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Owls and Orchids

image from blog.farmaid.org       My property after the storm

“Mother Nature may be forgiving this year, or next year, but eventually she’s going to come around and whack you. You’ve got to be prepared.”

 Geraldo Rivera
~

At the time this takes place I owned a property in the Kingaroy district. It was 1500 acres and I ran 200 cows, their calves and a bad tempered Braford bull named Mickey. We usually had two horses for working the cattle and general property work.

The property was 3 miles long and one mile wide. Some land was cleared, the rest was mainly dead trees and grass country suitable for grazing. The boundary fences were barbed wire, and internal dividing fences were all electric. The cattle yards were set up near the road. The house sat on the next block, owned by my ex-wife’s parents.

One day in late spring my ex-wife and I returned home from Toowoomba after a day of shopping just as dusk was falling. As I opened the gate there was an eerie silence about the place. I knew something was wrong but couldn’t see anything with the gathering dusk. I drove down the track and none of my familiar landmark trees were visible. Debris was scattered across the track and eventually I could drive no further, so turned off towards the house. Something had happened whilst we were away.

Owls and Orchids

image from http://www.abbeylawn.net     This is what my fences looked like before the storm

I could do nothing in the dark so waited until early the next morning to find out what had occurred. I returned to a scene of utter devastation. A twister had touched down at one end of the property, smashing its way through all the fences, trees and sheds before lifting off three miles away at the other end of the property. No other properties were touched, but it had obliterated mine, and fortunately leaving the house.  Every fence was broken somewhere with fallen trees.

The cattle were spooked. They bellowed and milled in little mobs across the farm. I mended the fences around the cattle yards and the cleared paddock to hold the cattle until I had mended the remaining fences and cleared the fallen trees. It was at that point the problems really began, if I’d only known.

Owls and Orchids

image from http://www.flickr.com       This could have been Tonto’s twin

I normally mustered the cattle on the large black gelding, Minstrel. However, when I returned to saddle Minstrel I remembered that several days earlier my ex-wife had taken him to her parents place, 30 miles away, so she could help her parents muster their cattle and I had to use the remaining horse, Tonto. Tonto was a great horse, however, due to a cancer in his right eye, it had been removed and he only had one eye remaining. With a few curses I saddled him and went to muster the cattle to the yards.

The cattle were still very restless and the bull, Mickey, was very upset, all fifteen hundred pounds of him. I got the cattle moving in the general direction but then Mickey broke away. He had had enough. He settled into a steady ground eating trot towards the far end of the farm, the end furthest away from the cattle yard.  By this time Tonto was getting upset too. He wasn’t too happy after being there during the storm either. I urged him to a gallop to cut the bull off, but that meant going on Mickey’s left side to turn him back towards the other cattle. However, that also meant he was on poor Tonto’s blind side. With a snort Mickey put his head down under the horse’s ribs and lifted. Tonto didn’t know what hit him. You could say he was blind-sided!

Tonto and I flew into the air. I dived sideways and rolled under the branches of a fallen tree to get away from fifteen hundred pounds of cranky bull. When I heard the sound of hooves thundering away, I looked up to see Tonto and Mickey galloping off side by side, over the hill. Tonto was completely unaware he still had the bull on his blind side, but the sound of his hooves was enough to keep him going.

Owls and Orchids

image from http://www.braford.org.au        Just like Mickey

Mother Nature is the great equalizer. You can’t get away from it.”  
Christopher Heyerdahl

~

I cursed loudly and began the long, sore walk back to the ute.

Minstrel was eventually returned several days later and I was finally able to muster the cattle into the yards. I  had to sort them out after the storm mix up and get the calves separated for branding.

It wasn’t until a week after the storm, when my arm was still sore, that I went to the hospital to have it x-rayed. I found that I had broken my wrist in the fall. A cast was fitted and I was told to be careful with my wrist around the farm. I could be careful but there’s no end to farm work.

Whilst the cast was great when I was wrestling the calves to do the branding, it didn’t do the cast much good. As a consequence I was back at the hospital every night to get a new cast put on. After a few days as soon as the nurses saw me they would roll their eyes. Back again! The branding lasted a week and by the end of that time the hospital staff was glad to see the back of me.

Both Tonto and Mickey were doing fine.

~

“Those who contemplate the beauty of the Earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts.”

— Rachel Carson

~

This is a true story as told to me by my lovely husband. No details have been altered to spare broken bones or bruised pride.

Blessings  Susan x

© Susan Jamieson 2013

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