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The Bullock
by [?]

There is an element of danger in dealing with cattle that makes men smart and self-reliant and independent. Men who deal with sheep get gloomy and morbid, and are for ever going on strike. Nobody ever heard of a stockman’s strike. The true stockrider thinks himself just as good a man as his boss, and inasmuch as “the boss” never makes any money, while the stockman gets his wages, the stockman may be considered as having the better position of the two.

Sheepmen like to think that they know all about cattle, and could work them if they chose. A Queensland drover once took a big mob from the Gulf right down through New South Wales, selling various lots as he went. He had to deliver some to a small sheep-man, near Braidwood, who was buying a few hundred cattle as a spec. By the time they arrived, the cattle had been on the road eight months, and were quiet as milkers. But the sheep-man and his satellites came out, riding stable-fed horses and brandishing twenty-foot whips, all determined to sell their lives dearly. They galloped round the astonished cattle and spurred their horses and cracked their whips, till they roused the weary mob. Then they started to cut out the beasts they wanted. The horses rushed and pulled, and the whips maddened the cattle, and all was turmoil and confusion.

The Queensland drovers looked on amazed, sitting their patient leg-weary horses they had ridden almost continuously for eight months. At last, seeing the hash the sheep-men were making of it, the drovers set to work, and in a little while, without a shout, or crack of a whip, had cut out the required number. These the head drover delivered to the buyer, simply remarking, “Many’s the time YOU never cut-out cattle.”

As I write, there rises a vision of a cattle-camp on an open plain, the blue sky overhead, the long grass rustling below, the great mob of parti-coloured cattle eddying restlessly about, thrusting at each other with their horns; and in among the sullen half-savage animals go the light, wiry stock-riders, horse and man working together, watchful, quick, and resolute.

A white steer is wanted that is right in the throng. Way! — make way! and horse and rider edge into the restless sea of cattle, the man with his eye fixed on the selected animal, the horse, glancing eagerly about him, trying to discover which is the wanted one. The press divides and the white steer scuttles along the edge of the mob trying to force his way in again. Suddenly he and two or three others are momentarily eddied out to the outskirts of the mob, and in that second the stockman dashes his horse between them and the main body. The lumbering beasts rush hither and thither in a vain attempt to return to their comrades. Those not wanted are allowed to return, but the white steer finds, to his dismay, that wherever he turns that horse and man and dreaded whip are confronting him. He doubles and dodges and makes feints to charge, but the horse anticipates every movement and wheels quicker than the bullock. At last the white steer sees the outlying mob he is required to join, and trots off to them quite happy, while horse and rider return to cut out another.

It is a pretty exhibition of skill and intelligence, doubly pleasant to watch because of the undoubted interest that the horses take in it. Big, stupid creatures that they are, cursed with highly-strung nerves, and blessed with little sense, they are pathetically anxious to do such work as they can understand. So they go into the cutting-out camp with a zest, and toil all day edging lumbering bullocks out of the mob, but as soon as a bad rider gets on them and begins to haul their mouths about, their nerves overcome them, and they get awkward and frightened. A horse that is a crack camp-horse in one man’s hands may be a hopeless brute in the hands of another.