Saturday, September 10, 2011

Home, home on the range........

Job Offer!
Got a job offer on a cattle ranch in the outback of Queensland, they asked for my resume and I sent it with a cover letter!
Got the Job!
Garth Power, who I talked to the day before called me to say I could have the job if I want it. $120 a day including room and board! Pretty good I figured. He said I would have to be in Townsville for Sunday morning and I said no problems. Now I had some shopping to do! Boots and work cloths and such.
Got my gear!
Went shopping and got all my gear sorted for the new job and went out for a couple drinks with some others I had met.
Caught the greyhound back down to Townsville and got one of the last rooms at the Civic guest house. There is a great lookout behind the city called “Castle hill” and I hiked up the hill to the amazing lookout, maybe one of the nicest yet.
1st Day Out to Merriula, Far North Queensland.
We had about a 6 hour drive West to Merriula. It was a nice drive chatting with Garth who turned out to be a really nice cheery fella. They own 3 different properties Merriula, Debella, and Leilavale. All about 40,000 acres each!  When we got out to the property I was shown my living quarters which was a pleasant surprise with a fridge, stove, sink, recliner, TV and comfy bed! With a separated brand new shower and toilet!!! Can you say “Spoiled”!!! 
1st Muster!!
Alex, Garth’s son and I rode out a couple km’s on motorbikes to a paddock and mustered about a hundred cattle and and pushed them back to the yards where we drafted them to separate the wieners( the young ones being wiened off there moms) and Alex pregnancy tested some of them by sticking his arm up there butts. After that we took the rest back out to the paddock. It was an experience I’ll never forget. Ben, Garth’s other son showed up later on. He would be the one I would be working with most the time.
I was introduced to the some 20 km’s of fence we had to and all the fun to come! 
So first you bulldoze the old fence down, then you grade on each side. Every hundred meters you hammer in a steel box post with the tractor. Then you run the barbwire and strain it, after that you put in steel post every 10 meters. Then the last step is to tie it all off to the steel posts which it the worst job off them all! You have to build assemblies on all corners and gateways out of steel. You could do one km on a good day with no corners or gates!
Ben had all the proper equipment to do the fence work, not can be said for his neighbor Bill! This guy had no equipment to do anything, just some supplies. When we went to his place to get some steel we had to cut it when we got there. I met a fellow backpacker, Toby, from Germany working out at Bill’s. He helped load the steel and mentioned he was earning $30 a day, and asked how much I was making. I told him it hadn’t been negotiated yet! I didn’t want to rub it in. He said there was no way he would be doing any fencing on that wage though! $1000 a week to fence is what he said to me!!!
A day or two later, Alan, the manager of Bill’s property, Toby and Lisa, another German met us out on the fence line to help with the fencing! 
Long story short, Alan was a know-it-all who treated the germans (who worked for 4x less than what I made) like crap and did all the hard jobs, because they had no equipment! Toby and Lisa never stood up to them and ask for proper wages and we got all the fencing done and I didn’t have to tie on any of the barbwire in the end! Near the end we found out Bill was actually breaking the labor laws and they were talking tough saying they might take him to court over it but I doubt it. 
Some notable mentions while fencing were Alan tell us what to do all the time while we watched him make many mistakes, to many to mention! Finding one of Alan’s dogs near death in the middle of nowhere and looking after it, having Ben’s other neighbor muster some cattle with his helicopter and having his dog sitting by his side in the cockpit!!! Having to drive the grader with no power steering and that probably being my toughest day! Going for a ride with Toby out on the horses and then seeing the living conditions (absolutely terrible) of the Germans after the Richmond rodeo.
08/14 - 08/17
Alex, Ben’s brother, wife Marie and son Ned all live up at Debella, about 2 hours northwest of Merriula. We were headed up there for a couple days to do some mustering. We start before the sun is up and get our game plan on how to muster the paddock. He brought in an extra helper to muster named Dan. So the four of us went out to muster the most bushy paddock on all of the properties! We spent a couple hours in there and still missed about 40 or so cattle! We walked back the couple hundred we did get back to the yards and I was introduced to bang-tailing and branding!!! While drafting, six at a time the heifers and bulls were injected with a botulism treatment by Ben and I was responsible for bang-tailing. While thrashing around in the gangways I had to stick my arm in there and grab there tails and cut the little bit of hair on there tails to show they had been treated. It was a pretty hard job and after I had finished over a hundred head they said I only had about four thousand to go!!!!!!!when we start the second round of mustering in a couple weeks!
08/25 - 08/29
Ben and I drove West about 150km’s through the town of Julia Creek to Leilavale, where I was told the aboriginal man, George, who has been watching the property for the last 26 years!!! is quite a character! and that he was! I’ve never met a man quite like him and  doubt I’ll ever meet another. I don’t quite know how to describe him, but to just say he is unique! I never did get a picture of George and I’m not sure if he would let me!, I would probably have to sneak it! We did a little fence maintenance and other odd jobs around the ranch. While we were there the “Sedan Dip” camp draft was on during the weekend north of Julia Creek and we went up there for a night. Alex, Marie and Dan were all competing in the campdraft. There were horse races and bronco riders at night, it was a good time.
The Kill
When we got back to Merriula we went out and shot a beast and cut him up, brought him back and hung him in the cold room for the night, he weighed almost 1000lbs!!! The next day we made a bunch of roasts, steaks and almost 100lbs of sausages!!! It was a full day and we never even finished all of it!
Ben and Garth were saying the snakes come out in spring and on one of the first days of spring I seen my first one while cutting the grass. I managed to run him over and he got all chopped up. So now I will definitely be looking where I walk now!
I was given this weekend off as we were headed back up to Debella Monday for the 2nd round of mustering and was told it was going to be 7 days a week, no more days off! I was left in charge off the property for the weekend as the guys had gone away for the weekend.
09/05 to 09/10
Back to Debella
Lots of mustering to be done in the next couple weeks and the first day out they had the helicopter come to muster the river part of the paddock. He would chase the cattle out and we would hold them on the bikes. Once the heli was all done we walked them back to the yards where later on I had my hand kicked by a cow when I was grabbing her tail to bangtail her! Injured on the first day! At first I thought she had broke my hand but luckily she did not! The next day Alex put me on a horse named “Mighty” to muster cattle on horseback and it was not even an hour later we were mustering cattle and Mighty had bucked me off and I landed on my back! I did get right back on but I was very sore for the rest of the day and the following week! Not off to a great start injury wise the first two days but the next couple days on horse and bike mustering and bang-tailing went pretty well!
Sorry for no pictures, the internet is slow and not lots of opportunity to get on.
Once I’m back to civilisation I’ll try to put some on!