the sky is blue
there's not a cloud
to spoil the view"
We have had soooo much rain.
I have just about given up measuring it.
BUT ...having lived on the land and run a business where the main ingredient for success is rain, I know not to complain, because rain can stop and then it can take years to start again. I know this because I have seen it happen....often.
Australia is the driest country on earth, therefore droughts especially in Queensland are some thing we have to learn to deal with.
I remember the first drought I ever experienced. The time was the late 60's and I was about 10. I have a memory of skinny horses and dead sheep.
For thoes who don't know sheep are an animal that spends it's whole life looking for a way to die!!
(A direct quote from my husband.)
I think this is because they never ever have an original thought, they think collectively.
So if one sheep thinks it will walk into a muddy dam for a drink and gets bogged that doesn't mean that any of the others are going to say better not go in there or the same thing will happen to us.... no they all follow and they all get bogged
This brings me back to my first experiences of drought.....pulling out bogged sheep from dams.
Also another rather awful memory was when Dad would want us to " depth a dam" ...see how much water was left so that he would know how long until the water dryed up and sheep had to be moved to another paddock or sold.
We would have to swim out into the middle of the dam which I might add usually had the odd dead sheep floating about in it. Once in the middle we would have to hold one arm above our heads with fingers pointing to the sky and go down until we touched the bottom. Dad could then judge the depth of water.
I hated this because I would imagine all sort of horrible things lurking on the bottom waiting for a little girls feet!!
I remember the incredible dust storms that would hit Longreach and just black out the sun, also a bit scary when your little.
The next big drought I remember was in 1982/3. We were living and working at " Mt Gray "
at Emmet south west of Longreach. A property owned at the time by Tony's father Dick McLean.
We used to breed our own horses back then. We had about 20 brood mares and a stallion. It was a bit of extra income for us as Tony would break in the grown foals and sell them, it also kept us well supplied with work horses. All mustering was done on horse back as most of the country was too rough for motor bikes.
This suited us well as it gave us the opportunity to work our young breakers.
It is funny how events stick in your mind, you can go through a particularly bad time where lots of awful things happen but years later when you think back usually one thing stands out.
The thing that stands out for me was to do with our horses. The drought just kept on keeping on and there didn't seem to be an end to it. As with all droughts there are decisions to be made and they are usually heart wrenching.
We were forced to make a decision regarding our horses. We couldn't afford to feed them all to keep them alive. There were a few mares that were heavy in foal so we brought them into the house and feed them until they foaled. Any foals not big enough to fend for them self were shoot to save the mother. These are the decisions that are made daily by the custodians of the land and livestock in times of drought.
One of the mares brought back to feed was a beautiful grey mare who had had 2 previous foals, both very good horses, people reading this who knew our horses will remember " Bungie", he was her last foal.
She managed to have her foal a few days after being brought home, but she was very weak and I could see that she was giving up. The foal was sucking but her milk supply wasn't great.
At the time I was 8 months pregnant with our first child. Every morning I would go over to the stable to check on the mare. This particular morning she was lying down this is always a bad sign with horses or cattle for that matter. When an animal is weak they will try very hard to stay up right as they know that if they lay down they usually will not have the strength to stand. If you see a sick animal lying down it's a bad sign and you have to try and get it up as quickly as possible.
I put a halter on her so that I could at least help her when she tryed to stand. I managed to get her sitting up with her front legs out in front of her. She gave one enormous effort and caught me by surprise and I wasn't quick enough to help by pulling on the halter lead, being so pregnant probably had something to do with it.
That effort was all she had left and she just lay right down with her head on the ground and try as I might to encourage her to try again, she wouldn't. She had had enough.
She died late that afternoon with her little foal standing over her.
This drought broke the night our son was born. The 18th March 1983. Just as a matter of interest this son of mine will be 30 in a few days time.
Our enormous amount of rain that we have been having all along the coast of Queensland has not spread inland. There are part in the west that are in the gripes of awful drought where here on the coast in places like Bundaberg whole towns have been washed away.
|Drought Baby Bill with his son Charlie on the road with cattle|
In this dry old land of ours all you can do is
Until next time.
To view my paintings and drawings click on this link http://www.theoutbackartist.com.au