Back Outback

Some of you may have read my post on when I went contract mustering at the start of the year. Well not long ago we were called back up North to the station for the next lot of mustering. Minus the backpacker this time though, it was just the boss, Jackaroo, myself and a thousand head of weaners. Unlike last time, where we branded and marked these 1000 head of calves, this time we we weaning them – aka taking them off their mum.

Last time when the backpacker was helping out, he rode one bike, Jackaroo rode one bike and I took the cruiser round the paddocks. This time I was on the bike. As much fun as I had on the bike, I would be a happy Jillaroo if I could just stick to horses! Some properties use bikes and some use horses. It depends on what the owner wants, and what the cattle are used to. Most places you can’t just chop and change when you want. Believe it or not, a certain amount of education goes into cattle when they are weaned. They get taught to obey dogs, bikes or horses.

There was one paddock in particular which previously had a lot of trees felled and just left there. These are quite sizable gum trees that are now just laying in the paddocks. It wasn’t so bad when we went there at the start of the year when we were in drought and the grass was short. This time, the grass was covering the hundreds of logs laying in the grass. Some were small enough for you to hit at speed and bounce over, only 12 inches or so in diameter. Others… Well… I couldn’t see how big they were while I was flying over the handlebars, my apologies.

At one stage we were bringing 400 head of cattle along the fence in this paddock, taking them back to their home. The lead of the mob started to peel off the fence and run for (what they though was) their freedom. Long story short, I (attempted) to race up to turn them around, only to flip my bike 4 different times and eventually break the clutch on the bike. I was so frustrated! It takes a lot to get me angry, but I jumped up and kicked the nearest ant hill. Stupid ant hill. Haha! Next minute, Jackaroo comes hooting over to see if I was ok, and almost stacks it on the same obstacle I did. I better just add – it’s Australia, the animals are almost as crazy as the people. Ant hills are huge out west, rock hard and can be bigger than cars. This one was only a little one at just under half a metre tall and wide. I’ll get some photos next time I see a massive one.

My whole body ached, and that night when I stripped off for a well-deserved shower I could see that both of my legs from top to bottom were a rainbow of ugly, puffy bruises and scratches. Jackaroo got off pretty easily, though when I wasn’t stacking my bike, he was – and eventually ended up breaking the gear stick on his bike. I thought it was great, I got to get out of working on that paddock while I babied his bike home to get fixed by the station caretaker. Score!

I guess we were pretty lucky. No broken bones or worse! As I usually say; if I got a good story out of it, the pain was worth it.