02 October 2009

Up to 1920

Chapter One: Up to 1920.

My father was born in NSW but his family lived in the Cunnamulla area during the late 1880s and 1890s. At Stockyard Creek near Helidon, where the family lived for a while in the early 1900s, Dad worked for a man who used to break in horses, until he learnt how to do it himself. That was his first paid job.

Later he worked for Cobb and Co. That's when he came out west again, working at different Cobb and Co. mail changes. They used to have horses out on the runs, in the paddocks, so that they'd have a change of horses for the mail coaches. His job was to break the horses in, and to keep the supply of horses at every mail change - broken in to harness, and for saddle use. There was a mail change at Barringun, and one halfway to Cunnamulla (at old 'Woggonora', over the river from what's known now as Job's Gate Turnoff), and then Cunnamulla. He would handle about six young horses at the same time, until they were right through to the riding stage.

The mail changes were just a good set of horse yards and a tin hut. They had wells put down for a water supply. In that stretch of the Warrego River there were no permanent water holes, and it was before the artesian bores. They had to have some permanent water, so they had wells for stock and drinking water. There weren't any pumps at first. They had buckets and ropes and pulleys to bring the water up. I remember him saying how there was nearly always a water boy whose job it was to have the tanks filled with water. It's a slow process, filling the tanks one bucket of water at a time! They had the tanks filled so that when the coaches came in, the horses would be given a drink immediately they were unharnessed.

Later my father worked at 'Burrenbilla', which was owned by Rutherford and Company. They had other stations down in New South Wales, and he used to go down to those properties and break in their station horses. After he was married he was manager on various stations. A local stock and station agent lent him the money to enter the ballot for land, and he drew 'Plain View'.

He and Mr BLAKE rode out from Cunnamulla to the block, arriving when it was almost dark. It was just an area pegged out - no buildings or fences. They found the south-western corner peg and went along a little way and camped under a couple of gidyea trees. When they woke up, Mr BLAKE said, 'You've got a plain view'. The south-eastern aspect was a wide open plain. That was how it got the name 'Plain View'. One of those gidyea trees was chopped down because it was leaning too much over the building, but the other one is still there to this day (1991).

When Dad went to 'Plain View', the only stock he had were horses. He had quite a few horses. And Mr HOBSON, who had a store in Cunnamulla, let him have the use of some ponies. Two of them - the two quiet ones - were named Tiny and Polly. We all learnt to ride on Tiny and Polly. From that beginning he bought sheep. I can't find anything in the records to show that he bought any cattle at first, except milking cows. He let the sheep numbers build up until he had it fully stocked.

I was only six months old when the family moved to 'Plain View' so I don't remember it first hand (grins), but I remember stories of how they did it. It was a slow process because they only had two drays to ship it all out, and a dray doesn't hold very much. Each time they went out they'd take some equipment, until they built the house. That was taken out by wagon. They carted the galvanised iron out, and a bit of timber to build a frame, but most of the frame of the first homestead was round timber - just pine. They had a carpenter to erect the building. They wouldn't have had much furniture when they moved - just a few beds.

When they were a bit established out there, they had a wagonette. It became the mode of transport for Mum and the kids. A wagonette and two horses, with two horses as a change halfway to town. It had a good hood over it, but it was very, very rough. Very tiring, especially as it was a two-day trip, camping overnight halfway. It got better later, when the first Ford cars came. We could get to town in one day then.