|Sheep lined up at water trough|
Last night as I browsed through some of my father’s old slides I reflected on the importance of rain and the impact it had on our lives when we lived on Nuntherungie Station (between Broken Hill and White Cliffs) as small children. The average rain fall for this area, in north western NSW, is around 235 mm (9 inches) annually!! Not a lot of rain when you consider the average annual rainfall for Sydney is 1,213 mm (47.59 inches).
So as you can imagine when the rains did come it was a time for celebration. I remember my father turning on the two-way radio the morning after there had been a big storm, everyone from the district calling and reporting how many inches of rain they had, that their dams were full, or that there had been flood waters through their sheds! It was like flock of galahs squawking at a grain spill on the side of the road. The whole district would be tuned in, hopes refreshed for a better year now that there was water in the dam.
Generally the creeks, line with shaggy old gums were dry except for a few waterholes. However, when the rain came they would flood. Brown bubbling water would rush down the sandy creek beds, filling all the water holes and flowing into the large dams that were an essential life force for the stock and people living on the property. Each property, would have a system of huge water dams excavated by earth moving plants, these dams would provide water to the homesteads and would be pumped to the water troughs to provide water to all the stock on the property. In times of drought the level of these damps would be watched closely, often in despair. The down side of these rain falls would be that they often came on one big rush, washing away fences and cutting through roads and blocking supplies to isolated areas.
|Enjoying the novelty of water in the creek|
Following a heavy downfall of rain, one of my father’s first tasks was to check on the livestock (mainly sheep) and mend any of the fences that had been washed away. As I mentioned in a previous blog, "Days out with Dad", I loved to accompany him on these trips, there was nothing like being in a jeep, and having mud and water (instead of dust) splash up on you as went through the water holes and creeks on the property. The more mud the better it felt! The flowing creeks and water holes also meant it was time for the children to have some water play!! Something that we didn’t have the opportunity do very often.
One of my favourite memories was of Miss Tapp (the sister of the owner of the property) coming down to our house, gathering my sisters and myself up to go exploring after the rain. We would head off, bare feet and with our dresses tucked into our bloomers (Yep!! ) to the creek to play in the mud and water. On one particular time, our mother had just finished making us new white cotton bloomers, and was very dismayed when we returned all muddy brown and dripping in boomers that would for ever remain a light shade of reddy brown.
|Water Play in the claypan water hole|
Another paddling adventure was after my dad returned home from one of his post rain tours of the property, he reported that he had found a nice water hole on one of the claypans for the “kids” to play in. It was decided we should go for family picnic. Lunch packed, we all climbed into the jeep in our swimmers, and headed to the spot where Dad had found the water hole the day before.
However, when we arrived the water had evaporated or drained away, and Dad’s water hole had been reduced to a sheet of water , which was about 2 inches deep! Not to despair, in we hopped, and splashed and slid around on the muddy clay while Mum organise our lunch.
Of course there are also the stories of isolation and being cut off from supplies, loss of stock and damaged fences and buildings, however, the assurance that the dams were full and there would be water for a few more months far outweighed the downside!