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1 correction by Drewy - Show corrections

A RECORD DROVING TRIP.

FROM WAVE HILL TO CHARLEVILLE.

(BY A. G. Y.)

A sturdy South Australian, of medium height and slight build, somewhat bronzed, but not more so than many Sydneyites who

indulge in surf bathing and week-end cricket ing on the beaches, put in an appearance at the Homebush fat stock saleyards on Monday last for the first time. His name is William Phillips, and he was fresh in from a record droving trip with 1200 head of bullocks from Wave Hill station, Northern Territory, the property of Mr. W. F. Buchanan.

Phillips is an unostentatious man, with no bush swagger. He doesn't go round boasting of his droving feats, but if you ask him how he fared on his 2100 miles' trip with 1260 head of Wave Hill cattle, which he per- formed in 32 weeks, he will just tell you a plain, unvarnished tale of his principal move-

ments.

As Wave Hill station does not keep a stock of drovers on hand capable of bringing mobs of cattle down to the Southern Queensland border, they must perforce be sent there. When engaged for the trip, Phillips was at Wyndham, Western Australia, and from there he set out for Mr. Buchanan's Northern Ter- ritory station. He was "inside," as the bushies would say, as far as Kimberley, but from there he was outside the pale of civili- sation, with only the stars and watercourses for guides to his first "objective," which was Wave Hill. As one man Is insufficient to get^'through with a mob of rattle, Phillipa engaged sovcu assistants, who, with 30 horses, set out from Kimberloy on Fobruary 19 last. Provisions thero woro not given ayvay at ordinary storo prico; a 001b bag of nour cost 27s 6d, and a 701b mat of sugar 50s, with other necessaries at proportionate rates Tho trip frdm the goldfield to the cattle station was COO milos, so eight bags of flour, two mats of sugar, and the noccssary tea, dried fruits and vegetables wore distributed on the various pack-hoises, and off the party sot. Wave Hill was reached without incldont ou Marett 0. By April 4 upwards of 7750 head of cattlo woro mustered on the station. These wore split up into llvo mobs, and Phillips and party were entrusted with 1250 head They set out on that day, and made for Burketown, Queens- land, as tho first placo of call. The ultimate destination was Burrendilla, a fattonlng sta- tion of Mr. YV. F. Buchanan's, 20 miles from

Charleville.

By thu point compass Charleville' Is south-oast of Wayo Hill. However, Phillips went north-west for tho first 300 milos. Ho followed tho wntors of tho Northern Territory down to tho coast. Wild country this, with no dofluod stock routes or flngor-posts. Tho party crossed the watersheds of the Daly River and Kathcrlno River, and touchod the overland telegraph Uno at the hoad of tho King River, and thenco over the watorshed to tho Roper River.- Tho party zlg-zaggod the rivers us much as possible for water. At timos water was very hcarce. . Phillips rodo 75 miles a day in search of water. A mob of 1230 head of cattle and 30 horsos on a dry, sandy, splnl ,fe\ stngo need a good drink occasionally. Tho party set out from Kimberley with 30 horsos, but theso wero incrcaaod to 43 hoad by purchase en routo.

The Roper Is not an oasy river to cross, for Its banks aro very steep, and there aro only two fordable places in Uts course

-M'KenzIo's bar and' the Roper bar. Moro-1 'over, the river is full of alligators, with ln-| I satiable appotities. So the plan is to make j lono of tho two bars, and cross when-the tide

Is out. When the tide is up the water is salt, I and alligators are plentiful. At low water the stock can drink and cross without afford- ing a meal to tho saurlans. Theso aro impor- tant matters ^to the drover, for his aim is to deliver with 'as low a percentage ot loss as

possible.

How unpopulated all this country is may ho seen from tho fact that the droving* party i proceeded COO miles before they struck the

first store. Aboriginals aro plentiful, and not too tamo. If unmolostod, and If no gins aro enticed to the droving camps, tho blacks are tractable: but if-the codes aro loose, then they show fight. If treated up to their stau i dard of fairness they aro friendly enough;

thoy will glvo information about the country and where to get water. When you strlko two 1 stores in 1400 miles', and practically all the

people-you seo aro armed aboriginals in the i nude, and as wild as tho country thoy haunt,

then their assistance is much moro appro clotod than their opposition. Phillips and his 1 party carried arms and ammunition, ready to

bo used at a moment'« notice, from Kimbor > ley-to Burketown. There are no tracks or

routes from Wave Hill to the Queensland , township, and although the country from tho

Katherine River.to Boorooboola, on the M'Ar ' thur River, was bad, ho says that the country 1 from Boorooboola t.o Burketown is the worst

bit of droving country in Australia. Leaving" Boorooboola there was a 40-milo stage abso- lutely destitute of- water. .The country was Isandy derjort, with spinifex or cypress pine and paper-bark tl-trco scrub. Some of the livers betwebn Boorooboola and -Burketown

¡ \vero dry; drought for two ypars had prevailed 1 whero drought of such length was never pro ' viously known.

On tho rivers, ' where' tho alligators and i crocodiles wend their predatory way, there tho s wild fowl do not disport themselves; but on

the lagoons, wild geese, ducks, and other fowl aro plentiful. In the good country kangaroos, . brush wallaby, and wild turkey wero abun ? dent. The Queensland border was entered

by tho Phillips party at Woolargarang, 160 miles from Burketown; and, curious to say, they then travelled to Burketown to receive the permit to enter the Stato, got the stock inspected, and. check brands, with waybills, [ etc. "They arrived at Burketown on August

4, and thus wero l8 weeks travelling . 1150 miles with their mob of cattle, which was ex- cellent work considering the nature of tho country. On some of the ranges dividing tho i watersheds tho drovers tied up their horses, I and let tho cattle string down tho sides as

leisurely as they pleased-for safety sake. Even then a few vverp maimed and lost. Along thctToute traversed was an 80-milo stretch of storm-strewn country, whero tho packhorses "had great difficulty in picking their way. Trees 2ft through at thd butt were snapped like carrots. 'Evidently a whirlwind, tor-

nado, or some other blast from the air fur- nace had -swept along como little while pre- viously.

i Taking in the Journey from Kimberley, the i party had travellod nearly 1800 miles, passed

three post offices, and seen four white women. At Burketown, Instead of flour bolng 27s 6d per 501b, as at Kimberley, H was 8s Gd; and sugar 19s per mat, instead of 50s. The party left Burketown on-August G last, and they then met open downs country for the first time; a great relief from the sand and.spinl fex country that they had passed. Even then there wore only 2J per cent, of losses of cat- tle; some died through eating poison bush, and others were lamed when crossing the ranges. After leaving Burketown the mob crossed 'the Leichhardt River,. 40 miles out; got on to tho Landsborough River and fol- lowed It up 80 miles. On these rivers thoro arc only crocodiles, comparatively tame crea- tures-not like tholr salt-water compeers, the alligators, that ' aro veritable tlgors when men or beasts are about. From the Lauds borough they crossed on to tho Cloncurry; struck Conobio station; got on to roads and tracks, and generallyV trod on the .skirts of civilisation. Crossed tho Cloncurry on to Eastern Creek, through Dalgonally station with Its largo herd of Shorthorns. Hore it was necessary to carry'firewood in the pack bags, to last two nights. Instead of wild, trackless country, whero you had to "trust in the Lord, and keep your powder dry," you now had to keep to the stock routes, and seeing that at Ityjiuna, on the Diamantina, up- wards of 70,000 head of cattle had passed thiB year between January 1 and'September 13, tho feed was nono too good. Most of those cattle carno from ^ the Northern Territory and Gulf

country.

Leaving Kynuna the Phillips party covered a 45-mlle'dry stage and feed was very scarce; the preceding mobs left more hoof prints than herbage behind them. The stock routes aro one mile wide, but unless rain falls frequently thoy powder up Rain now fell three days and three nights, as it knows how to fall in Queensland. The routes wero now boggy,' and travelling was slow; however, Winton was reached after being 27 weeks on the road from Burketown. Moreover, the losses wero only 11 per cent, from Burketown. On they went from Winton through Vindex to Eve- sham. Hore the heaviest losses wore suffered; three inches of rain had fallen, and. there was no feed, the routes wore boggy, and nine bullocks and five horses succumbed. They pulled themselves to pieces In the bog; £10 per head was paid for those horses at Burke- town, so Phillips' loss was rather severe. From there on to Burrendilla 12ln. of rain fell; they had to swim the Thompson, . but the rains gave feed and water; the cattlo

with sufficient feed were all right, so only .din comfort and not loss was experienced by tho drovers to the end of tho journey.

Thus a droving party of eight set out with 1250 head of bulTocks on a 2100 miles trip, which they covered In 32 weeks with a loss of only 50 head. This Is claimed to be for, the distance travelled, the number of cattlo taken and delivered, a record for Australia. 'Mr. C. H. Buchanan, .taking delivery at Burren- dilla, Charleville, Queensland, for Mr. *w. F. Buchanan on November 21, 1000, wrote: "I have taken delivery of the "bullocks Mf. W. Phillips drove from Wavo Hill, Northern Ter- ritory; number started 1250, number delivered 1200, I was very well pleased with the con- dition of the-cattle, and the evident way they wero handled during that long trip. It was a Credit to him; his losses were only nominal, and I expected a.larger pcrcentngo of losses. Mr. Phillips has proved himself a real smart .man and thoroughly understands droving Tattle through all difficulties that a drover has to meet In such outlandish trips."

Digitisation generously supported by
Vincent Fairfax Family Foundation
Digitisation generously supported by

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