20 August 2013
I meet with Jack this morning, at his pensioner unit near the hospital, which he keeps in perfect, sparkling order. The front door is open awaiting my arrival. His movements are slow and gentle as he comes to greet me; his eyes are kind.
Jack worked all his life with the stations, like many of the Aboriginal men: as stockman, drover, horse breaker, horse tailing hand, and camp cook. He tells me stories of droving the cattle from Alexander Station in the Northern territory; his longest journey to the Cooper Country was 19 weeks away. They covered 8 – 10 miles a day, resting when the cattle needed to rest, before they reached the small creeks and plentiful feed of the Cooper Country. On a night watch Jack would ride around singing or whistling to prevent any dozing cattle from taking fright and causing a rush.
But when the trucks came in, many drovers lost their jobs; and with the helicopters, motorbikes and 4WDs for mustering, many of the horse workers and horses were also lost. Jack tells me of the time they led the horses to the meat works, gathering more along route, so that by the time they got to the meat works they had eleven hundred head of horses.
He gets up from his chair and signals me to follow. Opening the wardrobe, his neatly rolled swag is revealed, still lying there.