Mustering at Harry’s camp

Host: Abingdon Downs Station
Written by Barry Keough – Owner, Abingdon Downs.

Our staff are currently at one of our mustering camps (Harry’s) which is approximately 20km from the homestead. The duration at Harry’s Camp lasts about four to five weeks, most times without a break in between. Harry’s Camp sits on the bank of a huge lagoon that provides water for the camp and the occasional swim (never mind the crocs, they’re only freshies). The camp is powered by a generator. There are three tin shacks, the first consists of two showers heated by a donkey (donkey being water heated in 44 gallon drum with a fire pit underneath), two flushing toilets (very modern) and a washing machine, the second is the kitchen and dining, and the third is the sleeping quarters (with a wall in the middle for girls one side and men the other). Some bring tents and some sleep in the back of their utes.

It’s a long time to work straight with barely a day off but paddocks are just too big to stop once we have started. However, once we have finished the staff generally can get anywhere between seven to ten days off to go re-charge their batteries, visit family, and have a holiday. Given our location two days off on weekends makes it impossible to travel to family and friends so a week or so off is well received.

1.1 Sunrise on Harry's Lagoon copySunrise on Harry’s Lagoon.

Harry’s Camp is the camp everyone looks forward to as it the first camp of the season.  The long term staff love it and the new staff get excited about it. I thought I would share with you some of their opinions about their experience at Harry’s so far.

CLAY – our resident five year old “mad fella” (been with us all of his little life)

What do you enjoy most about mustering camp?

“I like camping and going swimming. I like helping dad at the yards, and I like riding my motorbike and Courtney” (Courtney is a horse!).

TONI – Head Stockman’s partner and jillaroo (eight years employed)

How do you manage your two boys (aged two and five) at camp and is it harder to get them to bed on time?

“The boys are very happy when you finish work so they just want to play with you which makes it harder to get them showered and into bed on time. It’s the only time they are allowed to be dirty all day because otherwise they would need to bathed three times a day! But it’s good having the boys at camp and they keep everyone entertained”.

HARLEY – current cook/station hand (1st season with us):

What do you like most about camp cooking?

“I get to be outdoors cooking with great scenery. I like getting the fires ready in the morning and in the afternoon. I love camping out. I also get to drive the poddy wagon on mustering days” (A poddy wagon is a ute with a cage on the back that follows the mob and picks up baby calves that can’t walk great distances).

What do you least like about camp cooking?

“Nothing really. Sometimes the early starts. I wish I had a bigger stove top. Sometimes the mosquitos are bad at night on a hot night”.

1.2 The camp kitchen copyThe camp kitchen.

SQUEAK –  Headstockman (13 years employed)

What’s a typical day on a muster day?

“After a quick coffee, we work out who is riding horses and who is on motorbikes. Then horses are saddled, bikes are fueled, chopper fuel is loaded onto the truck that takes the horses out to wherever we start mustering. We head out to a spot and wait for the chopper to bring in the first mob. The horses will tail the mob generally in a direction towards the yards as bikes are collecting mobs being brought in by choppers on the way. I spend all day on the two-way guiding people and getting instructions from the chopper pilot and generally communicating with everyone – it’s pretty easy to wear a radio battery out in a day. Most muster days we pull up around lunchtime, usually timed to be around water holes for cattle to have a drink and have a spell and calves a chance to suck on mum. Horses get a drink of water, we all have a quick spell and a corned beef sandwich (menu doesn’t change on muster days) while keeping an eye on our mob. Then we head off towards the yards again. Once we reach the yards, the choppers are usually still with us, and we proceed to “yard up” the cattle for the night. Choppers are on standby at this point as sometimes they can get a bit tricky getting them all in. Not every day is the same, sometimes it’s smooth sailing and other times it’s like a bomb’s gone off, all the same never a dull moment.”

1.3 Pulling up for water on a muster day at Edwards Lake copyPulling up for water on muster day at Edwards Lake.

1.4 Squeak and Clay overseeing the mob at lunchtime copySqueak and Clay overseeing the mob at lunchtime.

HUDSON – 2IC (2 years employed) 

What’s a typical day on a yard day?

“After breakfast, we feed weaners from the previous days muster while someone puts the sprinklers on to keep the dust down and someone else is getting branding gear ready. We then yard them up from the big yards they were put into the night before to smaller holding yards ready to start processing. Then we get our orders off Squeak on who is doing what jobs for the day e.g. cattle counter, drafting, branding, speying, speying offsider, penning up etc. We break for smoko around 9.30, have lunch at about 12.30 then generally keep going until the processing is done. If there is enough time we will turn them out to their designated paddock”.

1.5 Hudson putting sprinklers on to keep the dust at bay copyHudson putting sprinklers on the keep the dust at bay.

1.6 Packed up and ready to leave Harry's last year copyPacked up and ready to leave Harry’s last year.

1.7 Harry's Yards layout copyHarry’s Yards layout.