then it would not flick away, it would drop straight back down to the meat with the snare still attached. I would use the second snare and take him again and many times I heard, get another two cans. One time he said "get another three cans", I said "I think we only need two".
Another thing we could make a cup of tea out of the Murray, the water was that fresh. There was Trout, Perch and many species of little fish, like the minnow, miniature carp or we used to call them shelly's, another two we called mud-fish and black-fish also it was lousy with cobbler and water-rats.
Back to that night with Bobby, the big hessian spud bag was full, with just enough room to tie the top. Then we'd put the tin bucket on the fire and cook ourselves a feed of marron. By this time we're both talking left-handed. The last thing I remember was laying there with Bobby and the dogs at our side. When we woke up in the morning, we were a little bit damp from the rain. Bobby had pulled a little bit of the flap from the tent over him and I'd done the same. Unable to work out how to erect that tent, we slept on top of it, the dogs also.
You can rest assured if Bobby or myself were given a choice to sleep in a Five Star Hotel or the bank of the Murray, we would take the Murray every time and to top it off we would hunt pigs on the way home.
The next photo shows you my third oldest son Brett (40) who was not born at that time also his son Ricky(18) and shows you the snare and marron
The following photo is also Brett in the middle, his cousin Lee-anne Turner on the right and a friends daughter Kylie Crowe.The photo above shows a marron feeding on something, I don't know what. But it was in a position like this, I could force the snare stick between the marron and the rock and push him around, so I could fit the snare around his tail. Another reason these marron were so quiet was they had not been hunted for many years.
The little bush tracks and formations that ran too the Murray, were pretty much abandoned, due to the bad out of control bush fire that destroyed many of the bush settlements and what the old bushman referred to as the Dwellingup fire. I'll show you photo's when I talk about Old Settlements.
You could still get access to the Murray River on the major gravel roads. But the little forest tracks and formations when I first traveled them looking for wild pigs had trees across them so I would make a track around, which told me I was the first there since the Dwellingup fires. Also where the tracks went through a creek or across a swamp, the re-growth would be hanging over that thick you could barely tell if there was a track.
Like the next photo will show a few become impassable. I used to go over this particular bridge hunting pigs in my EH car. You can see how thick and healthy the bush is, but it will fall victim to mining. This photo below shows the fresh water stream under the bridge from the photo above. It was taken at the end of summer and it's a better quality of water than what comes out of your tap. Its spring fed and there are many streams like this. It's these streams that helps the Murray River battle on. Or I would suggest it would be like the Swan River. The Authorities should keep an eye on this also the mines.Another abandoned bush track. Also the following two photos will show you how nature is starting to reclaim some of the tracks I used to take. It shows you a lot of our forest is still healthy.
Another time with Bobby we'd been hunting since daybreak and it was about mid-day and he comes out with one of his old saying's. I'm blue-tonguing and the next photo shows you where this saying comes from. The goanna's opening his mouth as if to say give us a drink.
So we headed for Dwellingup pub. Where we had many good times. The football oval is situated just short of the pub and as we drive past, there were two old bushies sitting on a bench stool looking at the oval. There was not a sole in sight or a vehicle. Bobby said " I hope they don't think there's a football match on."
We'd been in the pub for maybe an hour, when the two old bushies walked in. They ordered a beer along side of us and we started to talk. It turns out, they worked in the mill and most Mill towns have a few old characters like these.
One of them introduced himself to us, he said my names Stubby and I forget the other ones name. Maybe it was because we were laughing and didn't hear it. After a few drinks, I said to Stubby "do you play darts", he said "yes we do, we play for the mill". I reckon when we saw them at the oval a bit earlier, they would have been finishing off a bottle of wine, a cheap start to the day and into the pub to whoever would have a beer with them.
I've played against some good dart players and I got off on it, but no more than playing Stubby and his mate. I said to Bobby "we'll let them win a couple" and after they got to the double, it took another ten shots to peg. I think it was the last game we had with them and the wine had caught up.
Stubby's wandering a bit and this is the funniest thing I've ever seen in pegging a game. Stubby's mate wanted 43 to go out, Stubby is standing next to the ocky. He said to his mate "10 or a 6", his mate looked at him but didn't say anything and he threw 3 double 20. Stubby looked at me and he said "what a prick of a way to go." he was serious, I think the wine had caught up with him.
The above photo shows our oldest boy Dave, roughly 12yrs, showing the size some of the tusks can get to on the big boars and the fella standing there with the back-leg, is Les Allen. Who I told a previous story of how a boar took the top of his finger off.
Les lived on the wild side of life. He roamed and lived in different towns and I believe he had a problem with the drink from as early as he was allowed too and he mixed with others who had the same habit, black and white. He was always on probation but he wasn't always at fault. (I wont go down that track).
When the police would go around to pick him up, rather than take him to the lock-up, which they were supposed to do, being he was on probation. They would bring him around to my place, which was a decent thing to do. Sometimes if I was standing out the front and they dropped him off, we rarely spoke, they just nodded their head or waved as they where leaving.
I remember a time when he turned up at home and we were sitting there talking, he asked me if I would take him out marroning. I said I wasn't that keen and a bit later he asked me again. He said I'll buy a carton. He sounded like he really wanted to go, so I agreed. We went out to the back-waters of a water catchment the Stirling Dam. Which is maybe 40klms from where I live through the bush. Also the dogs.
When we get there, we put out a line of baits or pellets. Then we gathered some wood and lit a fire, put a kerosine tin of water on. All the time since we left home, we'd been knocking a few cans down. It gets dark and we do a run along the baits. When we come back to the fire, we've got a half a bag of big marron. The waters boiling, so we put on enough for a good feed.
A little bit later we were sitting there eating hot marron and we've done a bit of damage to the carton. Les say's "what a beautiful night, look at all the stars Jock". I looked at him out of the corner of my eye thinking, he's never spoke about stars before. We done another run along the baits. When we come back and we were sitting at the fire, again he cranks up about the stars. I said "Les what are you going on about the stars for", he said "they're going to put me in jail tomorrow". He'd broken his probation again.
Another time Les walked into the Police station, put his TAA bag on the counter and said "I surrender." The copper said "what are you surrendering for Les." They all knew him. He said "that's my car on the out-skirts of town". He'd run off the road and into the bush on a bend. He said to Les "you go and move it I don't want to know". So he got me and we towed it to my place. It sat there for a couple of months, he told me I could have it, but it was heavy on fuel and I didn't want it. I give it to the wreckers.
I don't think Les got to his 60's, his way of living caught up with him.
Another time when Les decided to move. I think he'd run out of towns or was it, run out of town. He put it to me to take him back to his home town a place called Wongan Hills, roughly 600klms. I was telling another friend at the time, Billy Buckle. He said we'll take him up in my car which was a FB Holden sedan. It was summer and real hot. Brother in-law Peter was not long out of Vietnam and I think we were still on that bender. So there's myself, Billy and Peter in the front, would you believe, Les, his wife and step-daughter, (tiger)and (red) two kangaroo dogs on the back seat.
I forget how many big bottles we put away. I don't think Les had been home for quite a few years and I know they weren't too happy to see us. They didn't even offer us a drink of water. Mind you we were pretty right as far as drink goes. All of Les's worldly possessions were in the boot and there was room to put something else there. Actually we enjoyed the trip 42 years ago.
Billy Buckle was a descendant of the infamous Buckle brothers, who have all passed away also Billy, but some of their yarns and stories will stay with us. Like the kangaroo and the coat.
Billy could also tell a yarn. They had a dry sense of humour and their own way of telling you if someone had a problem or habit. I mentioned a fellas name one day but I wont mention it now. Billy said, he was the most miserablist, tight fisted !!! I've ever seen, even at school, he could peel an orange in his pocket and he got worse as he got older. He said when the orphans picnic was due, his mother and father would hide.
Another time Billy was sitting at the bar and a little Polish fella walked in, who had thick glasses. Different fellas reckon they were as thick as the bottom of Coke bottles, but Billy said "he must have good eye's to be able to see through them".
Bill loved the bush he'd done a lot of pig-hunting with my brother Bob also he loved to chase the brumbies (wild horses).
Over the years many dogs have been killed by roo's. The next few photo's will show you the different ways it can happen. When you think in a single bound they have been know to cover in excess of 40ft also in height they are know to clear 3.2 mtrs. It tells you the power they have in their hind legs.
The first photo shows you how they balance on the end of their tail and kick forward with both feet at the same time raking down with their main toe nail. Which can vary in size, depending the type of country they travel. If it's soft sandy country I've seen the main toe-nail 2-3inches long, especially in the coastal country and quite sharp. If it's rocky terrain their traveling or iron-stone ridges, they will be less than an inch and blunt, but can still do damage. This photo shows what I've just told you. I've heard stories how they've disemboweled a dog or the wounds have been that severe they had to be put down. I've also heard stories where the dog didn't return and it was never known what had happened to him. Your left wondering if someone found him and kept him. I think the main reason was they'd been ripped bad and bled out before they could get back.
Also when their at top speed and they're maybe 10-20ft from the kangaroo and there's a stump or log the kangaroo will jump it or veer sharp to miss it, the dog hasn't time to react and he's dead if he hits it. Another thing if there's a sharp stick or limb of a tree on the ground, they've been known to stake themselves. An old fella told me one time he found his dog skewered on a limb.
Another time an old bushy and hunting partner of my father, told me a story about a lady who was running a farm, she had 2 or 3 children, I think her husband had been killed. They had 2 kangaroo dogs and she asked the old fella if he would hunt them for she never had time. He said "I felt so bad about this", he told me the two dogs had gone on a run with a big kangaroo and they never returned.
He eventually found their signs on the ground and tracked them to where they had bailed the kangaroo. Both dogs were laying there dead and no kangaroo. The only explanation he could come up with and I agree, there was a snake where the bail-up took place. They would have been none the wiser, they wouldn't even have known they had been bitten. As you can see in the photo, the dogs in trouble. The big male kangaroo has unreal power in the front arms and there's no way the dog will break free of this. It's when the roo has got this grip, he will stand upright, balancing on the end of his tail he'll bring the big hind legs up between himself and the dog and kick downwards, also they throttle them. You can see the dogs face is puffed up and he was unable to breathe, in or out. I persuaded the roo to let go, with a piece of wood.
The following two photo's shows you a big male kangaroo or boomer and he's heading for the river, where they know they can beat the dog.The photo above shows when they are at the river. He will eventually go into the water and stand chest deep and if the dog makes the mistake and goes too him, the roo will grab him and hold him under the water. As though he's done it many times before, but he hasn't it comes natural.
I remember an instance one time a fella I used to know, was living on a little hobby farm. He had gone to work and his lady friend decided to take their three dogs for a walk. This was in coastal country and like I've said they are the biggest of the grey kangaroo's that I have seen.
She told me the dogs started to chase one of these boomers and he took them straight to a water hole or small dam in the paddock. The three dogs were running around the bank barking and the smallest swam out to him. The boomer grabbed him and held him under, she made the mistake grabbing the other two big dogs and preventing them from going out as well. Had they have gone out, he would have released the smaller dog and had a go at them when they were in range and between them they would have stood a chance of beating him, but she wasn't to know that. After a while she realized he had drowned the little dog. She led the other two back to the house. A terrible experience.
The following story tells how I first found the rapids. I was working in the back paddocks of a farm, burning the big logs and stumps also whatever bits and pieces. It was to become the back-waters of the Waroona Dam. There was a crew of us working there. One gentleman was a policeman who was on long service leave. His name was Bill Furman and like many men of that time was trying to get a few extra bob to make life a little easier for his family.
We were working long hours, some days 16 hours. Just before dark we would go around and light up all the logs and the many little piles of the bits and pieces of wood. Then we would go and have something to eat, then back out to stoke the fires until maybe 10 o'clock at night. It must have been a big life-style change for Bill from being in the Police force. But I know he got off on roughing it and being with the boys.
We were all camping inside an old abandoned house, just a shell and all slept on the floor we had to make it as comfortable as possible. Bill liked to play around as much as any of us. He was a big lump of a man and carrying a bit of weight. I remember one night an old fella, who also liked the bush, calling out my name and asking me to help him. His name was Tommy Turner. When I walked in the room, big Bill was sitting on Tommy and had him beat. Tom used to do our cooking and also keep our times.
We were working for R & N Palmer Contractors. Their brother George Palmer was working with us operating a Bull-dozer, used for snigging the big logs and trees that had fallen into the creeks that fed the Waroona Dam. At times I was operating a Massey Fergerson tractor for the smaller logs.
I remember talking with Bill one night when we were stoking the fires and we were talking about the trout that were in the creeks and the conversation got around to marron. Bill said he had never seen any water that held marron like the Murray. He told me about a time a friend of his who was in the police force with him Ron Dalton, who's parents lived in a little bush settlement on the edge of the Murray River called Nanga Brook. It was only 20 minutes drive through the forest from where we were working on the Dam.
Bill told me they visited the Daltons one weekend and Rons father asked them if they would like to get some marron from the Murray. Bill told me he drove through the little bush tracks maybe 30 or 40 klms and came down onto two pools that Mr Dalton considered the most productive of all the Murray. Bill said he seemed to think they were two of the best breeding pools. They went home with a full hessian spud bag that sent alarm bells going in my head and what makes this stand out even more, they caught all the marron in the middle of the day.
After hearing that, I drifted back into the past when I was maybe 12 or 13 still in Primary School, I decided to go marroning. It was maybe 2 hours off dark, I had pollard for bait and I remember getting a few marron but not too many. It started to get dark and I decided to head home. There was still some pollard left which was in a paper bag, I threw it in the water on the edge as I was leaving.
After school the following day, it was summer and very hot and I thought I would go for a swim. It was the same area that I was marroning the night before also there were a couple of young girls we used to meet there. (Kaylene Burnett and Kerry Denison) We were good friends and we were in the same class at school, there was also another girl in our class who I finished up marrying.( I wont go too far down that track, it gets a bit rough)(joke, she's writing this)
As I was getting close to the pool where the girls used to swim, I was with a mate and I can't remember which one. I said to him "I was marroning here last night" and I told him about the bag of pollard I threw on the edge. When we had a look, it was black with marron. Even at this age I had seen some sights in the different pools I had fished with my father and the Noongah boys I used to go out with, but nothing matched this.
All I was wearing was my bathers and no doubt a packet of cigarettes inside them. I remember running up to the pool where the girls were. Kaylene lived about 2 or 300 yrds from the river, I asked her to go home and to see if her father had a sugar bag and some shot-firing wire, which I think every house in Collie had. It came off the detonaters the coal-miners used underground. I remember carrying that bag of marron home. They covered the full length of the bath. I think the smile was still on my face in the morning. That all took place in the middle of Collie, between the park and whats known as the East-end Bridge. I caught these marron at the head of the pool what we called the Rat pool.
After Bill told me what he told me about the Murray, I asked him if he would come out with me one day and see if we could find the pools he talked about. Bill said I would love to go out and put the day in looking, but its a long time ago and there's a lot of Murray and I don't know if I can find them. It was 1966 when we went out to look, we tried many pools with drop-nets, we got a few marron, I cant remember how many, I think enough for a feed. Our biggest problem was turtles destroying our baits, they were thick.
Even though we failed to find the pools, what I benefited from that day, made it the best day I have ever put in. Because every bush track I took had signs of wild pigs like I'd never seen before, also the roo's were thick and I started to hunt them for the pet-meat shop. I remember it was the middle of winter and I was hunting wild pigs, taking all the little bush tracks I hadn't been on and I came on to the Murray River. I remembered Bill telling me that the pools we were looking for had a narrow-neck of granite, which I now know as the Rapids.
The winters in them days were a lot heavier than today and I've seen logs in the winter floods wedged in the tree's, maybe 10-15 ft from the ground. When I first saw this pool, the flood waters were maybe 50 yrds wide and there was maybe 2or3ft of foam covering the river. I thought maybe this is what Bill was looking for. So I made my way back out through the bush tracks to the first major gravel road and made sure I remembered all the turn-offs. When I made my way back there at the end of winter, the river had settled to what you can see in the photo.
One of the dogs I had at the time was a kangaroo dog called Lady and I've told you stories of her ability. Just before we got to where the rapids are, she got a big male kangaroo. Which I gutted and took the top quarter for marron bait and the hind quarter was either for the dogs or I sold it to the pet-shop. I cut three sections off the top quarter which I had dragged to the waters edge. I placed one in the foreground, then one at the base of the little tree you can see in the water and another one ten feet further on just short of the narrow neck. Then I cut another three baits, I put one at the tail of the big pool you can see in the background and the other two I spaced out roughly ten feet apart. One was off of a big log or tree that had been washed down in the flood waters and wedged in the bank.
Then I walked back to cut another three baits. As I walked passed the first bait I had put in 20 or 30 minutes earlier, curiosity got the better of me and I thought I would check it. If there had been one or two marron on it I would have been happy. I could not see the bait, it was covered with big marron. Also when I looked behind the bait in the deeper water there were a lot of big marron that were heading for the bait. I quickly made up a snare and over the next 2-3 hours I had 6 dozen and 2, it was the middle of the day.
Like I've said before I've given many people feeds over the years. There were no freezers in them days, unfortunately the Murray no longer produce's what it used to. The quality of water has deteriorated. The pools were once lined with reeds maybe 5 or 6 feet out from the bank. A lot of times we would break the reeds away so we could see our bait. I took the photo in 2006 and as you can see the reeds are all gone also the many shrubs and bushes and some big trees that line the bank. It used to be that thick you could only get access to about ten percent of the river.
As a joke I used to say too some of the fellas I took out will you go back and get something out of the ute, it was that thick they could not find the little pad that I had made which came down from the road. The next two photo's will show you how it's changed.
The photo below shows looking from the river up to where you can now see the ute. Like I said in 1966 they could not find their way it was that thick.
You could not see the river from where the photo above was taken in 66 and I believe this is caused from not having the big winter floods that we used to have. Which would have washed down a lot of soil and nutrients that fertilized the banks and the different vegetation relied on. It would be nice to think those winters will return.
I have no answer for what took place this night. The brother-inlaw Peter was just back from Vietnam and I think I've said before the shearing run had finished. He suggested not to look too hard for work as he had a quid in his pocket and wanted to blow it. I think he was still reeling from the effects of what he had been through in the jungles of Vietnam. He was voluntary forward scout and I will tell you in time some of the frightening experiences he had and no doubt are the reasons Peter has trouble sleeping too this day.
This particular time we decided to head out too the Murray and the rapids which I had found when Peter was in Vietnam and no doubt he couldn't wait to see what I'd told him about the marron. I remember we put out about a half a dozen baits. It was roughly a couple of hours before dark and before nightfall we had half a bag of marron and we half emptied an esky full of cold cans. It was now an hour after dark and the bag is three quarters full and so were we.
As we were going from bait to bait with the torch, the three dogs I had were walking along side of us. One was Lady the roo dog also the original Buller who was an American Pit-bull, who I had not long owned and was the meanest fighting dog I had ever seen, also a dog called Nugget who was a banana nose bull-terrier cross he handled many big boars in his time.
As we were returning to the start of the baits all three dogs started to growl viciously as they ran up along the bank of the river in front and out of sight of the torch. We could hear the dogs all the time and they were cranked up big time. All of a sudden there were mournful howls and the three dogs came back at top speed into the beam of the torch, then in behind my back. I have never been spooked like this in my life. Peter was first to talk, he said "if you f!!k off with the torch, I'll chuck all the marron in the river". We got our gear together and straight up to the ute.
I really do not know what could have caused this. In those day's there were still quite a few dingo's or wild dogs roaming the bush, but my dogs had had a couple of clashes with these and they were willing to have a go even though the dingo put it over them.
Another incident maybe 15-20 klms down river from where this took place a couple of years later I was driving around the different bush tracks looking for pigs and I was roughly one kilometre off the Murray. I had Rusty who was the son of the pit-bull and was as good as dogs can get scenting with the wind from the back of the ute, also big Senior (kangaroo-dog bull terrier cross). I always kept an eye on my side rear view mirror where I could see the dogs as they were trying to pick up scent.
Many times over the years I've just happened to be looking at the dogs as they picked up the scent and you can see the excited look on their face before they started to spin and scream. This day they jumped and as they were going away from me I knew something wasn't quite right. They weren't putting in as they normally do, their tails were up and there was something different about their movements. I was standing there and watched them go out of sight about 50yrds up the hill behind some bracken fern and zamia palms.
Then I heard that startled howl from the dogs and they were heading back as quick as they could and into the back of the ute they didn't want anything to do with it. I walked up with my rifle to where I last seen them. There were no tracks on the ground and the dogs would not leave my side. This is the truth.
The photo above was taken maybe in the late 60's or early 70's and at that time there were still a few dingo's in the bush and also the wild dog-dingo-cross. A couple of weeks after this photo was taken I came onto a wild-dog-dingo cross, he was black and tan and was also in a trap. He was exceptionally big and powerful and just maybe it was something like this that spooked the dogs that night.
I got to know the gentleman that was trapping these dingo's. I bumped into him in the bush a few times. I'm not too sure, I think it was 7 or 11 he told me he had trapped in the last couple of months all in the same area. It is known as the Treesville Flats. Whether this had anything to do with it or not, I was hunting the area with Lady the bitch roo-dog when she was in season.
I remember one time coming onto signs on a sandy section which I thought was pig but you couldn't tell as the sand was too loose. As I was walking around checking the tracks the dogs were running around checking out the scent. I noticed a little sign in a tree that said !Beware Dingo traps and baits nearby! or words to that effect. I said to whoever was with me to get in the car quick. When I looked the bitch had a bait in her mouth, I screamed at her and she dropped it and we drove off. For the next half an hour she kept poking her tongue out as though it was burning her mouth. I imagine it was Strychnine. She couldn't have got any inside her as that was the only sign she showed and got over it.
Another time in that same area I came over the crest of a hill and I could see maybe a half a dozen dogs 4-500yrds in the distance. I put my foot down and I got within 50yrds before they took off into the bush they were dingo's. They'd just killed a kangaroo and I think that's why I got so close, they didn't hear me coming.
Another time I was working out in the Murray River area, I was operating a dozer snigging logs and loading the trucks. When we knocked off it was a Friday there was a dead kangaroo on the side of the road not far from where we were working. On Monday when we returned, there was a dingo just 10ft from the roo dead, so I would think the Government Dogger had laced it with Strychnine. Some mornings when we got to work, you could hear the dingo's calling to each other from the different hills.
Marroning is a tradition enjoyed by many thousands of people especially in the South-West of Western Australia and I would say that Collie is the heart of marron country. I don't believe there is any other area that can compete with it, because of the four rivers that meet in the Collie Basin. The Bingham, the Harris, the East and the South-branch rivers and they all run into the Wellington Dam water catchment.
I don't know the figures on this but if you were to start off from the Dam wall on the east side and follow the water line until you could get to the opposite side in the back-waters, then return to the wall. I would imagine you would have walked maybe 40-50klms and there's marron all the way, also cobbler and turtles and it is becoming more and more popular with families camping there on weekends, especially in the summer.
Unfortunately I believe the white-collar or Authorities have done the wrong thing by destroying the water-ways that feed this dam, if you check out Rivers on my web-page. In time I will show you in detail with photo's of before and after and what I believe has contributed to the destruction to our rivers.
Then there's the Glen Mervyn Dam which is also stocked with marron.
The above photo shows another tradition the Collie boys had, chasing brumbies. The young fella on the left is Bobby Carroll, the next is Alec Clarke, then Ritchie Carroll and Kerry Davies, who gave me this photo. They say Jeanie Clarke, Alec's sister could ride as good as the boys. Kerry told me she had a habit, she would ride up along side of your horse, grab the bridle on top of the head and take off, taking the bridle and reins with her. Your horse would also take off after her and your left sitting there hanging onto the mane trying to stay on board. Sadly the wild horses have gone.
I've said before I remember the different mobs of brumbies we would pick up in the spotlight while hunting kangaroo's with my father for the pet-meat shop. Also when I first started to hunt the wild pigs I would follow the brumby pads too the different water-holes especially in the Treesville flats where the bush and tangle-weed was that thick you could not walk through. So the wild-horses gave us access to these water-holes. The photo above shows my old HR Holden and I remember a hunting trip that very nearly went bad. Bobby Carroll asked me if I would take his brother Richie also his boss Kenny Allen, who owned a timber-mill and two fellas who I think were from from the Eastern States of Australia out too the Murray chasing marron when marroning was at it's best. There wasn't a lot of room left in the ute as you can imagine with six men, two dogs and a big esky full of cold cans.
I remember when we got there and made ourselves a bit of a camp along side of what we called the narrow-necks in the river. We put out maybe six baits, which were lumps of kangaroo meat tied on to a piece of string. The two gentlemen from the East had never seen marron and I believe Kenny and Richie had never seen marron like this. We made up a couple of snares, I showed the two fellas from the East how to put the snare over the tail of the marron and lift him out onto the bank. They took too it like a duck to water, Richie and Kenny had a snare as well.
Bobby said me and Jock will keep an eye on the esky, which we did. Every now and then they would return and grab a can themselves, also they would tell us the spud bag was half full. This has all started to take place roughly ten o'clock in the morning. Would you believe roughly 3 o'clock in the afternoon their still snaring marron and Bobby and myself haven't moved from the esky. I said "Bobby I think it's time we headed off and see if we can get a couple of pigs". So we walked down to the boy's and said that's it we're going. They were still keen as there were a lot of marron still coming to the baits. The big bag is full to the top.
As we were driving home through the different bush tracks, I think there were three fellas in the back and three in the front. The ones in the back were standing leaning on the cab, two dogs hanging over the side. As we comes around a bend in the road we're looking up into the distance at the end of a long straight and we can see a mob of pigs walking across the road and I think only pig-hunters would know the adrenalin rush you get when you see this. I put my foot down and as we get's to about a hundred yards from where they crossed a couple more came out in front of us.
I hit the brakes and as we were skidding to a halt and almost stopped, Richie lost his balance and decided to jump, which was not a problem we were all but stopped, but one of the fellas opened the door and Richie lobbed on the corner of the door. I heard him scream. When I got out and ran around the front of the ute and after the pigs, I could see Richie curled up on the ground. I always felt bad about not checking Richie first, but I know Bobby stepped over him and was in front of me chasing those pigs (and it was his brother)(and I wasn't related)
I remember about a half an hour later and we'd just finished tying a couple of pigs when I looked up Richie was walking really slow holding his stomach. I said "how is it Rich", he said "it's not too good I think I've pinged something". He lifted his jumper and showed us, there was a red welt about 2 or 3 inches wide where he slid down the door. He was lucky he had not picked up the very corner of the door, but he was off work for a while with a cracked sternum. I forget the two fellas names from the East, but I'll bet you they never forgot that day. 12 dozen and a couple of pigs.
The photo above shows the results of roughly an hours shooting before dark and the following shows the results of another hours shooting after dark in the headlights.
My second oldest boy Jamie done the shooting. When you look at them, there's only one marked on the body, all head shots. He shot 40 and I shot one. He reckons the one that was marked was the one I shot. I don't take much notice of that. Because by this time next year, he'll reckon all the ones he shot were on the run. The rabbits on the table have all been soaked over-night in a brine, then packed into the freezer.
One of our favourite meals is rabbit stew. Quite often the wife will cook three at a time and invite the boys around for tea. The next photo shows the first stage, braising the rabbit, the second shows you the result. The meat is that tender you can eat it with a spoon.
When I talk about rabbits, my memories go back to my father and the time he caught 332 rabbits by himself in one night and I realize we're mugs. I remember when I was a young fella and I couldn't believe the way he set a rabbit trap. He would squeeze it with his right hand allowing him set the jaws with his left. Then he would put his left hand on the ground and lay the trap on top of it, which allowed him to put pressure on the plate from underneath. Then he'd drag a handful of soil with his right hand over the trap. He'd quickly level it off with his fingers, then slowly retrieve his left hand from under the trap. I believed it was all done within a minute.
What makes it stand out even more, he only had two fingers on his left hand. Also when he retired from the mines, he demolished the old house and built himself a new one, room by room. While still living there. Dad had no trade and many people commented on the quality of his work, some were carpenters. I remember him saying, !if a jobs worth doing do it properly! None of it rubbed off on me.
The photo above shows a couple of pigs which I think I used to make ding sausages. The ute is a 1966 HR Holden. I got it second hand in maybe 71-72 and it is still in good condition, but after 2 or 3 years in the bush hunting I made a mess of it. Hundreds of times I drove through the bush to where the dogs got the pigs so I wouldn't have to carry them, no roads. Then over the years I hit a few roos on the main gravel roads as I was heading out to go hunting. Especially day-break in the morning or evening coming home in the dark.
Also I remember side-swiping a bush contractor on a narrow bush track. We met on a bend, he threw his car off to the side and I done the same. I think he clipped a black-boy (not an aboriginal,) they're a grass-tree in these politically correct times. Then they brought out a law compulsory, all vehicles over a certain age were to be put over the pits and had to pass an inspection done by the police. I remember going into a bit of shock and saying to the missus," I'll never get it back on the road". Insidently it was the family car as well.
I remember when the day came. The Inspection building was at the end of my street, which was maybe 5 or 600 yrds. I remember pulling into the line with all the other vehicles. There was a team of cops maybe 8 or 10. While I was sitting there waiting for my turn, I thought if they take it off me I wont have far to walk home. I remember the fella telling me to drive in over the pit. When I hopped out, one of them walked over to me with a pad in his hand and a biro, he wrote down the particulars like the number plate and licence and my name.
The first thing he noticed was a bit of fencing wire about 18" long sticking out of the bonnet, he said "whats this", I said "the aerial". Then he run his eyes over the ute, shook his head and looked at me. He said "are you a farmer", I said "no I'm not", he said "how did it get in this state". I broke down (joke). Then I told him I hunted wild pigs. He said "what do you do with them", I told him I made ding-sausages also I had a few in sty's that I sold to different people that I knew. He said "are they good eating", I said "they're better than domestic", then he said "what do you charge", I said $10's a head and it doesn't matter what their weight is. They could be 80lb or 100lb.
He said "have you got any ready now". I said "yes". He said "can you dress me one for Friday so I can take it home", he lived in the city. I said "no worries", as this was taking place a couple of his mates were checking the car out. One of them said "have a look at this", he bent down and said " that's alright". Then another one of them said "check this out". He walked around the side of the ute and I heard him say "that's alright and that's alright and that's ok" then he said to his mate, "this fellas got pigs for sale", he said "they're wild pigs that have been in a sty for a couple of months and he reckons they're better than domestic, and they're $10 dressed". His mate said "you can do one for me too". Then another one of his mates who had been listening yelled out "you can do one for me too."
At the time I was working in the Shire, I think the wage was maybe $40's a week. So every little bit helped. But like I've said before when you add up the big picture, I was out of pocket. The damage I'd done to my vehicles and the amount of fuel. But it was a way of life I was brought up too and if I was to have my time again I believe I would have to wander the bush, the rivers and creeks. Also fishing fresh-water and salt.
The photo above was taken in 1965. Myself on the right, roughly 18 at the time, my friend Greg (16) in the middle and we are holding a wild turkey.
I was working on the construction of Muja Power-house and I remember one day reading a Post magazine and there was an article on the value of crocodile skins. I couldn't believe what I was reading, 21 shillings a square inch. So when the mob I was working for finished. I had a quid in my pocket and I thought I wouldn't mind having a go at hunting crocodiles. So I put it to my mate Derek and Greg about heading North and looking for work. I'm not too sure but I don't think I told them of my intentions. So the three of us headed off. We had some fishing tackle with us, three rifles and we were in a pretty much new 64 model EH Holden, which I brought new.
We had never been in the north of Western Australia and we didn't know what we were in for. It was Christmas time and the temperature rarely dropped below 40 degrees Celsius. So we made sure the esky was always full of cold beer and not a lot of tucker and I think it was illegal to shoot a turkey and still is. But my friend Greg said he was going to die if he didn't get some tucker into him, I'm sure that's what he said. Actually we weren't too sure what it was, it was the first time we had seen one. (Three automatic rifles spitting lead and a moment later he lay dead.) I heard that in a song somewhere.
The next photo shows you us cooking the turkey. If you look at Greg the third bloke from the right, you can see how skinny he is and that's why I shot the turkey, (your Honour). I'm on the right of the photo and the fella next to me is Barry also his mate John turning the turkey. We met up with these two fellas along the road. They were in a FJ Holden. We never kept in contact, it was 48 years ago. So if you happen to read this story, it would be nice to hear from you. The photo was taken on New Years day 1965 and we are hung-over to the max.
We'd just had New Years Eve in the Onslow pub. I don't know about today, but back then if you fired a rifle up the main street on a Saturday morning, you wouldn't hit anybody. I remember going to a little shack that sold ice-creams and whatever else, it was New-years day and I think we all wanted an ice-cream to put that fire out in our mouth. As the fella was serving me, he knew I was a stranger and asked where I was from. I said "the South-west", he said "where about in the South-west". I said "a Coal-mining town called Collie", "oh" he said "I've got relations there, the Fleays" then he said, "mind you we call them the Fleas. The Fleays are all up here in this tough country".
The Onslow jetty was still there at the time. It was before the cyclones blew it away. Like I've said before Derek and myself were bought up on the river fishing also the coast, so we headed out along the jetty. There was an aboriginal fella there with two kids, roughly 8 or 9 years old. He was every bit of 6ft 3 or 4 and had a half a dozen dread-locks hanging down about 10-12 inches long. He was a big friendly fella always smiling.
We started fishing along side of him and every now and then he would jump up with his line zinging through his fingers and it would break and he'd laugh. I said "what do you think it was". He said "him big Groper fella". I'm not too sure how many times that happened but he ran out of hooks. We had plenty on us, so I give him a few. He said "you fella use some my bait". I'd never seen them before, they were hermit crabs still in their shells and it was the little ones job to break the shells and keep him in bait. But like little ones do, they were messing around and giggling and when he ran out, you don't want to know what he called them. Also saying "I kickem you in the water ere".
I've never seen sharks like there was, you could look to the left or the right and you could see a fin. I put a little fish on a big line I had maybe 100lb breaking strain and tied it off around a pole. A bit later I was doing something, the big fella jumped up and ran to my hand-line. Then he started laughing and said to me "your line like dis ere" and put his hand out in front of him. I went over and picked up the big hand-spool and started to wind the line back on and all of a sudden there was weight. It was a nice size school-shark, maybe 4 foot. Whenever I go into a fish and chip shop I'll order shark every time. I asked the big fella if he was interested in it and he was.
The next photo shows the Onslow Jetty, which no longer exists. As you can see we are going for a walk along the beach. The tide was right out and we started to pick up a few shells. We must have got a bit carried away with ourselves, because the further we walked the thicker the shells. All five of us took our shirts off and tied the bottom in a knot. Then filled them with shells. I don't know how far we walked but it was definitely a few kilometres. When we got back to the cars, the two fellas we caught up with said they weren't interested in them, so I took the lot.We decided to hit the road again mid-afternoon and when we pulled up to camp that night in a river-bed, that was when we roasted the turkey. We got going next morning at day-break. Derek and Greg were getting low on money and we heard there was work going at the next stop. So we thought we'd check it out. It was called Kings Bay at the time, it's known as Dampier now. They had a gate-keepers office as you turned off the Highway and you had to get permission to go any further.
I remember when he came over to the car, he must have thought we looked a bit tattered. He said "would you like some cold water". I never enjoyed a drink of water as much as that. Then he said "I've got a cold chook and salad here and your more than welcome to it". I'm not too sure if I told him but our last meal was all but raw. Which was that turkey. I think we must have been pissed because we enjoyed it. His name was Ken and he said "what sort of work are you chasing". We said "what ever's going". He said "I can get you a start with Bell Brothers, which is on site or a start with the rail-way gang". He said "I'd advise you to go with Bell Brothers, because there are a few different breeds laying the rail-way lines and a lot are Thursday Islanders and there's many blues or fights".
So we took his advice. We were sitting in his air-conditioned office and one wall was covered in photos. He said "these fellas are not allowed back on site". I think some were through stabbings and assaults. I told him about the fishing on the Onslow Jetty. I said "I've never seen so many sharks". He said "you go up to the Point Samson Jetty if you want to see sharks". It was the next stop along the highway only 50klmtrs away. He said "I can have yas signed up tomorrow". So I thought we'd head onto Point Samson Jetty. We'd already travelled 1600 klms.
I remember when we got to the start of the jetty. There was a sign that read !We buy king-fish 1 shilling and sixpence a pound! or 15 cents in todays language. King fish is also known as mulloway. I think we started to run towards the end. Just short of the end maybe 50yards there's a half a dozen aboriginal boys and they're jumping off the jetty doing bomby's into the water. As quick as a flash they were back on the landing of the jetty, back up to the top and they'd just keep repeating that.
There were a couple of other people fishing on the end, so we started to fish along side of them. Derek said "catch me a bait fish and I'll put it on my rod". Which he did, pretty much straight away the rod buckles over. Dereks saying "I'm on, the reels fairly screaming". Then an old fella on the side of me said "I've got something big on". He had about a 50lb breaking strain hand-line that was wrapped around a sunshine milk tin for a spool. Next minute Derek said "f!!k it". I said "whats wrong". He said "all my lines gone". He's standing there with an empty rod in his hand.
About 15 minutes later the old fellas still battling. He said "I cant get him to the top, without breaking the line". Then he said to me "can you play him for awhile". He said "while your doing that I'm going back to get a bigger hand-line". So I played him until the old fella came back. I passed him the line and said "I think you'll have to ping it". Things settled down for a while and we're sitting there with our feet over the end and I looked out to sea and there's a dark shape coming towards the jetty.
Every where you looked there was movement in the water. Big Manta rays and a lot of different species swimming passed. I said to the old fella along side of me "what's this dark shape coming in to us". I couldn't believe what I was looking down at, it's a huge Hammer-head shark. Apparently he's a common sight up there, they even had a name for him and I reckon that's why those little noongah kids were getting back onto the jetty as quick as they could.
A big cargo ship pulled in as we were fishing and as soon as it tied off to the jetty. One of the fellas off the boat dropped a big hand-line over the side. I think it was a cord line and it wasn't long before he was playing something big. So I was standing there watching him keen to see what it was and I watched a big head come out the water, it was a mulloway as big as I've ever seen. There was no way he was going to pull that up. He seemed to do this deliberately. He held the weight on the line and give a few tugs until the hook give way. That's another session of fishing you don't forget, even though I didn't catch anything.
The photo below shows Point Samson Jetty.
I copied the following two photos from an album an old fella had. His name was Huey Kirk and he worked on the Samson Jetty. I forget the date, maybe in the 70's. I was actually chasing photos from the bush. Huey was the number one bench-man at a timber mill in Bowelling, 30 mile east of Collie. I remember when I asked him about old photos. He'd not long sold his house and moved into a unit with his wife. Old age had caught up with him and his health wasn't good. He said "you wont believe what I done", he told me he threw some of his photo albums in the rubbish bin, because the unit was only small and there was limited cupboard space. What a shame some of our history gone. I know this also takes place with the young ones of today. If they cannot relate to the photos locked away in little boxes or cupboards from their Grand-parents or their Great great Grandparents.
Huey must have been keen on his fishing as he kept the fishing albums. He took the following photos on the Samson Jetty. As you can see in the first photo there are some nice fish.Huey cutting the head off a big shark.
The photo above was taken on one of our camping trips too Sharks Bay and I've said before we had friends that lived there, the Bassetts. This day Arthur said "would you like to go out and get a couple of goats?" Sister Phyllis was with us, her husband Neil and three of their kids, Neil jnr, Lee and Kylie. Myself and the two youngest boys Brett and Craig. The wife stayed back with Arthurs wife Jan.
I remember Arthur saying if you look into the distance at the skyline you can see a bit of colour on the bush-line. He said they're goats and there's a lot of them. So we told the older kids to run off to the left and go behind the sky-line and come up behind the goats and scare them to us. We watched them disappear out of sight, about 15-20 minutes later we can still see the goats and there's no movement. We couldn't work out why it was taking so long. They'd all been brought up hunting in the Jarrah forests in the SW. They'd never seen these conditions before, where you could look into the distance. So I thought I hope they're not taking it too far and they're wriggling in on their bellies like Indians.The reason they'd taken so long was when they got to the sky-line, they could see another mob further on, so they went out wide and got behind them as well and the both mobs joined up.
Then the goats started to run towards us. As the photo shows the line of goats disappears in the distance and over the horizon. We estimated there would have been 300 in the mob. The next photo shows what they run down on foot. Neil standing right of the photo talking to Arthur, then sister Phyll and our second youngest Brett, then the sisters daughter Kylie, then our youngest son Craig and Arthurs grandson Mathew. Phylls daughter Lee is sitting on the bonnet with a goat she ran down. Their son Neil had ran off to catch up with the mob with the rifle and he shot himself a big billy.
When you think these goats are scattered over thousands of square kilometres, you can imagine the effect they have on the vegetation. They're feral and should not be there. The photo was taken around 1985-86 and we are roughly 1000 kilometres from home. The next photo shows another time we'd travelled up there for a couple of weeks holiday, fishing and hunting. Our second youngest Brett on the left, then our second oldest Jamie, then our oldest David and our youngest Craig. The young lady in the middle was a friend of the family Sandy Marlow.The next photo shows the wifes brother Peter with a goat we'd run down one afternoon when we'd gone out to fish a place called Shelly Beach. Jamie and Mathew are in the back. We didn't want it so we released him. I'd never had anything to do with goats much and I didn't like the thought of eating one. But that was to change. There were no paddocks or crops in this country. The cows, sheep and wild goats fed off the native shrubs and grasses that grow there.The following photo was taken three or four hundred kilometres closer to home, where I used to hunt the wild pig. I remember this particular time I'd gone up to hunt the wild pigs and a friend of mine who had done a lot of hunting with me in the early days and I've told stories on, Terry True. He asked me if I could get him a goat or two. I said "I don't think that will be a problem, I'll put it to the farmers". So when I got there I told them I would like a couple of goats. They said we'll put the word around. They used to set traps for the wild pigs like I've said before and I will show you some results in my next story in Pig-Hunting.
When I was up there hunting, we'd make arrangements and the different farmers would turn up on a particular day with their tubs of different meat, boned out. Some had goat, pig, mutton and we'd put the day in making sausages. We'd mince all the meat up, add the different herbs and spices and the farmers and their wives would do their own mixing in their own tubs with whatever recipe they chose. One time a farmers wife screamed, we ran out of the meat room to see what was wrong. She was holding one finger up to us, I said "whats wrong". She said "I had a band-aid on this before I started mixing". So those lumps you come onto in your sausage sometimes when your eating it aint necessary gristle. Spit!!
A mate of mine who I used to go up with, Barry Rainer had handled a lot of meat in his time. We were boning out a pig for ourselves to make some ding sausages. The farmers were set in their ways, they only like breakfast sausages. They said we wont eat ding sausages and either will our sheep-dogs. But I suppose it's what your brought up to. Because a lot of people like them, me included.
When we finished boning out our pig a couple of the farmers and their wives were standing there watching. They said "you don't waste much, do you." I said "we're not as good as the dings down south." They said "why is that". I said "when they're cutting up a cow, the only thing they don't use is the moo". The farmers wife said "what do you mean moo"and Barry said "moooo". I can't remember if I told you but we'd been drinking all day for the last ten days and we'd get drunk at night time.
I remember another day we were cutting up pigs. We'd use the back legs for roasts and the rest for chops and cutlets. The lady of the house came out and she was a lady. They don't make too many like her now. Doris Simkin. She told us a farmer had told her on the two-way they had rounded up a mob of goats and if we were still interested in a couple to come out to their farm which was about 40 klms. So we packed everything away and headed off.
When we got there the farmer came over to us and introduced himself. He said "I've been told you want a couple of goats". We said "yes we do". He said "one of my boys has just walked a mob from out the back to that table-top hill you can see on the other side of the highway". Which was only maybe 1klm from us. He said "they'll be good eating, they've been feeding on the crops". He said "a couple of my boys will go with ya. Barry had a high powered 243 and I just forget the rifles the other fellas had.
The farmer said to me "do you want a rifle". I said "yes". He said "well take your pick, there's a variety here" and he wasn't lying. I said "I'll take the 22 lever action magnum". A goat is easily brought down with a shot to the rib-cage around the heart area. It's got 12 bullets in the magazine and he said there was a mob, so the other fellas were going to run out of bullets before me. When we pulled up at the bottom of the table-top hill, which was covered in small trees and shrubs. As we were getting towards the top, I heard a couple of shots to the right, then to the left I heard a couple more. I hadn't fired a shot, so I ran to the top of the hill and when I looked down the other side maybe 2-300yrds I could see 15-20 goats heading along the fence-line. I could also see a 4wheel drive Toyota ute.
So I ran down the hill. The fella driving had seen me and came over, he said to jump in the back of the ute which I did and he took off after the goats. I shot 5 all running shots also the ute was travelling. I lent over the cab and said to the driver "that's all I want". He said "I thought we were going to take the mob out, because they're getting into the crops". I said "you catch up to them and I'll do that". He picks up the two-way and I heard him say to his boss. "we're going to take them out" and his boss said "ok". So as he catches back up to the mob, I took a photo.
Just as I was about to start shooting, his boss come back on the two-way and he said "you better not shoot, one of the neighbors want a couple and he wouldn't like it if he got wind of us shooting and leaving them." When you think about it the farmers have got a good understanding of each other. They live a good social life among themselves. In the early times they used to help finance their local football club, with wild pigs and goats. They'd truck them or rail them down to the markets.
The photo above shows my father and myself back in the 60's. I'm holding the back leg of a pig which I've already told a story on when his roo-dog Nipper ran onto a mob of wild pigs and wouldn't have anything to do with them and I eventually shot one. I've said before my fathers roo-dog would only catch the big males. I remember when we used to hide the ute and then walked the forest hunting roos. It might be 2-3 hours before we returned. The bush was pretty thick where we hid the ute. I think he might have done this deliberately. I'd look up and here's the ute not 20ft in front of us and I used to think how does he do that.
Then he told me, when your walking through the bush you must take notice of the lay of the country. The hill lines also picture things in your mind, like a big old stag Jarrah, which is dead and stands out. Also if there's a clump of granite rock or anything else that stands out in the bush. Then if you do happen to become bushed or confused and you walk onto one of these, you can get your bearings. Also you remember the big flats that you walk along and the gullies that run off to the sides which have creeks that only run in the winter. He liked to walk up these gullies and creeks then cut over the hills to the next creek systems.
There were certain clumps of bushes that the boomers liked to camp in. One he called the Parrot bush and another he called Pinta scrub, which blocked the sun and give them shade. The first couple of feet of the Pinta scrub was all but bald or very little foliage and it allowed the breeze to get to them. Another thing he said was you count the creeks that you walk over, then you'll know how many you have to cross over to get back to the ute.Another thing if you do happen to get lost, you follow the next creek downhill and it will run into the flat country and you should know where you are. If you don't. Follow the flat too the river and then you should be able to get a sighter on where your car is. Especially if you've hunted this country before. I have never once seen him confused in the bush. The photo above shows a big male kangaroo or boomer as they're known, standing on his toes he's better than 7ft tall and he's a powerful animal.
The photo above was taken in 1959 and the gentleman on the left was a teacher at my school, Fred Suckling and next to him is a fella by the name of Alan Whatman who I didn't know. I wasn't aware Fred was keen on his hunting like the photo shows. At that time my father was the main supplier of pet-meat. I remember Fred was a big strong looking man and we never played up in range of him. I say that but he was more than likely a decent fella. Like I said he was a teacher, but he would have been a pupil in the bush around my father. The following photo shows Fred skinning a kangaroo, maybe for eating. It could have been for his own pets, a few people done that. The next photo shows Alan Whatman on the right and Bill Atkinson on the left. Who owned the local Sports shop and you can see the big boomer skins hanging on the fence. Also a young roo inside a bag. Again I'm not too sure but it might have been for eating. Bill was keen on his hunting.
The photo above shows again Bill Atkinson on the right and Roy Fisher on the left.
I was good mates with two of Roys sons Daryl and Wayne. Who I've told a couple of stories on with our diving for crayfish. We also done a lot of fishing out of a boat and from the shore. Roy loved to chase the herring. I worked with him on the construction of the Muja Powerhouse. Also his son Daryl. Every so often Roy would say to me. "I'm going herring fishing on the weekend" and I knew what he wanted. I would leave the top quarter of a roo behind the third support foundation for a pipe-line that we had to drive over on our way to work. Roy used to pull up on a Friday on his way home and collect the maggots off the top quarter and put them in a tin of pollard. Herring cannot refuse a maggot.
Organized duck shoots were common, especially on the opening of the duck season. My father was also keen on a duck shoot. They were never wasted again they were put in the freezer and it helped to keep the numbers down. Farmers had a lot of trouble with wild ducks. The big mobs would pollute a farmers dam in very short time.