A blessed childhood on a cattle station – part one

Host: Noreena Downs Station
Written by Kate Paull – Owner, Noreena Downs Station.

“What did you get up to as a kid?”

Well my siblings Niffy, Chooky (nicknames), Joe, and I had a blast as kids, we all grew up on Noreena. We were so lucky we had the most divine time! Those that haven’t lived on a station reading this blog are maybe thinking how can it be divine?

Well Noreena was our back yard to say but it was how we made our fun that was the triumph, so I have compiled a list and description of our fun play from our childhoods, you might think half way through this “What strange children” (I think we were normal) but that is what happens when you have to create your fun when you’re not well endowed in the money department.

We all did port Hedland School of the Air which was school lessons done at home and over the wireless. Once we finished our lessons for the day albeit before 11.30 am we would conjure up our plan for the next few hours or all day. Haha you should of seen me on the first day of school at boarding school, come lunchtime I started heading back to the boarding dorms only to have someone chase me up to drag me back to school, uh the naivety of it! I was dumbstruck.

3.1 copyThe four of us.

The Creek – Noreena Downs homestead is on a hill and we have a creek below us called, wait for it . . . House Creek! Quite often we would take off after school and doing chores for Mum to go play down the creek, Niffy made a cubby house out a busted ass spring bed in an old gumtree not far from our old windmill, it’s still there today. We would walk up to 7km easy one way just to go exploring up or down the creek and then all the washes coming  in, we would get up in caves and happily stay out all day just being bush kids playing games, pretending to hunt things, and whatever else came to our imagination.

The thicket in the steer Paddock – we were pretty convinced there was a big wild scrub bull living in the mulga thicket of the steer paddock, so we used to follow the cattle pads out through the thicket on the south west side of the house mill and see if we could get through to the other side without getting done in by the mystery bull. Even the kangaroos ‘chi chi’ noise use to scare the hell out of us, what imaginations hey!

Also upon entering the steer paddock on some occasions we would have to watch out for Mamasnoot the psycho cow if Dad just happened to put her in there. Mamasnoot was a cow we purchased from somewhere along with a few other hundred cows that we bought to increase breeding numbers, what was the deal with Mamasnoot you are probably wondering? Well to say the cow was mad as a cut snake would be an understatement, when she had a calf she was at her worst but was still nuts without a calf, I mean what sort of cow gets wound up and stroppy and turns her head around, cocks her rear leg, and sucks milk from her own udder? A CRAZY COW!

When I was still reasonably young we were yarding up (putting into cattle yards) and we were in our water cooler paddock and my dad’s buggy broke down so he commandeered the buggy off mum (which I was passenger in) and one thing about my Dad he never liked to have passengers in the vehicle when he was working cattle that were playing up. He told us to climb a tree, so up the old bloodwood tree we went, the biggest tree in the water cooler, and stood up on a length ways branch, well everything was in the yards except for one cow . . . oh yeah Mamasnoot standing under the blood wood tree snorting up and down it terrorising my mum and me and adding her big horn rack to the tree and then along came Tex (Dad) with his newly acquired buggy! After a bit of a work out with this nutcase cow and having her trying to climb into the buggy she finalised the whole show by sticking a horn through the grate mesh and straight into the radiator. GAME OVER.

So you can understand why four kids were petrified of one cow . . .

Mustering – imagine your workforce increasing by four. Quite often once we finished school for the day we would jump in the old Landcruiser ute with Mum and take the lunches out to the blokes while they were mustering and if they were camped out, then we’d take the dinner for that night or a couple. So this is how it worked in the old Toyota – of course Mum would drive, Chooky would stretch out lengthways up on top of the seats (Chooky’s Perch), Nif and I on the passenger seat, and Joe on Mums lap or mine or Nif’s. Upon arrival us kids would make a nuisance of our selves – nah not really, we were just excited to be joining in so we would all spread out on the tail of the mob (the rear/back of the mob) and help bring the cattle along and we didn’t like shoes so barefoot it was most of the time. We got chased and charged at several times from protective mothers warning us away from their calf, to this day I still get warned by cows that are daughters, granddaughters, and great grandys to those old crackers.

Yards – YAY we could get close to all those little calvies without getting a snort up our backside, soo many cuties! We used to grab our Dad’s pannikin or a water bottle cup fill it up with water and try and convince the calves at the back they had to suck off our fingers and have a nice cool drink of water, such welfare officers we were. Castrating to make bulls into steers was great fun, grab the balls (testicles cut out) and a bit of wire, and run to the fire throw the knacker on the coals and cook him up for a bit of bush delicacy. It’s not as bad as you think, unless you of course have tried it and it’s not your cup of tea.

Swinging off the back leg of a calf being branded was a bit of a challenge especially as a kid but no ways were we gonna let that leg go if Dad was castrating although there was the occasional happening. Dad was always paranoid about us kids in the draft pens or back force yards as we were hard to see so he used to get us to sit up on the rails together, but not for long mate – we had worms in our bums so off we would go investigating the cattle until we got told off again.

3.2 copyBranding a calf.

Chookyard – We use to have a massive old style chook yard that housed all our cool fowls, we have a new chook house now designed and made by Joe, the “Fort Knox Palace” is dingo proof too! We use to have a black chook called Emma that we were pretty convinced could talk, this poor chook got taken everywhere around the homestead under many circumstances and in many styles. Then there was Ducky the one eyed pirate duck, he lost his eye to his mate Bam Bam the bantam rooster in an argument. We also had two big roosters Micky Malthouse (yep I had two parents who barracked for the West Coast Eagles) so there was even Johnny Worsfold the rooster! Now Johnny was a bit precious or a metrosexual rooster . . . just not quite a full blown rooster. There were chooks galore, guinea fowls, ducks, and the bloody horrible roosters that thought spurring the kids was fun.

3.4 copyUs girls and the chooks.

Don’t forget to tune in tomorrow for part two of our adventures!