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The story of Bullockys Rest

The plaque tells the story. 

Location

6 Toowoomba Rd, Crows Nest QLDMap

Bullockys Rest Park was established in 1995 in the area near the Crows Nest Police Station on the New England Highway. The park is beside the bird habitat and at the head of Applegum Walk, and has become a popular haunt for residents and tourists alike.

Over the years many stories have been told how Crows Nest was named but stalwart locals, Tom and Merle King, have long believed that the name arose from the the old teamsters who arranged to meet and camp under the crow's nest in the old applegum tree. The tree is still there, but the crows no longer nest in it.

 Tom illustrated the life of the Bullockies by telling of some of his own early experiences. His story starts back in the early 1930s, the “Depression Years”, when his father took up bullock driving while his mother and the 5 children worked the dairy farm at Virginia. After the drought forced the sale of the farm, his father continued with the bullocks.

Tom’s Story: Finding the Bullocks

As there were no cows to milk or pigs to feed in the school holidays Dad would take me out with him on the bullock team. It not only gave me an insight into a lifestyle that was fast disappearing but for a short time I was able to be a part of it. After Sunday dinner Dad and I would set off on our two ponies with our week’s tucker in a couple of split bags across the back of our saddle and we would reach our campsite mid to late afternoon. Sometimes we would have to ride 12 to 15 miles or more.

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Dad always tried to camp alongside a creek or windmill so as not to carry water too far but by the time you filled your water containers ready for the next day and packed your food away where the dingoes and ants couldn’t get it, it was usually fairly late almost time for your evening meal. We always tried to be in bed before it got too dark to save lighting a lantern. We didn’t turn on the TV in those days.

Next morning we would be up very early and have our fire going and billy on to boil as daylight was breaking and after a quick breakfast we would pack some food in one of the split bags for our midday meal and then catch our ponies, which we had hobbled the night before so that they would not stray too far, and set out to muster the bullocks.

The paddocks we worked in at that time ranged from 300 to over 600 acres so sometimes it was quite a job to muster the bullocks before you started the days work.

For quite a while I was unable to work out as we set off in the morning how Dad was able to point to some part of the paddock and say to me something like “you go over in the north west corner and you will find Spider and Trooper, take them along the fence line up on to the next ridge and you will find Jimmy and Pilot and bring them down that ridge into the hollow and you will pick up Spot and Bouncer”. After many ideas which didn’t work out I was almost at the stage of believing that Dad had some way of telling them to be there. I know this sounds silly but if you ever watched some of those old bullockies working their bullocks and talking to them and the way the bullocks responded then it doesn’t seem quite as silly as it sounds.

It wasn’t until one day we were unyoking and I went to put a bell on one of the bullocks, Dad said to me “That is not Jimmy’s bell, it belongs to Spider”.

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I just naturally said “It wouldn’t make any difference, would it?” He said “Yes, because it has a different sound to Jimmy’s bell, and I wouldn’t know which bullock it was”. When I got a chance, I tried some of the bells and sure enough they all had a different sound. I then realised that Dad not only knew the sound of all the different bells but had each sound linked to a different bullock. On top of that he had an uncanny sense not only of direction but also of distance and you always found those bullocks within 100 yards of where he said they would be.

(extracted from Tom’s address when unveiling the plaque.)

bullocky plaque
phil king401
The last load of logs to Harrison’s Sawmill on Old Womans Hut Creek.

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