Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Sharing Memories - Early days in the Bush - Day out with Dad

Map  Showing Nuntherungie Station

Here is my second post for Sharing Memories.  Thank you to  Olive Tree Genealogy’s Blog’s for providing me with the idea and motivation to write a little about my family history as I remember it. 

I was pleasantly pleased with the interest shown in my first  Sharing Memories blog , Early School Days in the Bush - School of the Air so I thought for today’s post I would relate another tale from my life in the far west of New South Wales and write a little about everyday life in the outback.

At the time life on a sheep station in the far north west of NSW seemed to be very normal, but when I look back on it I guess we did enjoy quite a different environment to families who lived a little closer to larger communities.  There was no pressure to fit in with timetables and set hours.  Life on  Nuntherungie Station fitted around shearing, lamb marking, drenching sheep and the weather. If I was able to complete the weekly school work sent to me from Blackfriars Correspondence School in 3 or 4 days it would leave me with the freedom to spend a day with my father while he worked on the property.  I relished these outings, and I am sure my mother enjoyed the freedom of having one less child to watch over. 

Sheep on Nuntherungie Station
Mum always packed my father a large lunch of sandwiches, biscuits and fruit for the day and if I was joining him, there would be a couple of sandwiches for me as well. We would always leave early before the heat of the day set in.  I would clamber into the passenger seat of my dad’s Jeep. The two working dogs, Mac and Spot (such original names) would jump in the back, dodging from side with eager anticipation and excitement of going out for the day.  Off we would go, leaving a cloud of dust behind us as we traversed the tracks through the property.  It would be my job to jump out and open the large gates between paddocks while Dad drove through and then close them after us.  A rule that was drummed into my from an early age, you NEVER went through a gate without closing it.

The work for the day could be varied anything from checking sheep with young lambs, checking for flyblown sheep (a serious problem for sheep in outback Australia), mending fences that had been knocked down by stock or recent rains, assessing water supplies and checking windmills that pumped underground water (from the artesian basin) into water troughs for the sheep.

Spot and Mac - Dad's working dogs.
Then at about 10.00am it would be “smoko time or as we would call it “morning tea” time.  We would find a nice shady spot; Dad would light a small fire. After giving both the dogs a drink of water from the hessian water bag that hung on the side of the jeep, he would fill his billy with water and put it on the fire to boil.  As soon as the water had boiled he would put a handful of tea leaves into the billy, a quick stir with a stick or small twig of the gum tree and the tea would be made.  I would sit with Dad on a nearby log with my pannikin of steaming hot sweet tea, and dunk the homemade Anzac biscuits that Mum had packed, until they became soft and gooey and melted in my mouth!!  Mac and Spot would rest in the shade with one eye open to see if I was going to drop some crumps or share one of my biscuits with them.

Smoko finished, we would cover the fire with sand and tip the remaining tea on top, making sure it was completely out. Off we would go again to check the next problem.  It would be even more exciting if Dad’s work meant we had to go off road!!  I loved it when we had to drive in and out of creeks, over bumps and around logs.

 Dad always took the time to point out the different types of plants and animals as we went and if he had seen come across an interesting plant or rock formation, he would take the time to show me if it was nearby. He would point out the quondong trees and we would check if they had any fruit on them and he would show me the clay pans where you could find lots of quartz and on the odd occasion small artifacts from the indigenous tribes who had lived in this area.

Dad's Jeep
These excursions were even more exciting if it had been after rain.  Rain was a very big event in this district, as the average annual rainfall was only 224 mm (or about 9 inches in old measurements). The Jeep would splash through the mud and puddles, spraying it all over us.  Of course there was always the risk of getting bogged, personally, I thought this added to the drama of the day.  I am not sure if my father was of the same frame of mind.

Around Midday, it was time to repeat the Smoko ritual of boiling the billy, giving the dogs water, and munching on our sandwiches and fruit as we sipped that sweet black tea.  As the weather was often quite hot in the afternoon, it was time to head back to the homestead to wash of the dust.  I am sure there was a number of occasions when Dad had to lift a sleepy girl out of the jeep when we arrived home.

Hope you have enjoyed this tale.


  1. Thanks Diane for sharing these memories of a day on the station as a child. I just love the photographs of sheep and the dogs too.

  2. glad you like the pics of the sheep, hard to believe they survive in such arid conditions.

  3. Sounds like a great childhood. I always like stories about people living in the country and always wished that I had been brought up on a farm or ranch.

  4. It was a great childhood,a little different to the norm.

  5. Diane, I absolutely loved this story. It brought back so many memories of life on our sheep and cattle property south of Cunnamulla in outback Queensland. Correspondence School... opening gates... clay pan country with stone artifacts... hessian water bags... even the dogs look the same! We did not have quondong trees on our property but we went past some when we drove to country tennis matches. We always asked Dad to stop so we could look for the seeds, which made a decent substitute for marbles.

  6. hi Judy, have been going through some old colourslides that my Dad took when were young, wonderful old pics with the red coloured soil of the outback. glad you like the stories, I am enjoying writing them.I would love to hear some of your stories.