National Geographic : 1936 Dec
BEYOND AUSTRALIA'S CITIES Cartage of wool to market is likewise operated with precision. Railway time tables must be considered; freight cars have to be ordered in advance, and then dispatched on schedule. Delays anywhere along the line may mean appreciable losses at the salesrooms. Many means of transport are utilized in getting the wool to its destination. Today motor trucks are in some measure replacing other conveyances, but during wet months on the black-soil plains of the Riverina, in New South Wales, they are at immediate disadvantage. BULLOCKS AND CAMELS HELP TRANSPORT WOOL Bullock teams, although painfully slow, are sure. They haul the heavy, high wheeled wagons, piled with tons of wool, over boggy terrain and on zigzag hill tracks that seem almost insurmountable (page 725). But it is a sizable bog indeed that can stop 36 tugging bullocks! Horse teams travel faster, but they re quire more attention than the bullocks. To see a 20-horse team strung out in tandem pairs or fours, straining at a miring wagon carrying ten tons of wool, is an unfor gettable display of power. Out by Broken Hill and in other semi desert regions many camels are used. Some are ingloriously hitched to wagons like horses, except that their collars are turned upside down to fit their necks. Others carry bales slung pannierwise over their backs, and as they swing along to the com mand of their Afghan drivers, one almost feels that he is somewhere in the region of the Khyber Pass, rather than in outback Australia. In a few places wool goes out by boat. But whatever may be its transport, out it goes with as great dispatch as possible. From sheep's back through auction mart to ship's hold, the wool industry has many ramifications. It is considered that in one way or another at least a third of Austra lia's population is connected with the trade. But just consider: there are about a billion pounds of this golden fleece (some times more) to be taken each year from the sheep, graded, baled, transported, sampled, catalogued, auctioned, rebaled, and carted to mills or shipped abroad! Such is the industry that in recent years has poured an average of some $250,000,- 000 into Australia's purse. In boom years its revenue has been nearly doubled. STATIONS MEASURED IN SQUARE MILES NOT ACRES "How large a station do you have?" I asked a manager one day after we had traveled miles across rolling prairie lands and had opened a dozen rabbit gates. "Oh, 155,000 acres-and a little more." Later, when he gave me the actual fig ures, that "little more" proved to be about 600 acres-quite a sizable farm in itself! Many are much larger. But the days of the "wool kings" are no more. Small own ers with flocks numbering less than 5,000 predominate. Out in the more remote regions of Queensland, Northern Territory, and West ern Australia, and in the arid center of Australia, however, cattle properties are still measured in square miles, not acres. Picture a single cattle station larger than Massachusetts and Connecticut. Look at it also as a band five miles wide ex tending all the way from New York to San Francisco; or, fantastic thought, a land path more than a mile wide all the way from the farthest side of Australia to Maine! For it is 13,000 square miles! A RANCH OF MAGNIFICENT UNFENCED DISTANCES One cattle man, whose station lies on the Queensland-Northern Territory border, told me quite casually that it was a 125 mile horseback journey from his back porch to the back line of his property. Like many of the older holdings, none of his land is fenced, so the cattle often stray far afield. During the summer months they move southward into the prevailing winds to rid themselves of the myriad flies that pester them. Consequently, the station hands often have the task of riding 250 miles to get their stock back to their own property. The herds also may wander forty or fifty miles in the direction of storms if they lack water. Early one morning I flew out to a cattle station, 300 miles into the Queensland in terior, landed in a field near the house, and taxied up to the gateway. The station is not large as many of the inland stations run, but it is a goodly block of land-1,200 square miles-pasturing 25,000 head of stock!