Memories of a bullocky
By Daisy Baker,
February 22, 2017
Thumbing through photographs of a bullock league display at Legerwood in 1995, Rusty Richards recalls the thousands of spectators who came to watch a team of bullocks pull a fully-loaded log truck.
“Bullock drivers came from all around the state and the mainland to take part in the event,” he says.
Pointing to a pair of young red bullocks he had just started training before the display, he says bullock driving is by far his favourite working memory, which he began on his parents’ tree-surrounded farm at Musselroe Bay when he was young.
“See how my fingers are all bowed – that’s from handling them for so many years and the bows and chains around their neck.”
He says he would love to see another bullock display but it would be unlikely given there are only three remaining bullock teams in the state and none in the North-East.
Mr Richards says as a young man he spent many nights at dances at the Goulds Country hall and the Ringarooma hall, and it was at one of these dances in 1961 that he met his wife Mary.
Throughout his 90-years spent living and working in the North-East, Mr Richards says there have been many changes in the district, notably in the forestry industry where the use of machinery has replaced the cross-cut saws that Rusty and his two brothers once used.
There was no electricity on his parents’ farm, where he and his 11 siblings grew up, until the mid-1980s when a generator was installed.
Mr Richards laughs, remembering days of kerosene lamps on the farm and the 100-kilometre-long journey his mother used to make to St Helens to deliver butter and cream on a horse and cart.
“She used to cart the cream once a week and she used to leave at 2AM so she could get to St Helens to get the cream to Launceston,” he says.
“In winter time, when she was on the way back from delivering the cream or butter, there was a river she had to cross and if it was too swollen she’d just camp on the river bank until it went down far enough for her to cross and get home.”
Bullock driving was one of the many skills he learned working on his parents’ farm, which he continued until he was 80 when he sold his bullocks.
For many years, he used a team of bullocks to get hydro poles from forests around the North-East, camping in the bush wherever he was working.
“Getting hydro poles was the best job I ever had and I did that right up until I was 80,” Mr Richards says.
“A bloke used to come and help me a bit as I got older and slower and I’d get a load of thirty a week.
“We’d cut thirty on the weekends and bark them, ready for me to pull out the next week.”
He says his bullocks became like children and he has fond memories of the years working with them.
“I’d like to have these little fellas again,” he says, turning back to a photo of his red bullocks at the display in Legerwood.