My uncle owned a farm in the western district of Victoria and my brother and I used to go up there on holidays. I loved the farm, I loved animals, things like that. I left school in 1945 at the end of the war, and my father advised me to get a position on a small property first. We looked around and someone wanted a Jackaroo type chap that would live in the homestead at Rylstone up near Kandos. I was there for about 12 months. This was just a few cattle, this property, and they had a lot of pigs. That’s where I learned to drive a truck at 15.
I got the desire to be on a bigger property. Dad knew of a man called Arthur Vickery that owned properties around New South Wales. He interviewed me and rang the next morning and said, ‘we’d like you to start on Grong Grong station, it’s down on the Riverina near Narrandera.’ It was 22,000 acres. They had cattle and grew a lot of lucerne. I had quite a lot of experience there in learning to ride a horse properly. They give everybody their own horse when they go down there. I lived with the manager and his wife, and I was given Lola, a very tall mare. It was about 20 hands, about six ft just up to the bottom of the neck. The horse and I got on very well together. The Grong Grong Cup was raced every year in a little event. I approached a small bloke, a station hand, and said, ‘what about you being the jockey? We’ll get another chap, Jack Cassidy, to help me train Lola.’
We used to train Lola every morning about six weeks before the cup, and the jockey said, ‘she’s in great form’. The night before it rained, and it rained, and the next morning it was still raining. Lola, being a big horse, had big feet. Some say the size of a manhole cover. But of course, a horse with big feet does well in the wet weather, it’s got a fair grip. The race started, and Lola got away to a reasonably good start. She went right around the course and won the cup! A station horse won the cup!
It was unbelievable. It was only a little gold cup. I said the jockey should keep it; he’d done all the hard work. To win the Grong Grong Cup with a station hack, it was a pretty big achievement, really.
I was there for over 12 months. I enjoyed every bit of it. Then my uncle had a heart attack. The family said, ‘we’d like you to leave Grong Grong and go and look after your uncle’s farm.’ I was there for about 14 years. Derrinallum was the place and there was a mountain, Mount Elephant, with all the plains around it.
I bought a motorbike and nearly killed myself. I was here in Derrinallum and we went to a show. I took a pillion passenger and another friend of mine also took a pillion passenger. We stayed for the night session and came home. My mate’s bike got a puncture, so he had to leave the bike. The bloke that owned that bike came on the back of me. There was me, the pillion bike and pillion passenger, and another bloke. The other bloke had to find another way home. We’re going along the Camperdown to Derrinallum Road, and my lights gave out. It was a moonlit night. I thought, ‘well, I’ve got to get home.’ So we drove along, it’s only a two lane sort of thing. I could see whether there was a cow on the road or not, with the bright, bright moon. I’m doing probably 50 miles an hour because I could see. And you won’t believe that there was another motorbike without lights coming the other way! I was lucky I was in the middle of the road. He was on the wrong side of the road. His handlebars hit me there, see that lump? Broke bones and twisted the handlebars back, and I was wobbling off. We didn’t go off, but I heard him slow up and then he took off for his life. So I don’t know who it was. But I had broken bones there and we had to go home very slowly. We weren’t doing 50 miles an hour after that. But can you believe two motorbikes at night-time without lights?