Glory Days

Posted to the Kelpie-L forum Sun Mar 21, 2004

Time 5.30am

With their normal exuberance Puds Sookie (Suek 46 months), Karrawarra
Ruby Tuesday (Ruby 27 months), Karrawarra Tone (Tone 23 months) and
Falcon Fey (Tammy 14 months), sprang, gazelle-like, into the large
plastic box of my Bombardier Traxtor XL and Karrawarra Nabba (Nabba 13
months) sat expectedly on Mitch’s trusty old King Quad as the sun peaked
the mountainous horizon.
Suek howled her appreciation of the crisp coolness of a Queensland
autumn morning and gave away a hint of her ancient ancestry. All of the
creeks and dams in the leased gorge country were brimming with crystal
clear fresh mountain- filtered water so we reckoned we needn’t carry any
extra for the dogs. This is hard country for dogs and we have lost two
on previous missions.

Today we had 70 head of 3 year old Brahman X steers to yard and ready
for loading onto trucks. As the range is 1800 ft high bringing them home
at the walk was out of the question. In the previous couple of weeks the
dogs had moved the cattle down from large gorge country into smaller
holding paddocks of a couple of hundred acres but 3 were missing and
running with some pretty ordinary uneducated cattle in some of the most
inhospitable country in South East Queensland. This land is steep, full
of lantana and yes, uninviting.
The haul over the mountain was as always exhilarating only this time
with 16 mms(64 pts) of rain overnight allowed for a bit more slippage of
the Kenda Bearclaws.

We had the .308 Winchester in readiness in case we happened across the
10 year old cleanskin bullock, last seen corrupting two of our missing
steers and diving vertical through a lantana endemic gully clearing a
path with his 2.1 metre (7 ft) wide horns. Our only hope for a clean
shot would be to hold him with the dogs long enough for Mitch to aim the
hardware.

On approaching the paddock where the 67 head were supposed to be Mitch
pointed out a mob of about 40 head in the adjacent paddock and we soon
found the broken fence where they had been spooked through. A quick
management decision had us repairing the fence and then casting Ruby,
Suek and Tammy around the remaining 28 head and yarding them without
incidence. With a quick count we knew we were looking for 39 hd of
escapees so we rode about 800 metres and 1200 ft altitude and cast Ruby
and Tammy to hold the cattle while we travelled back to the bottom of
the gully and cast Suek. While the dogs introduced themselves I took the
opportunity to tweak the idle screw on the Bombardier as it was a little
high. As the steers walked down the steep head of this rather dirty
gully Ruby cleverly steered the leaders away from following the contour
whilst Suek and Tammy kept the tail end moving and stopped any swing
back across the gully where they would be caught behind the dam.

As we yarded this mob the first truck arrived and the dogs quietly held
the cattle whilst Mitch and I counted 28 hd in groups of 7 and loaded
them.
With the first lot gone we now had 3 hours to find, muster and yard the
3 missing steers. Where to start? We decided to take the dogs to the
last known camp and tell them to “get out and look”. On a previous
occasion they had successfully brought in 4 head even after we humans
had already relegated the day down to experience. This would be a good
opportunity to send Nabba out with the more experienced dogs and begin
to learn an important real life skill.

No sign, the dogs got out and looked but did not see. We dropped down
the mountain for a quick snack and a cup of tea.

As the stock truck had been and unloaded we headed back to the loading yards for a second time.
We were still 3 short so our next sojourn was to climb the old dozer
track up the “pristine gorge”. Straight away we found fresh tracks only
3 or four hours old so we sent the dogs again on searching casts at a
couple of places where the cattle had left the road. Still no cattle and
to save the dogs we carried them to the top of the gorge and started
along the top extremity of the paddock. Cattle, a very shifty mob
started running at the sound of our approach. The country was steep but
at least visibility was good being a clean Eucalypt Forest with ample
stands of Wallaby grass. “All dogs get over” this was going to be tough
going because these cattle have had no introduction to the finer points
of control by dogs. At least the three missing steers were with them but
even they were looking to break over the side. Thankfully the 10 year
old cleanskin was only conspicuous by his absence.

From here on the details are very sketchy, dogs kept bumping the Mickey
bulls that were extremely man-shy back towards Mitch and I who could
only stay ahead of the dozen or so very temperamental animals and on the
bush track that followed a razor back ridge for about 2 kilometres to
the next paddock which offered a near vertical track down to the bottom
of the gorge.

The best made plans of dogs and men.

About half way along a slight ridge approached and the temptation was
too great for the leading Mickey, down he went followed by the mob and
like small dark missiles Suek, Ruby and Tammy were last seen racing for
the head in what seemed a futile attempt at fulfilling their breeds
objective.

As Nabba and Tone stayed on the top track, due to exhaustion, Mitch went
to their assistance as I powered the Bombardier the remaining 1 Km along
the top and then pointed down to the bottom of the gorge. You can only
guess at the feelings of pride and amazement that I felt when the first
sign of movement that greeted me was a relatively orderly mob of cattle
being moved along the valley floor by an equally orderly team of dogs
just keeping enough pressure for control but offering enough relief to
prevent panic and associated disaster. On seeing me the cattle drifted
down into the lantana infested creek and the dogs received a well
deserved bogey.

As I was concerned that all of the dogs might not have survived the rush
I called them to me only to find Ruby missing. Mitch and I searched the
creek as the cattle were fairly scarce as well but to no avail. There
was only one solution “All dogs get out and look” and then after five
minutes had passed “Suek Speak up” Sure enough away up on the other side
of the gorge almost out of ear shot her telltale voice alerted us to the
position of the herd and the dogs. As they brought them down to the gate
blocking repeated escape attempts we waited anxiously to see if Ruby was
there and not staked somewhere back on that ridge. Yes, she was, and,
had stayed with the mob alone holding them from travelling too far
whilst her compatriots had their much needed bogey in the creek.

Both Tone and Nabba were somewhat recovered, if a little tired and a lot
wiser, so we set out to cover the remaining couple of kilometres down to
the yards. This was no easy stroll in the park but, with the dogs
keeping them clear of the creek on one side and the endemic lantana
infested mountain on the other we lead the mob with the bikes and
continued to marvel at how clever the dogs positioned themselves to
influence the leaders of the mob to travel true so that the rest of the
mob walked with confidence.
Just as we arrived at the yards our friend and truck driver arrived for
the last load. With a smile of incredulity he stated “You arsey Bastards
I thought for sure this last load would be a light one” Mitch and I
confer we are only “arsey” in that we have the honour of having the
assistance of 5 exceptional Fairdinkum Kelpies and tomorrow is another
day.
Time 5:30 pm

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7 comments on “Glory Days

  1. KnoxH says:

    Love it.

  2. Grayleen says:

    Dave, you could definitely give Tony a run for his money in the book department. Who’s the young bloke in the blue shirt?

  3. Jan Lowing says:

    What a good yarn…and even better, it’s true!

    • That is the point isn’t it Jan. There must be many, many real life stories that occur on a daily basis that just need a little effort to record for posterity. The other benefit, of course, is that the publicity of clever dogs doing clever jobs allows breeders to choose more suitable genetics for their own operation.

  4. Tina F-K. says:

    a great read- what a great life!

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