In 1976 I moved to Central Queensland to work with local Stock & Station Agent.
Not many years before in the 1960’s a whole new frontier was opened up to new settlers with the Brigalow Development Scheme. If you were lucky you might be able to go into a ballot with the Queensland Government to draw a block. The block you drew was virgin Brigalow scrub and once you had pulled, burnt, grassed and watered your block, and satisfied the government’s development conditions, you would get title to it.
|Photo sourced Queensland Places - Brigalow belt|
One such story was about a settler (who we shall call Settler) who had drawn a block that had two bores for water beside a creek that was also just near the neighbour’s boundary.
As mentioned, almost without exception, Brigalow settlers were always strapped for cash and so when the neighbour approached Settler with a suggestion that he knew someone, who had a property some distance away, who was looking for agistment and that he was offering an extremely generous price, Settler readily accepted.
As Settler had no yards, the cattle were unloaded at the neighbour's and put through the fence between the two bores.
On Settlers first inspection of the agisted cattle, after their arrival, he felt that there were far more cattle in his property than had been agreed.
In those days they had no phones at all, let alone mobiles and no electricity, so communicating something like a complaint about excessive cattle numbers could take some days.
So Settler approached the neighbour about it and was informed that he was also agisting cattle for the same person and that they were from the same mob. The neighbour suggested that some cattle may have got through the fence, which was in poor condition, to get back with their mates, but he would contact the stock owner about it. Settler asked for a paddock count.
Apparently it took some time before the stock owner and the neighbour arrived with horses to muster and do a paddock count, certainly far longer than any reasonable person would expect, so consequently, Settler was already well and truly “off side” when they arrived.
The cattle were mustered into a corner at one of the bores where the stock owner suggested that Settler count them along the fence whilst the stock owner and the neighbour held them back.
Each time the count started, Settler could hear the stock owner ” boring it into them” so that they raced along the fence 10 or twelve abreast, impossible to count and it was obvious that they didn’t want an accurate count.
The count was subsequently abandoned with Settler insisting that three quarters of the mob be removed. This was done with reluctant help from the stock owner.
|Photo sourced Qld historical Atlas|
Back at camp, Settler declared that the stock owner was not to be trusted and sent someone to patrol the boundary each morning on horseback to look for tracks. There often were.
Settler would also drive his old truck down to the bore in the evenings and check to see if anything was going on. He usually took a .303 rifle with him.
One evening, it was just coming on dark, when Settler encountered the stock owner and the neighbour with a mob of cattle near the bore. Settler was enraged.
Settler was not sure what they were doing, but it appeared they had just bought a mob into Settlers property and were holding them at the bore. They certainly had no right to be there and tried to beat a hasty retreat.
It was dark enough not to be able to see clearly but there is no doubting who they were and Settler pulled out the .303 and fired a shot in their direction. At this, there were cattle running in all directions, men yelling and general pandemonium. Settler quickly jumped into the truck and returned to his camp. Settler had an awful feeling that he may have shot someone.
A few days later the Police Sergeant from a nearby town paid Settler a visit. After the Police sergeant left Settler said that a complaint had been made by the stock owner and that one of his men had been shot through the leg and his horse had been killed. There was, however, no dead horse at the location of the shooting.
Whether someone had been shot or grazed by the bullet or not, we still don’t know. Settler felt that the whole complaint to the Police may have been an exaggeration in the hopes that the Police visit to Settler would deter him from any further action.
In any case, apparently the Sergeant had given him a lecture on the consequences of shooting someone.
The whole agistment deal was a disaster, the stock owner hadn’t paid and owing to the overstocking Settler had no grass, so you can only imagine Settler’s utter amazement when he looked up one morning, at the sound of a vehicle, to see the stock owner coming down the track.
At the sight of the stock owner, Settler was heading inside for the gun. The stock owner stopped about 100 metres from the camp and got out of his vehicle with his hands in the air (like you would if you were being arrested at gunpoint).
The stock owner then shouted:-
”Settler, I hear you want to sell the place”.
On hearing these words Settler’s demeanour changed in an instant and he said:-
“Come in and have a drink”