The annual Ballythunna Bush Bash

Now Tony was the sort of guy who knew very well what he was meant to be doing, and how to do it, but only one time in ten would he apply himself.

Do you know of people like that?

But gee when he did, didn’t he have the skill to blow your hat off. It was as if he used to save all the juice up for one big effort that would make you continue to employ him though all the very average efforts, but when he brought the team home, into the home straight, it was pretty to watch.

This is just such a story, about a very relaxed character, a very aggravated scrub bull, and a very special day in the cattle yards I will remember as a young man for the rest of my life.

We were all at Wheendong cattle yards in the early 70’s,on the western side of Curbur about half a dozen of us, mostly Aboriginal stockman Dad and myself, when we ran this huge, wild, feral shorthorn bull into the receiving yard. He was rich dark red, and mean as hell ( see picture below) weighing 700kgs plus probably, with forward pointing horns longer than normal, and he was constantly eyeing off everybody in turn as if to say, “I’m watching you, your turn will come”. Experienced stockmen are loathe to state the obvious on such occasions, but one of the boys said in a low respectful tone, “watch dat bulla” (which is Aboriginal slang for watch that fellow) to all within earshot. He didn’t really have to say it, but he did in a nervous respectful sort of way!!

The thing was we had done the easy bit pushing the mob into the receiving yard, now we had to get him into the forcing yard, where in turn, they run up the raceway and into the head bail or crush to be earmarked and tail tagged or whatever, for trucking to market. Getting him and the rest of the mob from the 40 by 15 meter oblong receiving yard into a much smaller triangle shaped forcing yard, a tenth of the size, was the challenge. Not the physical challenge of doing the job –that was no problem, it was doing it with your life still intact at the end of it was the challenge. Dad as the Boss, put the emphasis on the yard building materials been sourced as cheap and handy as possible and although usually strong, were not always the most user friendly, when it came to requiring quick exit out, through, or over yards. Gee those depression years had an impact didn’t they??

The yards were rock solid made of two inch pipe running horizontally around the top , supporting heavy duty mesh with railway iron uprights on the outer side of the mesh and rails.

It was fortunate the yards were built strongly like this in one way though, as soon as we had yarded this mob with this particular bull, he realized the net was closing in. With panic emblazoned in his big wide eyes, he trotted indignantly around the new barriers to his freedom. One can only try to imagine what it would be like for a three four, or five year old “mickey” feral bull, which had grazed the rangeland all his life to be in this strange, dangerous restricted yard for the first time in his life with all these little scary humans in his space. He’s not a stud bull but one that has escaped muster for some time, very probably for good reason. Coming to terms with that and attempting to deal with it, in an animal’s mind must be a like a bush kid going to boarding school for the first time.

One of the boys opened up the forcing yard gate for access and we skirted around the rear of the mob, everybody very, very conscious of where “the bull” was. There was some other smaller mickies in there too, in this mob of 120 or so head of cattle, which at the moment weren’t causing any problem, but they could easily become “fizzie” to if pressured too much.

Steadiness is the key as every cattleman knows, however when a bull like this bloke “wants a go” there’s not very much one can do. Even if you stay way back on the back fence and don’t move, they’ll come at you for no reason when they’re hot. Just like a drunken raged fool who just wants to fight. “Crusin for a brusin”, one might say – either you or he may get the “brusin” So there we were, the gates open and although we understand how this bull maybe feeling, we had a cattle truck to load and a dollar to make.

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