National Geographic : 1986 Jan
throughout Australia. His kangaroo-hide low boot with elastic sides is the footwear most often used in the bush. There are straps on the boot with which to pull it over the foot-pull it on and then rake it through the red dust, rest it in a stirrup, walk softly in it, as Peter Cannon did, so as not to let the croc odile know you're after him. Cannon squeezed the strands of barbed wire together, and I climbed through the opening behind him. He put a finger to his lip. In his other hand was a rifle. I had once again been drawn to the far north of Queensland, this time to visit with Peter and Julia Cannon on the cattle station he manages, a moderate-size spread, by Queensland standards, of 600,000 acres. And now we were after a 14-foot crocodile that had taken up residence in one of the wa ter holes on the station. Moving in silence, we came to the top of a rise. The rifle was raised, but there was no crocodile to be seen. "He's in there," Cannon said, looking down on the water hole. "I've been after him for 18 months now." T HE CATTLE STATION is called Rutland Plains. It includes 30 miles of shoreline of the Gulf of Carpentaria on the west coast of the Cape York Peninsu la. There is an airstrip on the property, along with roads that carry through a wilderness throbbing with the movement of wildlife. The cattle herd on Rutland Plains numbers about 10,000. Peter Cannon, a young Englishman, has managed the station for several years, utiliz ing those 600,000 acres as a suburbanite would a backyard garden patch. "This isn't such a large station," he said. "The one next door is almost two million acres." On the Cape York Peninsula, "next door" more often than not is a brave journey away. Schooling is by radio ("Good morning, class. Over."), and so is most medical care. The station is the world, and for Peter and Julia Cannon, together with their two young chil dren, Phoebe and Padraic, the world is a beautiful place. They live in the property's main house, a handsome structure once used as a pub be fore it was taken down and reassembled at Rutland Plains in 1940. Sharing the quarters with them is a small dog that appeared to be on the point of collapse when I first saw it. Julia explained: "He was bitten by snakes three times last week, and then he fell into the cattle tick dip." Unlike most of the stations in the north, Rutland Plains is fenced. Still, in effect, the cattle are hunted at muster time. "We mus ter one paddock clear and then go back and shoot what's left," Cannon told me. "Then Sprucing up for the Goombungee DebutanteBall, Wendy Owen (left, at center) and half-sisterAlitia check father Graham'sbow tie. Oscar,the pet camel, kibitzes the lessons of KristinaSchrader(above left) of SandringhamStation, who studies by radioon the School of the Air.