Last weekend we were Mustering up at Jim’s Dad’s place. He’s got some good irrigated country on which he grows lucerne hay and sometimes oats. Most of the paddocks are grass though and we run cattle there.
The block is split in two by the Burnett river. It doesn’t usually run at this time of year in this area and is mostly used as another paddock in its own right. With the recent (6 months ago) floods however, there is a healthy amount of water in the river.
I hadn’t been down there since before Christmas last year. Boy has the landscape changed. But let me tell you, riding on a confident horse through that beautiful landscape gave me warm fuzzies all over. A day like that makes you really pay attention to how lucky we really are out here.
Our mission (and we chose to accept it) was to cross the river, gather about sixty bullocks and bring them back across the river to the yards and from there to another paddock closer to the homestead.
Three of us mounted our steeds and casually walked them down into the riverbed. The sun was out and it was a warm winters day so we didn’t need our jumpers. We had to trek a different way than usual because the river had moved many logs and debris down to block our path along the usual dirt track. The river was running also and we needed to cross at a shallow point.
It was so beautiful in the river. The sun glistening in the foliage, the water running and the sandy islets looked a picture. Had I thought about it before I would have taken my camera but alas, you will have to picture it in your own head.
Once across the river, we found all bullocks in a smallish paddock and started to approach. These boys hadn’t seen men on horses for about a year so were a little skittish. They headed for the fence and then got themselves stuck in a corner. The three of us parked ourselves out from the corner a little way and blocked them as they tried to make a break for open country. Jim’s dogs gave them some pressure to keep in the mob as well. There was a bit of tooing and froing like this for about fifteen minutes with one overexcited dog pushing a bullock through the fence. Jim gave one of his usual commands which brought the dog back to heal. We were all a bit scared.
Eventually the cattle settled down and we took them around the fence, the one we blew making his way back into the mob through an open gate. As soon as we got back into the river the hard riding started. The cattle which couldn’t break in the paddock now found themselves without a fence to bounce off and with a little confidence to make their own way. The trees in the river proved difficult obstacles and Jim managed to stake himself in the leg with a broken branch. Without the dogs, we would never have kept the mob together.
It was a real picture though. The cattle crashing through the trees then into the water with the horses and dogs on all sides. We got the boys back up the bank then into a holding paddock with no other dramas. The short adrenaline rush heightened the experience and we were all pretty excited by the successful muster.
Great day. If you get the opportunity to be part of something like this, take it. This life is awesome.