Since my arrival at the farm, not a day goes by where I do not learn or experience something new. Some days are definitely more eventful than others, especially the days I went cattle mustering for the first time, and pig hunting for the first time.
Growing up I’d ridden horses a few times. As a kid I spent a few summers going to petting farms with my cousins, I used to absolutely love going. The pot-bellied pigs were one of my favourites to see. The pony rides were also fun. Now, I know riding on a pony, in circles around a pole, is not quite the same as riding a full sized horse around thousands of acres in the outback, but it’s still experience. I’d been on a proper horse, maybe three times that I could think of. Two of those were trail rides when I was fourteen, the third time was nearly two years ago while visiting friends in Eastern Canada. One of my best friends was working at a barn, breaking in horses, while I was visiting, I went to the barn with her. I had the opportunity to take one of the horses out for a short trot around the ring. Again, not quite the same as chasing cows around the Australia outback.
When Monday morning rolled around and Kate informed me we would all be going mustering on Thursday, I asked if I would have a chance to get up on a horse before-hand, just to get a feel for it. She threw me a bit of a smile and told me, “no, probably not. You’re just going to get thrown into it.” And that’s exactly what happened.
Thursday arrived quickly, and I was thrilled and a bit nervous to be going mustering. I pulled on my jeans, and a long sleeved shirt Kate had lent me. I laced up my shoes, tied my hair up, and make sure by ball cap was nice and snug on my head. I grabbed my camera and made my way to the house, ready for the day.
“Is that the only hat you have?” Kate asked when I walked into the house. When I said it was, she pulled down o brimmed hat from a rack and handed it to me. With a cowboy hat on, I was really ready for mustering! We piled in the ute and drove down to the yard where our horses were saddled up and waiting for us.
I was introduced to Candy, the horse I would be riding for the day.
She was a beautiful horse, very calm, and she didn’t cause me any problems. She was very slow though so I was constantly having to nudge her to catch back up with everyone. She didn’t have much personality, but she knew what she was doing when it came time to muster. That was a great thing considering I didn’t have the slightest idea. I was often just told to go “that way”, and to “get those cattle over there”. There wasn’t much more instruction than that, but watching everyone, I learned.
I thought at first that mustering would be fast paced, really hectic, chasing cows in circles. It was rather relaxing though. Walking them, so they burned fewer calories, standing in one spot and showing them they cannot walk in your direction, encouraging them to head towards the yards. It was four and a half hours of walking the horse alongside cattle, making sure they didn’t stray off the trail.
I was instructed to bring up the rear, making sure no cows were left behind. Everyone was up much further than I, when tow of the bulls started to fight. they started clashing heads and shoving each other around. All the other cattle kept moving up along the trail as I stayed behind with those two. I had no idea what to do, worried that they would attack me if I tried to get in too close I would just take a couple steps at a time, trying to edge them towards the group. It wasn’t working very well. Luckily, Brent noticed what was happening and sent the dogs back. These little short haired collies came tearing down the paddock. They started circling the bulls, darting in and out from under their heels. The two beasts stopped picking fights with each other and set their minds on avoiding the dogs. It didn’t take long before they were back in line and making progress to the yards once again.
We made it back to the yards and had all the cattle nearly in, when one kicked up a stink. He went a little mad and didn’t like what was happening. Maybe he knew he was about to be sent off for beef, or maybe he was just moody. He turned from the group and went charging. Kate and Eva moved to the far end of the lot, getting out of his way. I moved Candy out of the way too. The beast charged right into the barbed wire fence. shoulder down he pushed and pushed until he snapped the fence, then he took off running. David and Anthony took off after him, the dogs easily keeping pace.
The rest of us made sure the rest of the cattle were in the yard and no more were about to come charging. Then we waited. It wasn’t too long before the men returned with the problem maker and had him locked away with the rest of the cattle. The dogs, tuckered out from all the excitement, ran straight to the water trough and hopped in for a swim.
All in all it was a fantastic day, and by then end of it I was agreeing to head out pig hunting on Saturday.
The weekend arrived quickly and I prepared for another day of learning and adventure. I had never been out hunting of any kind. Never shot an animal, never trapped an animal, and especially never stabbed one. I suppose there is a first time for everything though.
Now, before I get too far into this, I must explain that feral pigs are quite a problem out in rural Australia. They cause a number of problems for farm owners and have had a rather large population boom recently. They’re a pest out this way, and it’s a problem farm owners like to keep under control. If no one on a property pig hunts, people are often brought in to do the pig hunting. Can’t let their populations get too out of hand.
With that aside, let me get into it.
I rose with the sun on Saturday, looking forward to my pig hunting adventure. I was quite unsure about the whole situation as I am well aware of how soft I can be. I was worried I would feel extremely guilty, and possibly cry, while out killing pigs. That would be awkward. It was something I wanted to try though, get out and try something new. Just to see.
Anthony knocked on my door as the clock edged towards noon, and we hopped in the ute to head to the Silver Plains house. Brent and Cassandra were up and about on the property when we arrived. I was introduced to all their dogs, but of course, I don’t remember any of the names. Cassandra and I sat in the shade and chatted while the two men fiddled around with an old truck for a couple hour. Cassandra is much closer to my age than Kate and David, so it was nice to have someone to have a laugh with.
Before the afternoon was over we loaded up the ute with the dogs, an esky (the Australian word for cooler) filled with beer, Cassandra and Brenton’s two kids, and the four of us. Brent, his son, Brody, and and Anthony, were sitting in the cab of the ute, while Cassandra, Chloe, her daughter, and I, sat atop the dog cage on the back. We took off driving down the dirt road, the warm sun above and a cold drink in hand.
We drove from one paddock to the next, keeping out eyes peeled for feral pigs. We checked out different watering holes, hoping the would retreat there for a drink on such a hot day. It wasn’t long before we saw a slew of them huddled together in the distance. We had to stop to go through a gate and the pigs saw us. They took off running through the paddock, so Cassandra released the dogs.
The three dogs took off running after the pigs, knowing to go after the biggest one of the group. We crossed through the gate and drove in the direction the pigs had run. There was an awful squealing coming from inside a patch of trees. The dogs had one.
We stopped the ute and I jumped off the back. We took off running through the bush, the noise getting louder by the second. We came into sight of the three dogs, they were holding down a rather large sow. The pig continued to squeal as the dogs held it down by its ears. Brent ran over and grabbed the pig by the hind legs and lifted them into the air. he flipped the pig over so she couldn’t fight back as much, then pulled out the knife. It was a bit sickening watching it sing into the soft flesh. It was a quick death and the pig sank back to the ground.
We all crouched behind the sow and posed for a photo before hopping back onto the ute and heading off to find another pig.
I did actually have to put an effort into not shedding a tear as we drove around looking for the next pig. I felt guilty, and sad about the situation, but I couldn’t help the excitement that came with it all too. I could feel the adrenalin running through me, I had to take a moment to consider my sanity. Is this how serial killers start out?
We caught two more pigs that day, and that was a full on rush. we circled a group of them, getting a bit closer with each passing second. The dogs took off, each after a different pig, and we made our rounds to catch them. It was too fast paced for me to jump in and get one myself, but I was okay with that. Maybe next time.
It was a very full on day and I was exhausted by the end of it. We got home around eight and it wasn’t long before I was fast asleep. Luckily, I had no dreams of pigs that night.