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THE CATTLE KING
AN AUSTRALIAN MILLIONAIRE j
SIR SYDNEY KIDMAN'S STORY, j
Many fortunes have been made and lost-in Australia. Gold furnish- ed the foundation of many of these, but the pastoral industries have built
up wealth for many other men. It is j doubtful, however, whether any man j born in Australia had such a romantic j
life story as Sir Sydney Kidman, "the
Cattle King." His life was an epic of i
sheer determination, for he rose from ' the most lowly beginnings to be one of ! the wealthiest and most influential 1 men in the Commonwealth. Ion Idriess has just published the life story of the Cattle King, and it pro- vides most engrossing reading. Idriess has added another fine contribution to his gift to Australia, for he is above all the chronicler of the interior. More than any other man he has shown th.3
life and glamour of the great interior j of Australia, which most of us think of as desert, but which has actually produced many millions of pounds worth of food and clothing. Even
though man has cruelly misused the ; country it will continue to produce wealth for Australia, though there are new problems to be faced there now, which did not exist a comparatively few years ago.
Sir Kidman was only -13 years old when he ran away from home to seek his fortune in the bush. He had five shillings in his pocket and his other possessions comprised the clothes he wore, an aged horse, blind in one eye and a second hand , saddle and bridle. Prodigally he spent four of his five shillings the first night. Within three days he had had his horse and equip- ment stolen and sold by teamsters for a few miserable shillings, promptly, squandered on drink, and was himself working for the same teamsters, who were carting supplies to the inland. So started the great adventure.
I Fo? some years young Sid Kidman j worked on various stations in the
vicinity of what was later to become i Broken Hill, destined to produce mil-
lions of pounds worth of silver and lead and other metals. As rouseabout, cooks' offsider, shepherd and in other humble jobs he laid the foundations of the knowledge that was to make him the greatest cattle man in the world, j During months of shepherding, with only a black boy as companion, he learned the busheraft that later al- lowed him to travel safely through
the length and breadth of the track- ] less inland. Many, many times during that, his apprenticeship, he walked over the fortune in silver that lay all round the Broken Hill. Later he pass- ed a fortune through his hands when he acquired a fourteenth share in what was later to become one of the richest producing mines in the district, in re- turn for a team of bullocks, and sold it a few weeks later for £150. He was content; he had made a profit on his deal, and it helped him so much further towards* his dream of becom- ing the Cattle King. For that, amaz-
ingly, was the dream of his youth: to |
own the. stations on which he worked.
To that end he saved assiduously. He j
neither drank, smoked nor swore even though he later became a bul- ! lock driver. As he became possessed | of sufficient money, he began dealing in cattle and horses, until at last he acquired his first station ,and began to build the chain of which he dream- ed. He found time for many ad- ventures, all making money for him. A butchery at the newly discovered copper-field at Cobar, a partnership in a stage-coach and mail business which made a great deal of money for him, and which led in due course to an ex- tension to Western Australia, when the Coolgardie goldfields were discov- ered, and all the time deals in cattle and horses kept adding to his capital and permitting him to extend his ac- tivities. Success did not come with- out many setbacks and disappoint- ments. Droughts several times almost ruined him, but he worked away tena- ciously towards his objective, the building up of chains of stations right through the heart of Australia. Be- hind all his purchases was a deliberate
plan; the defeat of the drought terror, i His chain of stations was so devised
that his stock could be moved rapidly j 1 from one to another, away from drought areas. It is fortunate for Australia that there is seldom a
drought over the whole of the conti- j nent. While one area may be parch- ed and bare, another is being flooded with rain. Further, in Central Aus- tralia most of the rivers flow only by virtue of rain which may have fallen hundreds of miles away, perhaps in the far north of the Territory, or per- haps in the highlands of Queensland, and by locating in the flood areas, Kidman was able to take advantage of all this phenomena to his own advan-
WhiJs still on the threshold of man- j hood, Sid Kidman met a young Scot- tish schoolteacher in Kapunda, and fell in love. To her he admitted, throughout his life, he owed much of his success. She was his unfailing in- spiration, and also his tutor. He had had little schooling, but she remedied
much of that during the short periods 1 that he could spend with her during his courtship. In due course she be- came Mrs. Sydney Kidman, and he took a month off from business for a
honeymoon, before again plunging , into the interior. His married life was ideally happy, despite the fact that he saw his wife and later his family at infrequent intervals, between drov- ing trips and business tours.
With the development of Broken Hill, Sydney Kidman and an older ; brother developed a prosperous but-
chering business in the silver city, the : brother handling the city business and i Sid doing the stock buying and drov- j ing. This continued for many years, and was a source of considerable pro- fit. Meanwhile he was working al- ways to the great end; his chain of
The war .while it gave Sydney Kid- j man a considerable accession of I
wealth, also gave him the opportunity j for deeds of munificent generosity, ¡ which brought him a well merited if
quite unsought knighthood. Lest it j might be thought that he was a miser-
ly man. it is well to mention some in- !
cidents to show the other side of the picture. He chanced one day past a homestead in the interior, where n woman was laboriously drawing water from a well to keep a small herd of
cattle alive. Without revealing his j
identity he got down from Iiis buggy and worked at the windlass long
enough to fill the troughs. During that time he learned that her husband had died a short time before, leaving her with a partly developed holding and a young family. She was try- ing under enormous handicaps to work the property alone.
A few days after he left, a waggon arrived at the homestead, loaded with the parts of a wmdmill. Men at once began to erect the mill at the well to the woman's mystification. Her protest that she had not ordered a windmill and could not afford to buy it were answered by one of the men, who told her that he was actina under instructions from Sid. Kidman. The parts of that mill and the men to erect i\ had come from Broken Hill, many mile.« distant, at the expense rf a roan who had happened to pass, and who had had compassion on a brave
On another occasion, after the war, Kidman was inspecting one of his sta- tions, on tvhich a team of d^in sinkers was working. He noticed that one of the men was badly crippled, dragging I his leg as he walked. Enquiry showed
him to be a returned soldier. Kidman
enquired the contract price of the dam and was told t'-npence a yard-a good 1 rrice. ''K's terrioly hard work," he i said. "Make it a shilling." He gave no other explanation, but his manager had seen him watching the returned roldier.
The book contains much- outback
Lumour, some of the best neing the tall yarns spun by the station hands. Thus there was a cook whose dog could jump a sixteen foot fence easily. "He must take off a long way badi,"
commented another man. "Oh not so
far" replied the cook. "About the length of this yard," This yard was 50 yards long. The same man, talking about snakes, recalled a time when he was cutting wood ,and missed the wood, chopping into the sand. "Up popped a snake's head and bit the axe handle. The wood swelled so much it burst the eye of the axe," he said. Theft there was the story of the bul- lock driver, whose waggon was bog- ged. After exhausting his vocabulary on the bullocks, he excitedly took a five pound note from his pocket, laid it on the ground in front of the lead- ers, and bet them the fiver they could not pull the waggon over his head. Then he lay on the ground, with his head just in front" of the wheel of the waggon. Just then the bullocks took the strain, and with a tremendous creak the waggon moved forward, the driver scrambling away in the nick of time, amid a flow of profanity. This increased to a torrent when he failed to find the five, trodden into the mud by the bullocks. A little later his dog brought him a clod of mud, and break- ing it, he found the fiver inside.
One could go on quoting from this book at tremendous length, for there is not a dull page in it. It is enough however, to say that it is a great nar- rative of one of Australia's greatest sons, set in a region that has enor- mous fascination even for city bred people. Essentially a book worth read ing.
"The Cattle King," the story of Sir Sydney Kidman, by Ion idriess, Angus and Robertson publishers, price 6/. IOur copy from the publishers. Ob-
tainable from all booksellers.