Narromine, 18 May 1893

When we woke up in the wagons — the train served as our provisional quarter, a gorgeous fresh morning greeted us. For a long time we stood ready fully equipped waiting for Mr. Mack. But the brave farmer was nowhere in sight and only came towards 9 o’clock with a large break, drawn by four splendid Australian horses.

Now there was not enough space for us, the servants and the rifles in the wagon so that riding horses had to be caught for some of the gentlemen in the pasture. This took again quite some time even though the assigned riders were very skilled. They followed the group of horses at full gallop and drove the selected animals towards the barn where they could be saddled and mounted.

Thus we were finally ready — in front Mr. Mack, me and multiple gentlemen on the large wagon. Then the other gentlemen on horses and a number of also mounted acquaintances and employees of Mr. Mack who were to serve as drivers. We first rushed through the small village of Narromine, then past fields until we reached the forest.

The hunting ground was on the property of Mr. Mack who owned around 220.000 ha here and is one of the richest squatters of the country. His livestock consisted of 100.000 sheep, 500 heads of cattle and 500 horses. Some areas of his property he had cleared, surrounded with solidly constructed wire fences and grown wheat on it. Sheep, horses and cattle have to find their food in the nearly interminable „bush“ where only a few fences extending over wide areas exist to prevent animals from „getting lost“.

To increase and improve pastures, the farmers use a drastic measure which in the eyes of a European used to a rational forest management looks like vandalism.

As wood has little to no value here and its collection is unthinkable, the mighty trunks are incised deeply to about a hand’s width so that they die in time in order that they do not have to be cut. This measure clears a wood rather quickly so that undergrowth and grass starts growing and great pasture land is developed. It doesn’t require much fantasy to image how sad a forest treated like this is looking: Here rise mighty trees which are already showing signs of wasting away due to their incurable wounding. There some are already close to death and, bereft of their leaf cover, with their dry wide branches starring into the air, await the wind to topple them down to their brothers already on the ground. The extermination rage of the farmers is namely especially directed against eucalyptus trees as they claim that the long extended roots of that tree destroy the ground. Pinewood, casuarines, blue rubber trees, however are mostly spared. Due to this measure the woods which are already quite open by nature have even more gaps so that one can drive through the woods nearly everywhere without the need for any built paths.

Driving through the woods requires, however, robustly built wagons, brave horses and a certain insensibility to the shocks and hits that happen constantly while driving over the wild collection of fallen tree trunks that are everywhere. I had the opportunity to learn about these tracks as well as the skill of Mr. Mack who drove in full trot and gallop over the fallen tree giants which I had considered insurmountable obstacles. We had, however, to hold onto the wagon with both hands in order not to be thrown out of the wagon and soon Mr. Mack sat in my lap, soon I in his. But this did not concern us and on it went, always at the same steady speed.

After some time the crazy drive was stopped and a war council held. During it I bagged three delightful parrots that had landed near the wagons and their feathers were in all colors of the rainbow.

According to the decision taken I first undertook a hunt on wagon for kangaroos while the riders with their greyhounds remained behind at considerable distance. In fact I soon spotted a group of kangaroos that fleeing already at a great distance in the most comic jumps through the woods. But the dogs had already spotted the game and could not be held back despite the shouts of the riders and pursued the kangaroos. In a few minutes the dogs had caught a middle size piece but were driven away with the whip and led even further back. I then managed to bring the wagon close to a kangaroo so that I could kill it with a bullet when it stood up on its hind legs. Killing my first kangaroo made me rejoice very much, especially as it was a beautiful specimen of the large species of Macropus giganteus.

After this first success it was not possible to approach within shooting distance to these timid animals. Partly due to our giant wagon with its four horses made too much noise in the dry wood, partly because the impatient dogs made the game too nervous so that Mr. Mack attempted another hunt elsewhere, realizing the futility of our efforts here.

The hunt had barely started when a rider arrived with a message that the kangaroos had escaped from the drivers and entered a neighboring area. I and two other gentlemen then jumped into the wagon which Mr. Mack drove without regard for terrain over rocks and trunks at full gallop in order to still catch the kangaroos, letting the horses run as fast as they could through the woods. I felt like sitting on a gun munition wagon that had to overcome obstacles at full speed and can only admire the robustness of the wagon. Suddenly, Mr. Mack stopped and showed me the place I should aim for. At the first moment I was not a little surprised about my position as behind me, in the direction the drivers would approach 1400 sheep were bleating, to my left was a tall wire fence, to my right Mr. Mack took up position on his large wagon and behind me there were horses grazing. But I did not have much time to reflect. As soon as the rifles were loaded as the cries and whips of the riding drivers could be heard and just afterward appeared a large group of jumping kangaroos right between the sheep herd and the wire fence. They were still about 100 paces distant when I heard a noise behind me and saw three kangaroos flee by my position. With a quick coup double I killed a very strong old female and a middle sized piece. The shots confused the group that had approached close to my position, the lead kangaroo was jumping from one spot to the other, the group following it so that I managed to bag three pieces one after another.

A larger group of kangaroos fleeing in jumps offers a very strange and comic view. One can hardly believe that these seemingly awkward animals are actually fast and can jump huge distances thanks to their well developed rear legs and their tail which they use to propel themselves off the ground. They are timid and attentive, namely the lead kangaroo is watchful and continuously turns towards all directions.

Two females had a young one each in their pouches. The kids crawled out after their mothers had been killed. One of them was hairy, the other still naked. But both looked like they would survive.

My two shooting neighbors had also fired but missed. The riders who had arrived in the mean time had bagged three kangaroos that had been caught by the greyhounds, which by the way was no easy task as an especially old kangaroo had put up much resistance against the dogs and wounded them gravely with its strong claws on the rear legs, so that this time too two dogs had been grievously wounded.

While we examined the bagged pieces and their hides were collected, behind us again approached some kangaroos which however could not be turned towards us despite the riders getting quickly into their saddles.

As in India, the sons of Albion worshipped the custom of a luncheon even in the Australian bush. We had to comply with this custom. At least the lunch was in hunting style as there was no champaign nor silver cutlery or a covered table but only an open fire on which was roasted mutton on a grill and then eaten half raw, half burnt. The time necessary for this culinary procedure I used to bag some representatives of some bird species new to me.

On the proposition of Mr. Mack, another hunt was undertaken in an open wood of eucalyptus that had an undergrowth of tall yellow grass. The riders first drove in two especially strong kangaroos one of which was shot by Clam, the other — in full flight — by a bullet of mine. At the end a kangaroo jumped out alongside the fence which I shot when it passed over the branch of a stream.

As the time was rather too advanced for another hunting drive, our hunting guide led us across the bush to a water stream in the midst of the wood,  said to be a very popular place for water fowl, especially pelicans. I asked Mr. Mack not to drive up close to the water but to stop earlier so that we could sneak up but he was of the opinion that the game was not timid and would tolerate the appearance of the wagon. My fears were however justified. As soon as we came thundering down to the water with our antediluvian wagon a large flock of the most beautiful pelicans lifted off with heavy wings and was soon high up in the air. Still I and Wurmbrand who had quickly descended from the wagon managed to shoot two of these mighty birds (Pelecanus conspicillatus) that crashed with a thud into the water which splashed high into the air. As I hoped that the flock would return to the stream again, I hid myself behind a tall tree and in fact the pelicans flew lower and lower. Unfortunately good Mr. Mack spoiled everything with the best of intentions as he came driving by in his wagon in the decisive moment to tell me to only use coarse grain.

Naturally the timid birds disappeared and were never seen again. Instead at least there was much other water fowl of all kind flying and landing in this tiny stream. I managed to observe some representatives of this rich ornis such as cranes (Antigone australasiana), then spoonbills (Platalea regia), gray herons (Ardea paeifica), cormorants and darters (Plotus novae hollandiae) as well as multiple specimens of an Australian ibis species and numerous ducks and bag some of them.

But here too Mr. Mack failed to be patient. He soon approached in his wagon and some riders close to my position so that I had to give up the hunt, accepting the futility of waiting longer. I assumed my position in the coach box — not without regret. As the quiet water in the forest was not only a beautiful spot but would have offered many opportunities to bag many interesting pieces. For about 6 km we drove in the wagon, followed by the riders through the woods until we arrived back in Narromine after sunset.

The endurance of the Australian horses put to our service today was truly admirable. They had to run continuously at a fast hunting gallop, except for the breakfast pause, without the riders going easy on them. Even on the return trip some riders were joking around and chased each other or performed some kind of Jeu de barre. Our four-horse team too had to draw the heavy break loaded with six persons during the whole day cross country at fast trot or gallop — a performance that must be appreciated even more as these horses never are feed with barley or other type of corn food but only feed themselves on the pasture. As soon as they are no longer required for use, they are set free and have to care for themselves. The horses usually are very tall, have beautiful forms but a bony incredibly strong build. Each farmer has a considerable number of horses so that at any moment one can see a group of six to eight horses in the bush. If only some are needed, they are driven either into a fenced area or one catches them with a lasso.

It is not rare to see a farmer forced to reduce the number of his horses. This is namely necessary in the sad years of drought that occurs from time to time in the whole land as it is a question of preserving some of the scarce grazing for the upkeep of some of the sheep herds so that the other livestock is reduced as much as possible. Thus on many large farms during the last drought 6000 horses were shot in the woods. The drought is the greatest terror for the Australian farmer as it causes all sources, streams and standing water to dry out, grass is withering away and the livestock perishes from hunger and thirst. Farmers have to seek to preserve at least a small part of their sheep herds to resume rearing in the following years. Every other kind of livestock, cattle, horses and sheep, are lost. This year was especially rich in rain and thus the pastures everywhere quite luxurious so that we met only healthy and well nourished herds in the woods.

Hodek who had bravely ridden alongside the drivers during the whole day also made some catches in pursuing two kangaroos separated from the large main group until he had luckily caught them. But he lost his way in the bush during this wild chase, so that we had to send out a few riders after the hunt to find him — in a short time they completed their mission successfully.

On the drive through Narromine I met Mrs. Mack who arrived with her daughter and various other ladies in a pony-drawn wagon. The eleven-year old son of Mr. Mack, George, a splendid chap and skilful cross country rider  acted as a brave driver during the day.

We spent the evening and the night again in our special train.

Links

  • Location: Narromine, Australia
  • ANNO – on  18.05.1893 in Austria’s newspapers. Having collected enough money for the creation of a Goethe monument in Vienna, there is now a discussion where it should be erected. It would take until 1900 before it was actually unveiled in its current location opposite the Schiller monument.
  • The k.u.k. Hof-Burgtheater is playing „Der Hüttenbesitzer“ and the k.u.k. Hof-Operntheater is performing the opera “Merlin“.

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