Pioneering Days Recalled
This story was printed in the Daily Mail (Brisbane, Qld. (1903-1926), Sat. 25 November 1922, p. 15
BLACKALL RANGE – EARLY RECOLLECTIONS
By C. E. SMITH, Toowoomba.
(When we found this treasure, we felt it had to go in just as it was written; the voice of one of our not-so-well-known early settlers giving us a remarkable insight into pioneering life on the Razorback.) MHG
Mr W.R.O. Hill’s letter re the Blackall Range takes my memory back to ’93. At that time, I was a clerk at the West End Brewery, which the big flood nearly washed away, and placed me out of a billet. There were many more like me, so failing to get another job in town, I listened to the cry, “Go on the land, young man.’ An old friend of the family lived at Palmwoods, and I got a job on his farm grubbing stumps at 10s a week and found, a big difference to my £2 10s per week in town; but it did me good. At that time there were dozens of forfeited selections on the Blackall Range, and I used to ride round there on Sundays. Finally, I picked one at the head of Landers Chute, six miles from Eudlo, and a similar distance from Palmwoods. There was a weather-board cottage, 24 x 12, with a verandah. I paid £30 for the Improvements. There was a large family at home, so when I set out my mother and father accompanied me, also a younger brother. It took a couple of weeks to get things together. and we had quite a truck load to Palmwoods. My brother and I travelled by road, taking two horses and a cow. We engaged a bullock-driver to take the things from the station, but he could only go as far as the top of the range, and we had to carry everything on horseback on our own to the cottage, which was about three or four hundred yards through the scrub on the western side of the range, down a winding bridle track. It was raining when we got there and rained every day for three months. However, we managed to get everything down to the cottage safely, except some fowls. We had two crates about six feet long by two feet wide; these we strapped one on each side of a horse. There was a clear track straight down the side of the range used by a teamster to haul a log out, and we started the horse with the fowls down this. He went a few yards safely; then slipped, tried to recover, made another slide down on his side. And over he went, fowls and all, and rolled to the bottom, about 30 yards. At first, we could do nothing but laugh, and by the time we recovered the fowls that were not killed, were scampering into the scrub. We recovered a good many, but the dingoes had a good supper that night. However, we were well started as “cockies” and when I look back, I count it as one of the best times of my life.
THE SLIPPERY RANGE
We soon settled down. to work, but my brother soon got tired of it, and hied back to town, after a few months. The neighbouring selectors were very friendly and always ready to help a newcomer. Our nearest (Mr. Weitemeyer) had several acres of oranges on the top of the range, now, I believe, a beautiful orange-grove. On the other side was Tom Rose (brother of Joe), and what a fine type of a man he was! Many a time have I gone out to where he and Bill Gerrard were cutting cedar in a pit down in the banks of the Obi Obi. I have a piece of furniture made out of cedar that I bought as much as I could pack on a horse, for 4s 6d and a one-inch board eight feet long by two feet wide amongst it. .They used to work from sunrise to sunset cutting cedar, and after the log was cut into boards, it was a job to cut a track through the scrub, build, a slide, and stack the boards on it, and the bullocks would haul it out to the main track. Oft-times they would have to put a long wire rope on because it was too steep for the bullocks to get a footing. The wire rope would be run, through a block fastened to a tree, and the timber hauled up by stages. In addition to timber-getting, these selectors used to keep a few areas cultivated with a hoe; I remember Tom’s hoe was an ordinary adze which used to cut the rotten roots of his scrub clearing, which is now also an orange grove. Many a load of corn, pumpkins or sweet potatoes have I carried from there on horseback, for which I paid Tom the sum of 1s. per cwt., or bushel. Of course, I had to husk the corn, or pick the spuds, or pumpkins— so it didn’t cost so much to live there, and we lived well, too.
Mother was a good cook, and her pumpkin pies were something to remember; they were always flavoured with passion fruit, which grow wild along the tracks. The principal thing we had to buy was salt beef and flour; the former used to most 8s 4d per cwt. I don’t remember the cost of the flour, but I know I kept a record for 12 months, and it cost just 5s per week to keep three of us. I remember the old bullock driver, who took our things up, landing at our cottage one day at lunch time. We had the usual salt beef (which, I might mention, we kept in a cask in brine, which was flavoured with some spice, and it was bosker – never get any like it now), sweet potatoes and pumpkin; but we also had dessert of pumpkin pie. When mother asked the bullocky if he would have pumpkin, he looked disgusted as he replied? “Naw I deant eat pumpkin; that’s only cattle ‘ feed.” Later mother asked him if he would have some pie, without naming it. He enjoyed it, and asked for more, at the same time asking what fruit it was made of. “Oh,” said mother, “that’s cattle food.” “What?” he said. “Pumpkin,” she replied. You should have seen that old chap’s face. “Well, missis,” he said, “I ask your pardin; we’ve got tons, of pumpkins, and I never thought of cooking em. I must get yer to tell my old woman how to do it.”
BUILDING A ROAD
We were about two miles from what is now Montville. It was then called Razorback, and it was so steep that at the last pinch the bullocks were taken out and the wire rope requisitioned, and no one ever thought of riding up or down. But just at that time two men had come with their families from Redland Bay (Fred and Harry Smith). Harry, I think, bought McClintock’s selection, and Fred took up a forfeited one opposite to him, both at the top of the Razor-back. I have not been there for some years; but I believe they both have beautiful homes there now. They were virile, able men, and have been large factors in making Montville what it is. As far as I remember, each cleared about one acre of scrub, and while it was drying, they started pit-sawing, and cut the timber for their houses. When they burnt the scrub, they got a truck load of banana butts from Redland and started a plantation. While these were growing, they built their houses and felled more scrub and planted it with the suckers from their original butts. The result was that in a couple of years they had several acres bearing bananas. As the roots of the scrub rotted, they planted orange trees, between the rows of bananas so, by the time the bananas were finished, their orange trees were coming into bearing. To-day, you see them both with a fine orange grove, and a beautiful villa and they deserve every bit of it. There were other selectors there before the Smiths, but they all worked on their own. But the Smith brothers knew something about co-operation, so they got all the selectors together and proposed that each man put in a fortnight to cut a siding round the Razor-back.
The result was that a couple of horses could bring in a few hundred weight on a dray. Next, they appealed to the Government for assistance. I think Mr. W. H. Barnes was Treasurer at the time, and he went up personally to inspect, and the result was that £200 was granted. The work was again done by the settlers, but this time they were paid. They did not rest at that, but have kept at it, so that to-day there is a regular motor service up the Razor-back road, and waggons and motor lorries bring the produce to the station and goods to the range, whereas at the time I was there everything went on horseback or bullock waggon. It was good solid work that did it; but it was not all work there— we had our pleasant times, too.
There was a family across the Obi Creek from us— the Daltons. They had a small organ, and we got a lot of pleasure out of it. Once a week, regularly, I would go across, and we had quite a nice little quartette party. One of the girls played and we had the four parts well balanced, and would sing part songs and glees till long after our usual bed-time. One time the travelling parson came along and he persuaded us to practice a service of song, “Billy Bray,” and we gave a most successful concert at Nambour. As we could not carry the organ, we had to look for an accompanist, and the parson found one— Old Bill Wright. He was a fine old violinist, and he used to walk nearly 20 miles, from near Buderim Mountain, to practise with us every Friday, stay the night at Dalton’s, and go back on Saturday.
The parson used to visit the district every month, and usually put up at Dalton’s, and we would have service on the range at Montville. And how the selectors used to roll up! They would come out of the scrub in all directions. One Sunday remains particularly vivid in my memory. It was a beautiful clear day, and the parson had chosen a clearing on the top of the range, about half a mile from the Razorback (I think, there is a large accommodation house there now). All round the bush, and far out the coast, with the lighthouse and the white breakers could be seen at Maroochy Heads, while at places the Maroochy River could be seen glinting in the sunlight. Shortly after 10 a.m. the congregation began to arrive— the big, bearded men and hard-working women, with strong healthy children. One horse there was carrying three children, father and mother walking, but in every other instance they came on foot. There must have been 40 to 50 all told, and what singing it was that morning. It was a day that one could hardly help singing. Our little choir led the hymns, and those men and women joined in with such fervour; they were truly hymns of praise that rang forth from that clearing on the mountain. The parson himself was visibly affected, and. when we all climbed or helped each other up on the big log he said he never had had such a service. I have heard the best singers and choirs since, but never have I been moved as I was by the singing that Sunday morning at the Razor-back.
Between Razor-back and Lander’s Chute the tracks turns off to Baroon Pocket, where, I understand, the Rutledges are dairying now. What a beautiful bit of country this is, a pocket of about 1000 acres or so with hills all round; it must have been an ideal spot for planting lost stock. Many a time have I ridden over it, and at the time I am speaking of it, was always knee high with grass, and in the spring time it was a picture with buttercups. The Obi Obi runs right through the middle of it. There, were two brothers on the far end of it— Dan and Pat Sweeny. They had a selection each and used to cut cedar; They had a cow which Dan always milked. They also had a sweet potato patch, and the cow used to get the vines. I often rode over there to have a chip with them. Pat especially was an original Irishman, and he used to keep me in a ripple of laughter. One Sunday afternoon I rode over, and Dan was away, leaving Pat in charge, and had given full instructions how to milk the cow. When I got there the cow was in the bail, and Pat was smoking with evident satisfaction. He told me he was just getting a bit of satisfaction out of that devil of a “Nancy.” She had got into the “taty” patch during the afternoon, and when Pat chased her, she cleared out. Later, when he wanted to milk her, she gave him a lot of trouble, and refused to go up to the bail. “At last,” says Pat, “I went and got some “taty” vines, and says. “Cup Nancy, cup Nancy,” So she followed me into the bail and I got her bailed up at last, and there I left her. I “wuddent” milk the beast now just to please her,” And there he left her.
DANCING TILL DAYLIGHT
How we used to enjoy a dance then, and travel miles to go to one. There, was a diversity of opinion then as now, as to the harm of dances, or otherwise. I had two old German friends, Mr. Meise and Mr. Kuskoph: Meise’s family were all daughters, and he was opposed to dancing, while Kuskoph’s family were nearly all sons, and were good dancers. There was to be a big day at Woombye, and some wanted a dance, and they had it. I was unable to go, but the next time I met old Kuskoph he said; “Oh, Sharlie, you missed a great dance. I gave it to the old man (Kuskoph was about 10 years Meises senior, but he always, called him the old man). I say to him,’ ‘Now vich you dink de vurst; does that dance in de lamplight vere everyone can see dem, or does dat play ‘kiss in de ring’ outside vers no von con see dem? ” And he clears out and doesn’t answer me. I remember when the Burys were leaving Mooloolah for Nambour, they gave a dance in the barn to the settlers, and the settlers gave a return. I was at the return. We started about 7 p.m., and after each dance someone sang a song, or danced a jig; we had the good old accordion, and there was not too much room. The M.C. had a whistle, and he would select his partner, blow the whistle, and sing out, “Select your partner for the next dance,” and would parade round the barn, each couple falling in behind (woe betide anyone who got in front). Then the whistle would go again for the music to start, and you had to keep the same pace as the M.C., for there was just room to turn round and no more. We danced till daylight, with a break for supper, and then some-one lit a fire and we had breakfast and started dancing again. I left for home about 9 a.m. the following day. and they were still dancing. I believe they made two nights of it! Another great night we had was at Nambour. I rode to Woombye (nine miles) and joined a party there on a railway trolly. What a jolly party it was! On the way home, about 2 a.m. I found there was a young lady whose brother could not come at the last moment, and knowing I was going, expected me to see her home, so I had to walk home with her three miles from Palmwoods, walk back six miles to Woombye for my horse, and ride home, which I reached at midday. Fortunately, the morrow was Sunday, but the world was young then.