Narromine, 19 May 1893

Mr. Mack had invited me to visit his farm and added that it was easy to reach by a small detour on the way to the hunting ground. I accepted this invitation with pleasure as I was eager to learn about how a farmer was living in the midst of the herds, of the boundless meadows and woods, more or less cut off from the rest of the world, mostly having to rely on himself and and his family to spend his time.

Soon we had reached the farm, a very pretty single floor building enclosed by an open veranda similar to the houses of the small landowners in the Southern parts of our monarchy. The house has been built out of dried clay and is only covered with corrugated iron. The interior however is very tastefully and cosily decorated. In the parlor The whole Mack family received me in the company of some friends who had come to visit from Melbourne and Sydney.  We took a look at the well tended lovely garden in which bloomed the most beautiful flowers despite the quantity of rain that had fallen recently and tasty grapes that were offered to us which grew on an arcade. When Minister Suttor suddenly proposed that I should invited the ladies present in the house to dinner in the evening in our dining wagon, I was at first a bit consternated. As I had never hosted ladies in a dinner wagon, especially not in the Australian bush, I was intrigued by the novelty of the proposal and wanted to accept it — a decision that was eased by the agreeable prospect of being surrounded by a circle of beautiful ladies after the hard work of the day. Among these ladies, the laurels belonged to a young Australian woman with gorgeous almond-shaped eyes.

Continuing the journey to the hunting ground we passed buildings where the sheep of Mr. Mack were shorn with machines. A procedure that happens so quickly that one man is able to shear 100 sheep per day. As it was not the season of shearing, we could not see the machine in action.

On the hunting ground, the first kangaroo hunt started immediately. Unfortunately the passion to hunt the game with dogs had taken too much possession of the riders so that despite the presence of many kangaroos on the ground they managed to escape on the flanks or in the rear, so that I only killed one piece while others bagged two more.

My position this time was near a large kangaroo trap that is a place enclosed by tall fences to which lead multiple narrowing access paths. This trap serves to catch large numbers of kangaroos and then shoot or bludgeon them. If the kangaroos in an area namely become too numerous which happens easily due to their quick reproduction, the farmer has to be afraid about his pasture as the kangaroos eat the same food as the sheep. Multiple farmers in the same district then organize large joint hunts on horses where the drive the kangaroos in groups into such traps and thus bag seemingly incredible quantities.  Thus it is said that recently during the hunts of a single year in a territory of not more than 1000 to 1300 ha 60.000 kangaroos were killed. The kangaroo meat is not used but their skin, however, is a valuable article, especially for export to Europe. In 1892 144.712 kangaroos and 655.598 wallabies were killed.  As far as the fertility of the kangaroos is concerned, they seem to be the equal of our hares as otherwise the size of the population could not be so important given the constant hunting.  The animals, however, always receive fresh additions from the extended untouched lands into the inhabited areas.

The grilled or better only charred mutton filled a break today too. Then followed again a hunt for water fowl. After the experiences of the day before I did not expect much but was very pleasantly surprised by the originality of the hunt as well as the pieces caught. Having reached a long river-like stream that was meandering in the midst of the woods between trees the hunting companions wanted to rouse the water fowl by horses on both sides so that it would always fly in the middle of the stream. In the water were many dead eucalyptus trees that gave the area a strange melancholic touch. As the water surface was around 220 paces wide, one could not shoot with grain as Mr. Mack explained to me. He said — a farmer does not acknowledge obstacles — he would drive the wagon into the water, then let the horses go free and I was to shoot from the coach box. Thus said and done! After a few heavy strokes with the whip, the horses decided to draw the wagon into the water that reached at the beginning up to their shoulders and took the wagon into the middle of the water reaching more and more deep areas by partly swimming partly standing. From the coach box Mr. Mack let the horses go, jumped on the back of one of them and reached the other shore, leaving me to my fate.  As the coach box soon was half submerged, I had to take a not very agreeable hip bath. The water was icy — during the previous nights it had even frozen — and the hunt lasted over an hour. Small miseries one does not take into consideration during the heat of the battle.

I had just completed loading the rifles in my wet position when a flock of ducks flew one after the other over my head so that I could immediately open fire. But without special success as the flocks flew at great height. Who can describe my anger when right at the moment I had again shot in vain at too large a distance a black swan flew past, a specimen of this extremely species of Australian bird which I had not expected to see in the water. Fortunately there was hardly time to reflect about this dire case as only a few minutes later I could see a pair of black swans fly by and had the hunter’s luck in bagging both with a coup double. They were extremely beautiful birds with black smooth bodies, white wings and intensively red beaks.

Towards the conclusion of the hunt that had been very skilfully organized I saw another swan fly by that I shot down out of a considerable height. My total catch consisted, apart from the three swans that constituted the pièce de résistance of the day, of 12 ducks, mostly Australian shovelers, a result that was in no relation to the cartridges spent. But the ducks flew at a considerable height.

Now it was my task to get out of the water again which proved difficult. The horses were in fact brought right to the wagon by riders. But the roping was tricky as it had to be done from the coach box and the horses proved obstinate. As soon as one was finally roped in, the second tore itself off, the  third would not come near the wagon and the fourth reared up vertically into the air. Finally the wagon and the horses started turning in circles until one of the axles broke. After spending much effort and time in vain, I jumped from the coach box on a horse of one of the drivers and thus swam out of the water. After some time, they succeeded to bring both horses and the wagon back on land.

The conclusion of today’s hunt was to be another kangaroo hunt. As it was already late due to the episode in the water, Mr. Mack rushed very much and again drove in fast gallop through the woods over tree trunks so that we were left in a daze. During the drive  I saw a kangaroo sit under a pine tree at a considerable distance. A lucky bullet caught it with a shot.

In the middle of the forest where the hunt was to take place we met the riders sent ahead. They had not been idle but had caught an emu. The animal that is taller than a grown man if it stands upright lay with bound legs on the ground and its neck was bent in order to find its way into my collection. The animal tends to be extremely evasive. The riders had to chase the emu over many kilometers at the hardest gallop until they managed to catch it, so that the horses were fully spent.

The kangaroo chase failed, and due to the same reasons as the one in the morning. While there were many kangaroos but if chased too fiercely, they dispersed and escaped at the flanks so that only one piece was bagged and a second one was snatched by the dogs.

In line with my invitation the dinner took place in the wagon in the company of the ladies of Mr. Mack’s family and was quite entertaining in its relaxed joviality. Thinking about noblesse oblige and my role as the host I talked mostly with the older ladies, while my gentlemen honored the younger members at the table.

Links

  • Location: Narromine, Australia
  • ANNO – on  19.05.1893 in Austria’s newspapers. Die Neue Freie Presse reports about the financial difficulties caused in England due Australian losses. The Bank of England raised interest rates to 4 percent in order to contain the Australian crisis.
  • The k.u.k. Hof-Burgtheater is playing „Das Heiratsnest“ and the k.u.k. Hof-Operntheater is performing the ballet “Excelsior“.

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