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The first South Australian colonists could not even put up a fence until the overlanders and Tasmanians taught them how.
To know if timber will split well, cut off a piece of bark of about three inches square; if the grain runs in straight lines, or is very curly, it will generally split well, but if it runs zigzaggy it will not.
In taking an exploring journey on horseback through the bush, which every intending colonist should make if he can spare the time and money, the services of a good bush servant, such as a stockman, are almost indispensable. He can find the horses in the morning after they have been hobbled out to feed, and will understand the meaning of such a direction as this: “Go straight ahead, right aback of this hut, over that there ridge; when you get over the ridge, follow the gully until you come to an iron bark range; keep at the foot of the range till you see a plain ; cross the plain, and then you'll see to the creek; follow it down, and you'll come to the old soldier's hut.”
Such a chart would often save a man twenty or thirty miles, but no man but a bushman could travel without a compass by the sun. A bushman has a kind of instinctive knowledge of what is the right way, and as soon as he gets on a creek he knows pretty well, by certain local signs, which way to look for a hut.
Cattle and Dairy. There are a number of points requiring careful consideration before deciding on purchasing a cattle-run, which it is impossible to explain in any written treatise; but it will be well to notice one or two, in order to protect the young capitalist from the after-dinner seductions, in the way of tremendous bargains, which lurk round the hospitable table of Australian merchants, and to show why we so earnestly recommend a preliminary probation of at least twelve months, spent in the service of a squatter, or in travelling through the bush, before becoming a stockowner.
In the first place, the intending purchaser should ascertain whether the “ run," supposing the situation as regards markets convenient and sufficiently supplied with grass and water at all seasons, will make cattle fat. There are runs which might do very well for sheep, or which, at one time of the year, are covered with very fair pasture, but which will never fatten an ox; and, as the chief and lasting profit rests on the tallow of a herd, that would be an essential question, independently of the fact that in Australia lean cattle are worth next to nothing.
Secondly, whether runs have any natural boundaries, because a share of pasture in open plains, where neither rivers, nor marshes, nor
rocky impassable ranges form natural fences, will put the owner to a great deal of extra expense, and deteriorate the value of his cattle, by rendering it extremely difficult for him to collect or muster them, unless with a great number of servants.
A run becomes of much greater value when it is so fenced in that the cattle can be easily driven into corners and handled. - The more frequently they are handled the more tame they will be.
Thirdly, the character of the cattle should be inquired into. Thousands of cattle constantly pass under the hammer of the auctioneer in the chief towns of Australia that have never been mustered all together within the memory of man. They are sold without warranty, to be collected by the purchaser at his own risk. The greater number can be got in just as soon and as easily as a herd of Highland red deer.
Bargains of all kinds are especially to be avoided by the new comer in Australia, for cattle bargains are nearly as dangerous as sheep.
Cattle are less profitable than sheep, the returns come in more slowly, and the increase is less rapid ; but with a good breed on a good run the returns are more certain, and the anxieties much less : they are not subject to so many diseases, the calves suffer less from the ravages of the native dog and eagle hawk, and a few horsemen are able to look after a great number. A thousand head may be managed by two or three young men. The owner, with his sons, may and should, unless rich enough to keep an overseer, take an active part himself. The chief wealth of cattle at present is their tallow; gold digging has given à value to beef in certain regions.
Strange cattle purchased and brought upon a run must be followed, or colonially tailed, by two or more men on horseback for six months.
The pursuits of an Australian stockman carry one back to Scythian times, or Tartar countries, except that he dwells in a wooden hut instead of a tent. But he lives on horseback, and all his hopes and ambitions are centred in cattle. He neither ploughs nor sows, and despises those who do; his food is beef, and his pride is in his horse ; above all, he scorns a "crawling shepherd.”
These horsemen or stockmen equal in their feats Arabs, Hungarians, Persians, Tartars, or South American guachos. Their horses, trained to the work, turn on either hind or fore feet, halt at full speed, leap cracks in the earth and fallen trees, ascend and descend steep rocky hills in a most extraordinary manner.
Armed with whips peculiar to the colony, composed of a crop or handle of about eighteen inches, and a lash like that of a huntingwhip, but nearly twice as long and heavy, the stockman rides round the strange cattle all day, at such a distance as not to disturb them, but keeping them in sight, and to prevent any unruly individual from straying away back to their old quarters; for cattle have very extraordinary local attachment, and have been known to head back forty, fifty, and even two hundred miles.
At sundown the cattle must be driven into the stockyard for the night.
After a certain period has elapsed, horned stock may be allowed to run alone, both day and night; but the careful stockman, for the first year or two, musters them daily on what is called the camping-ground.
The camp is usually a place shaded with trees, near water, to which a certain number of the cattle resort daily during the heat of the day, to rest and chew the cud. Camps are also formed by the propensity cattle have to assemble round a dead calf, or any other dead body. Every herd has a certain number of camps to which leaders of the cattle adhere, so that an experienced stockman always knows to what “camp" to look for particular beasts. On first settling on a run, it is advisable to ride round at noon and drive in and flog severely any beasts found out of camp. By steadily pursuing this system the whole herd are taught to rush into camp the moment the stockman cracks his whip, so that he is always able to muster any particular lot.
Careless stockowners who neglect these rules lose many head, and have to waste much time and horseflesh in chasing those they want to sell or kill.
Toward evening as the sun goes off the cattle feed away in “mobs" of fifty or one hundred in summer, and eight or ten in winter, the same lot always keeping together.
Branding Cattle. Once a year a grand muster takes place for the purpose of branding and castrating the young calves and colts, and ascertaining how the stock stands as to condition and number. This used to be the great event of the year on many stations.
“ You* invite all your neighbours within thirty or forty miles. They generally assemble the night before with their horses and dogs. You provide shakedowns, kill a heifer or two for fresh meat, and set an unlimited quantity of tea before them. No grog-that is too dear in the bush, beside other reasons on the score of temperance. Jolly circles are formed, all smoking short black dodeens round the fires, drinking
• The bushman, brother of the author.