Living in the Australian bush. Logging in Australia

My time living in the bush.

I was nearly three years old when we moved to "the bush" from Melbourne, a large Capitol City of 4 million on Australia's south Eastern coast.

Dad had just come back from World War 2 where he had been a "chocolate soldier" or "choco" as the diggers were fond of calling volunteers.(Career soldiers mostly from WW1 were called diggers,) I guess because they were good at digging in or making trenches.

In the army heavy transport division he was able to work on large trucks, tanks, Bren gun carriers etc. He also become an instrument technician in the army. He used both new skills to open an earth-moving business and a small watchmaking business on the side. The watchmaking was to remain his solace until he died at 77.

The earth-moving business consisted of a second-hand Caterpillar bulldozer, a huge Austin low-loader to carry it on and large premises in Type St. Richmond, an inner city suburb.

Business was good, so he bought an even bigger Mack truck left behind by the America's who had come over to help us fend of the Japanese air force that almost wiped out Darwin our Northern most city with one air attack.The Mack was a big American interstate highway rig, and was a big truck in Australia just after the war.

Living in the bush.

With my daughter in 1966 outside our house in a small Victorian logging village. Click for full size pictures.
With my daughter in 1966 outside our house in a small Victorian logging village. Click for full size pictures.
Early log truck.
Early log truck.

The big American Mack had a really strong motor, with engine features only found at the top of the engine market such as sodium filled valve stems and other new innovations that made it faster and better than what we were used to here, and although there were a few large English trucks here such as giant 20 tonne Thornycrofts, they were mainly used to haul pulp wood as they were too cumbersome in the logging tracks.

A few years later a lot of smaller Mack, Diamond T Hercules, REO, Dodge and Internationals started to be imported. Many of these were used as log trucks, slowly replacing the smaller Fords, Bedfords, Austins and Morris that were only made to carry 3 to 5 ton.

I can tell some stories about trucks like these crawling out of the bush carrying 13 ton of wet logs in low-low gear, their motors screaming while raring their front wheels off the road.

You could hear log trucks coming out the steep bush logging roads from miles away.The poor old side valve six and V8 motors could be identified by their engines screaming their head off at maximum revs, the sound of the motor changing note as it wound up the rubber side walls of the tyres, twisted the axles and tail-shaft then returned the energy to the road. Needless to say, they used to break a lot, and needed engine rebuilds at least monthly if working the deep bush tracks.

The logging area in places was so steep and rugged that a huge winch sat on the outside corner of one major road where the timber was massive but the terrain too steep to use a dozer to snig or pull logs out.

Log truck

A log truck with the "Jinker" loaded. Most of our trucks used a pole instead of steel for the jinker shaft.
A log truck with the "Jinker" loaded. Most of our trucks used a pole instead of steel for the jinker shaft.

The Mack gave dad the edge. With a true heavy haulage truck that was rare and not an adaptation, business got even better when people got back to work after the war building houses for returned soldiers, sinking dams for farms and moving big equipment for other contractors.

I cannot remember the ride I had in the Austin low-loader when dad drove me to the Royal Children's Hospital after I had pulled a full pot of boiling tea off the table with the tablecloth and got badly burnt.

I recovered ok, I don't know how the hospital staff recovered from having a huge low-loader complete with a big Caterpillar bulldozer on the back race in to the emergency department!

No problem for dad. He just backed it all the way out on to the street as soon as I was inside.

Then a few week later the life we were to have changed in a second.

Dad got blown to pieces by a stick of gelignite and some detonators he was carrying. He survived mainly because a gutsy woman stranger had tied her stockings around his arm and leg where arteries were emptying him like a faucet.

He was taken to a Melbourne hospital where they started rebuilding him. It took eighteen months.

While he was recovering he had lost his business.

No insurance in those days, no work-cover or other income to feed the five of us.(mom dad us twins and my older sister.)

We would not survive and prosper in the city as intended before dad's accident. so dad took us to the bush.

The housing shortage had helped to drive the logging boom in Gippsland in the nineteen fifties, so we moved to Gippsland and dad started logging.

My father borrowed two draft horses, got logging rights to a forest area, found a market for his smaller logs as light poles for the S.E.C (State Electricity Commission) and started making money again.

He made enough from royalties to buy a single cylinder Fowler Marshal Bulldozer to haul the light poles. It had a good winch and was reliable if somewhat unconventional.

Logging then was a dangerous business to be in. Many were killed, crushed by logs, or in bulldozer and truck roll-overs, killed by "sailors" (huge limbs that can suddenly break off 20 meters from the ground and "sail" quietly down on you. Deadly and silent killers.

You must know what type of tree you are under and with some trees you always keep your eyes up. Everything you do until you are out from under that tree is seen in peripheral vision only.

On hot still days it is common for some trees to just quietly drop a huge limb.

When logging, dad was always mindful of the trees and seldom put a scratch on a sapling that was second growth, meaning new trees that regrow after a fire or logging. He had a list of reasons which I learnt from him and partly from experience.

Reasons not to bump a tree with a bulldozer.

  1. If any part of the dozer hits a tree it will scar it, which may impede it's normal growth.
  2. As the blade, winch and tracks are the most likely to make contact, do not swing the dozer around trees, ease the hydraulic steering don't pull in jerks as some do.
  3. If you bump a big tree, a sailor may get disturbed, it can weigh up to several tons and if it falls on you death is a likely outcome.
  4. You may disturb somebody's home for no good reason, and they may sting you, bite you, piss on you etc. depending on species. A big gum tree can be home to thousands.
  5. It demonstrates clearly that the dozer operator is a loser.

I soon learnt to feather the controls when turning the dozer so as not to turn too far and wound a tree. Keeping the dozer blade away from all the trees that were un-marked for felling and left for regrowth, or because they were old Forrest unharmed by fire.

In those times the Forestry Commission as it was then called, would give you an allotment of trees you could fell, and you would go though the bush and mark the ones you would fell for timber.

By six years of age I could do a lot of adult jobs including handle the dozer on the landing.

A bulldozer requires less strength to operate than a car or truck.

Everything is hydraulic, so lifting up a huge blade or operating the winch, even turning the dozer can all be done by a child. I loved it. All the Caterpillar bulldozers had wonderful responsive hydraulic controls and were the best to operate of all the bulldozers.

All operations are accomplished by moving one or two of many little levers that open and closed valves, or by standing on pedals.

I never got badly hurt in the bush, and I was taught to just forget about small wounds, or put some young bracken-fern juice on it if it was a wasp or bee sting that really hurt. Spider bites were ignored, along with other small daily bonuses like mosquitoes.

I will admit it may have seemed that life was a bit harsh at times, but you live how you have to. We all do. Now that I have travelled and seen a bit of the world, it does not seem a big deal by comparison to how the rest of the world gets along.

A small bulldozer

small bulldozers were easier to maneuver and less likely to sink in the mud when logging.
small bulldozers were easier to maneuver and less likely to sink in the mud when logging.

Koala bear.

Working near Koalas used to be difficult. Fortunately they only eat leaves from one type of eucalyptus tree that is never used for timber.
Working near Koalas used to be difficult. Fortunately they only eat leaves from one type of eucalyptus tree that is never used for timber.

Australian bush and outback

The Australian bush and the Australian outback are two entirely different environments that have little in common. When I refer to the bush it is the high country with native forests I'm talking about.

Australians have always called the outback the bush as a catch all phrase to mean a long way from the big city.

The outback has large salt lakes and hundreds of miles/kilometers of sand with soaring heat and wild camels,. Place names like Uluru (formerly Ayers rock,) Alice Springs, Mount Isa, that's the outback.

Uranium mines, copper mines,silver mines, Gold mines, Iron ore mines with massive distances between many of them.

When Australians refer to the bush it can mean the outback or the thickly forested timber country in the states of Tasmania, Victoria and New South Wales with cold winters and hot summers and extreme in it's own way with huge bush fires threatening every summer.

It can also mean the sub-equatorial forests in parts of Queensland, the forests of South Australia or even Western Australia.

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Comments 28 comments

TKIMWRSVC profile image

TKIMWRSVC 7 years ago from United States

wow, what an awesome hub, pales our lives now. What a great rite of passage for you. My compliments.


SiddSingh profile image

SiddSingh 7 years ago

Hi Earnest,

Great hub mate! I could almost see in the mind's eye an enormous bulldozer backing off from the emergency entrance into the street. Really enjoyed it!


goldentoad profile image

goldentoad 7 years ago from Free and running....

thanks for the read!


Jewels profile image

Jewels 7 years ago from Australia

We have something in common (apart from being Australian, and I live in Victoria), but when I was young I pulled a bowl of hot soup off the kitchen table all over myself - ended up in hospital too! Had to share. Nice to read you.


JamaGenee profile image

JamaGenee 7 years ago from Central Oklahoma

It's not unusual in rural America to see 10-yr-old farm kids driving tractors and such (even the family pickup), but a 6-yr-old operating a bull dozer? No way! He'd be whisked off to a foster home and the parents to jail for (at least) child endangerment. Child labor laws might also factor in somewhere. In spite of daily attacks by mosquitoes and spiders and whatever else, how lucky for you to have had the opportunity to work with your dad at such an early age!


earnestshub profile image

earnestshub 7 years ago from Melbourne Australia Author

Thanks for reading Goldentoad.

Jewel, There are quite a few Australians here it seems. Thank you, and I love Victoria.I hope you recovered fully from your burns. I still get dry skin where I got burnt, but it's no big deal.

Thanks for reading JamaGenee.

I did have my dad on board the dozer if we were off level ground until I was about 9 when I started loading trucks with the blade off landings, and started snigging (dragging a heavy item along)smaller logs and driving trucks in to the access roads to the log landings.


logic,commonsense 6 years ago

fascinating story! Thanks for sharing this experience! It helps others gain perspective!

What were the different kinds of trees your father logged?


earnestshub profile image

earnestshub 6 years ago from Melbourne Australia Author

Thanks for the nice comment logic. We logged mostly messmate, stringybark, mountain ash blackstump, Mountain gum, snow gum.

All local hardwoods.

One of these mountain ash trees was measured at 22m (72ft) girth! A true giant.

Some of it damaged by fire was used for paper pulp too. At one time in the fifties we had 180 pulp trucks coming off the mountain daily.


SomewayOuttaHere profile image

SomewayOuttaHere 6 years ago from TheGreatGigInTheSky

wow! life.......and good memories of your dad!


earnestshub profile image

earnestshub 6 years ago from Melbourne Australia Author

Thank you SomewayOuttaHere.

You are so right. Great memories of a very strong and unusual character.

Dad was a one off.


Joy56 profile image

Joy56 6 years ago

now i know you a little better. Hope the tea not scar you for life. That must happen to so many children...... just take your eyes of them for one second. My daughter has just been visiting family in Australia, they have photos of koala's... i would love to see a real koala. I had a toy one, and in fact still have it somewhere.


earnestshub profile image

earnestshub 6 years ago from Melbourne Australia Author

Thank you for the sweet comment Joy.

I had the scars for a while.

I'm glad your daughter got to visit Australia.

Koalas are very sweet to look at I agree.

In the wild, they make horrible sounds at night, pee on you when you go too close to their eucalypt tree, and smell like last years dinner!


Peggy W profile image

Peggy W 5 years ago from Houston, Texas

What an amazing hub! As you say, life can change in a split second. The life of my family was forever changed when a semi-truck driver fell asleep at the wheel and plowed into the travel trailer, then station wagon and once again the trailer (they were jackknifing!) on a New Jersey turnpike many years ago while we were on vacation. The 5 of us came out alive and my dad was the one most severely damaged. Like you...a move...occupation change, etc. took place.

Really enjoyed hearing your story! Rating it up!


earnestshub profile image

earnestshub 5 years ago from Melbourne Australia Author

Thanks Peggy!

Did you write about the accident and the outcome? If you have, I may have missed it. I will take a look.

I felt a pang of empathy from reading your comment.


Peggy W profile image

Peggy W 5 years ago from Houston, Texas

No...I have not written about it. Perhaps another day. It certainly changed the direction of our lives as it did yours.


attemptedhumour profile image

attemptedhumour 5 years ago from Australia

Wonderful stuff again Ern, taking us into that new world without getting bitten. You had that rough upbringing but look how normal you have turned out. Um.......


earnestshub profile image

earnestshub 5 years ago from Melbourne Australia Author

Thank you for reading Keith. It was a very different life to many. I did enjoy the closeness of the wild birds and animals in the bush. It was a relatively rare day that I did not see something unusual or interesting. Gave me a great zest for life!


Paul R 5 years ago

Your Dad was a real man ...


earnestshub profile image

earnestshub 5 years ago from Melbourne Australia Author

Thank you Paul. I appreciate your comment. Dad saw life as what he could enjoy sharing, so he enjoyed a lot of it. Not long before he died he said to me that he had a wonderful life.


SimplicityStew profile image

SimplicityStew 5 years ago from USA

Great writing! Visiting Australia is on my bucket list. This story gave me a view I hadn't envisioned before. Good luck in all your endeavors. I mean that sincerely, Effa


earnestshub profile image

earnestshub 5 years ago from Melbourne Australia Author

Thank you Effa, I hope you make it out here, it is a very diverse country with very modern infrastructure and masses of open space, you will love it and it's people. :)


salt profile image

salt 5 years ago from australia

Earnest, Ive always found you kind and polite. I do like your story. I am though a bit of a greenie. I think there are so many places that need to be preserved and maintained.

There was an accident a few years ago, when I worked at the Dust Diseases Board, one of the girls was crying. I went and comforted her to find out that her brother and cousin had died in an accident, they had taken on a wood carting job on a contract, not well paid and the brakes had failed. Both died.

I was the greenie who sat opposite her. I had my little tree on my desk etc. She was from a logging family. When she came back from her time for the funeral and family based matters, she said they had planted trees for the boys and from what I could see, the experience had truly changed her and her families feelings about forestry and conservation.

Taking a job to pay the bills is what we are told to do. When that job is unsafe, unhealthy and causes such harm, is it worth it? And is it criminal of us as a society to expect someone to take on that job?


earnestshub profile image

earnestshub 5 years ago from Melbourne Australia Author

Thank you for your thoughtful comment Salt.

It probably was criminal.

At the time we were logging, many jobs were dangerous. The vehicles were dangerous, rigging was dangerous, (I rigged on a power station for a year.) Driving a milk truck was dangerous, (heavy, lousy brakes and handling.) When I look at modern log trucks and the new machines used for felling with guarded cabs and roll cages I think it is pretty safe.

We had to earn a living in what was at that time a harsh environment to do so.

I share your concerns for the forest as did my father, and am pretty green myself. We have cars, as a necessity with small children, but even the people mover is just 2.5 liters.


kimberlyslyrics 5 years ago

You are my inspiration I swear.

Earnest, for real thank you for sharing this part of your life, what a great write also

Bravo

Bravo

XO

kimberly


earnestshub profile image

earnestshub 5 years ago from Melbourne Australia Author

What a lovely comment! Thank you! :)

Personally I am in awe of your writing skills.


iwanzz profile image

iwanzz 4 years ago from Tasikmalaya

useful


Justin 4 years ago

I am currently working in a fiction book that takes place in Murcherson Victoria in the sixties. Can you provide me with any information on bush horse races and the background setting(s) i.e., local country fairs. I need to know, as accurately as possible the type of horses, the type of participant, the prize if any, and the lenth. How would this be set up. I'd prefer if it wasn't a traditional track. It has to be roughnect, because they'll be competing against an eleven-year-old ridinga blue ribbon champion thoughbred. I would be in your debt if you could point me in the right direction with as colorful a backdrop as humanely possible. Fond regards, Justin(US)


BekaS1974 3 years ago

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