Memories from Betty Hipwell nee Draper

Memories and stories of Mick and Val Draper by Betty Hipwell nee Draper. My memories and stories are about my dad Cyril Leo Draper(Mick) and mum Valamia Selena Draper (Val) nee Brown.

My story starts like this, Dad from a bullocky and timber getter family and mum from a dairy farmers family. Dad lived in the Woodford area all his life and Mum from Maleny and late moved to Stanmore. They meet at a Stanmore dance, got married on 21st October 1950 and stayed in the Woodford area all their lives. Between driving bullock teams and logging and carting timber they had five children. Leslie, Dianne, Betty, Bevan and Neville. There is also 10 grandchildren and 13 great-grandchildren.

Dad loved his bullock team and that way of life very much. His eyes would light up when he spoke about the bullocks. It didn’t matter how big the team was he had a name for every one of them. If the bullocks were all down feeding in the paddock somewhere all Dad had to do was give a long loud whistle and they all  would walk up to him. Then Dad would yoke the bullocks up in their right positions. Mum didn’t have any experience around a bullock team until dad taught her to drive one after they got married.

Together they worked the great gorges back of Woodford, D’Aguilar, Mt Mee, Mt Archer and the Stanley River. Dad said he snug timber with a team of 30 bullocks but it was easier with a team of 18 to 20 bullocks. Dad was the last bullocky who drove a team of bullocks out of Brisbane when Brisbane turned 100 years old and the last bullock team driver to drive through Woodford when Woodford turned 100 years old. He could swing and crack his bullock whip over his whole team of bullocks. I wish I was there to see that. Dad passed away before he got a chance to know he has now got a grandson Colin Erbacher who is a champion whip cracker. Dad would have been very proud of Colin and the things he can do with whips.

My earliest memories of Dad and Mum logging and carting timber was not when they had the bullock teams but i wish it was. It was around 1966-1967 I was about 8 or 9 years old. I remember my youngest brother Neville in a pram. My memories and stories are not so much about where Dad and Mum logged and what sawmills they carted timber to. More about things that happened during that time that was talked about over the years on a long drive somewhere or just sitting around talking.

These memories start with a big wooden box with a tin roof, couple of windows and a door. Inside a kitchen sink a stove and a bed. I remember Dad and Mum building it. With a few choice words that I can’t repeat and a few hammers lost down the paddock and don’t forget the few beers it took to get it built. I can still hear Dad asking Mum one day ‘have you seen mu hammer?’ Mum replied ‘the one you threw down the paddock yesterday?’ Nothing more was said. They would load this big wooden box on to the back of a truck and take it to where they would be logging timber from. That’s what we would camp in when we stayed away from home. Then there was a green Bedford truck and trailer, a Massey Ferguson tractor which we called Fergie. Later on a little yellow crawler tractor.

Dad and Mum logged and carted timber from a lot of different places but I remember the Imbil days. Only because I was there amongst the excitement. You would never know what was going to happen next. Packing for a trip to Imbil for me was always a few clothes, couple of packets of PK’s and Juicy Fruit chewing gum and that’s me packed. Travelling through all the tall timber land you would see these nice looking horses just feeding amongst the trees. Dad would say some loggers would still use the Draught or Clydesdale horses to snig the logs out of places where you couldn’t get a tractor to or a truck in. The land was very rugged.

Dad and Mums first job once we arrived at the work site would be to cut down and clear trees just for out camp site. Once set up you wouldn’t see much of dad or my older brother Leslie all day till just on dark. There was this one time we were all at Imbil Dad was cutting down trees all day long. The trees started from just outside out camping area. Seemed like hundreds of these trees lying across the road. You couldn’t see dad anywhere but you could still her the chainsaw and trees falling in the distance. So my sister Diane and I thought we would play on these logs. We started jumping over them. Before we knew it we were a fair way from camp and it was getting a bit late in the afternoon. Next minute these dingoes started howling and Diane took off like a rocket. I didn’t know she could jump logs so fast. All the way back down I could hear her crying out Mummy, Mummy, Mummy all the way down to camp. I just stood there laughing it was so funny.

Dad taught us all to drive at a very young age just incase someone got hurt out in the bush. Actually there was one time Mum did get badly hurt. She almost lost on of her legs. Dad and Mum were loading logs on the timber truck out the back of Peachester somewhere I think. This log fell off the trailer straight down the skids onto Mums leg. Mum was in a very bad way for a long time. But this day at Imbil my sister Diane and I were playing in the back of our old Falcon wagon. We were playing scrabble at the time. Our younger brother Bevan wanted to play. We wouldn’t let him play unless he could spell Ornithorhynchus There was no chance he was going to spell it he was only 6 years old. Dad and Mum had the Falcon wagon wheels chocked with blocks of wood because it was parked on a bit of a hill outside our camp. I don’t know what really happened next but the car started rolling down the hill with the three of us in the back. Diane was about 12, Bevan 6 and myself about 9 years old. I remember jumping over the 2 seats into the driver’s seat thinking this is great I’m getting to drive the car. I had a bit of a steer but it was getting faster so I thought I better put my foot on the brake. Next thing I know Dad opened the door with this strange look on his face. I thought I was in trouble. He just said did you stop this? I didn’t think anything of it but it turned out I was the hero of the day.

There was another day mum had, Neville in a pram, Diane, Bevan and myself were all walking down the road to the creek to get water. On the way back there’s this big carpet snake stretched right across the road. I mean big. Mum just said we’ll wait till it goes across. So us big brave kids thought we would help this snake along a bit. With a few pokes with some very long sticks the snake moved on its way and so did we.

Coming home from Imbil always took a lot longer than it did getting there. Working way up in the bush for a few days would work up a big thirst.There always seemed to be a lot of drinking holes (pubs) from Imbil to home. I think Dad knew every one of them. Dad would say to Mum, I’ll just stop and have a couple of beers, won’t be long. He would always walk into the pub and come straight back out with drinks for us all then go back. I use to thin how long does it take to drink a couple of beers.Dad seemed to know but not always the right time to walk out of the pub again so we could get home. It was just before steam started coming out of Mum’s ears.

Once back home again it would be back to home duties for everyone. Mum would go back milking a few house cows and chores that had to be caught up with. Dad would fix anything that needed to be fixed. Then off again logging and carting timber somewhere. Us kids would be back at school till next time.

It was a hard life but I think it was a fun life. Growing up Dad and Mum had a few sayings. The ones I remember most are, ‘hurry up we got to be there to crack the whip, not when the whips are cracking’ and ‘don’t try and keep up with the Jones’, they will send you broke’. The one that stands out the most for me is ‘you don’t miss something you never had’.

As long as I can remember Dad and Mum worked very hard all their lives. Didn’t matter what kind of work Dad would be doing, Mum would be there right by his side. They both have passed away now, Dad 3.6.2004 at the age of 74 and Mum 28.11.2011 at the age of 80, but never forgotten.

Thank you Dad and Mum for the memories.

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Photos from Betty Draper’s family album

Toned down his tongue newspaper clipping

Newspaper clipping from Betty Hipwell Collection.

Newspaper heading and picture

Story from above article:

Micky is probably Australia’s youngest bullocky, he’s the son of a bullocky, he’s training his six year old son to be a bullocky, and he declares that bullock-driving is here to stay. And he means bullocky language too. I meet Micky while I was reporting the tour of the British Prime Minister (Mr. Macmillian) and his wife, Lady Dorothy. Micky was scheduled to give the famous couple a demonstration at Banyak Suka of log-snigging with bullock-team power. Before the Big Show this 8 ½ stone, 5ft 2in, master of beasts came into the Hotel Woodford to tell me about his bullocks. Young Draper left school early. He was more interested in the tall timber where his dad worked, the great gorges back of D’Aguilar, Mt Mee, Mt Archer, and the Stanley River. Put Mickey among the big ironbarks, blackbutts, red stringies, tallow-woods, and turpentines-and Micky was at home. “NOW HE OWNS A £1000 TEAM OF 20 BULLOCKS. A SNAPPY ‘UTE,’ AND A 5-TON FORD JINKER AS LONG AS 10 METER SPACES. THAT’S APART FROM 800 ACRES OF STANDING HARDWOOD HE’S NOT TOUCHING YET. Micky introduced me to his bullocks. Each has its name. They team in pairs, each animal always taking the same place in the team. Here they are (L. to R., front to rear):- Bowler and Bounder (leaders), Nick and Spot “young-only been workin’ about three months”), Bully and Redman, Nog and Diver, Spanker and Sandy, Jerry and Diamond (“second-leaders”-understudies), Nugget and Nipper, Jigger and Billy, Plum and Nimble, Captain and Jimmy.  That last pair is the pin bullocks, or the polers. They’re heavy, powerful. Have to be, because when a huge tree is felled the job of herking the log unstuck from its stump balls to the two polers. Then, of course, all bullocks must pull together for the main haul.

“Whistle-and they’ll come

Just to start at the beginning I asked Mr. Draper how to drive bullocks-“What do you do first?” “You want to go right through-from when they’re free? Righto” “By the way, always walk on the near side of bullocks. That’s the left. Same as horses” Say they’re all out grazin’ in a paddock. Just stand there and give a loud whistle-a long loud one. Leaders first-Yell ‘Hey here Bowler, here Bounder!’ They’ll all come up to the yard. They’re trained to. First Bowler will walk into place, front near side. Then yell to Bounder and he’ll walk in alongside Bowler. Yes-it’s just like soldiers formin’ up on the parade found. Keep callin’ the names in the right order, and all the bullocks will move into positions in the team. You yoke ‘em as they come in” The yoke is a hefty lump of hardwood. Both bullocks in each pair work with their necks under it. The thrust of bullock-power goes into the yoke, and on to a long chain of rods that runs right down the centre of the team, on to the pin, or pole, for hauling the load. “If you want to turn ‘em to the left as a team, yell ‘Wee Wah-Bounder’! That steers the leaders of the team, see. The rest follow. “Now, we’re going to snig a vig log. You’ve got the team in position in front of the load, they’re goin’ to pull. Yell loud, ‘Waah-Spot’! They’ll move forward.

The real art in the game

“Why Spot?” I asked the bullock master. “Ah. Young Spot’s a lively fella. He moves quick, and that gets the rest of ‘em going’. “All right. Now you have to stop the team. All you yell is ‘Woah!’ “I am now checked out on the Stop-Go-Left-Right of bullocking. “But you haven’t shown me how to sweat at them, Mr. Draper. Where does that come in?” “Ah”.- replied Mick. “That’s the real art in this game! “Now say Bowler and Bounder, your two leaders, make up their mind to go the wrong way. Say they won’t take any notice of ordinary language. “Right. Swing the ship. Yell very loud! “If the bullocks are still goin’ the wrong way, crack the whip and see if that works.” MICKY’S BULLOCK WHIP HAS A SIX-FOOT HANDLE. WALKING ALONGSIDE HE CAN SWING IT OVER THE WHOLE TEAM IN A MATTER OF SECONDS, CRACKING IT AS IT SWINGS. THE SOUND IS LIKE A .303 RIFLE. “Right, y’s bullocks are still goin’ the wrong way. That’s when you’ve got to come in with the rough stuff.” Micky Draper look a bit embarrassed-“Bad language. I mean. You have to use if some times-can’t get through without it.” Micky sometimes hits ‘em with his whip. But he’d rather try bad language than resort to physical violence. He’s fond of his bullocks. He told me the average-sized bullock team numbers 18. He’s snigged timber with a 30-bullock team, but over 18 or 20 a team gets hard to handle. I asked Mr. Draper which was more powerful-a team of say 20 bullocks, or a Caterpillar-type tractor. “Well-not 20. But give me a team of 24 bullocks, and I’ll out pull a tractor. That is on a ‘snatch’ pull-with the tractor not using a winch, just crawlin’ on it’s tracks. “But a team of bullocks’ll go where a tractor can’t get, and there’s plenty of deep gorges like that, in mountains and the back of Woodford here. Trucks too. Often I use the bullocks to snig the logs out of the right places, then load ‘em on to my truck.” The Macmillans saw Micky Draper’s bullock team load a ton-weight log on to his jinker. The beasts nudged it up the rollers like greased magic. Of course there are bullocks and bullocks.

Micky taught his wife, too

“I like a low-set bullock-a good puller. Not too long in the legs. Nicely bent in the back legs. Must have good strong shoulders and a side neck. How old? Oh- start ‘em  workin’ at about five or six years.” Mr. Draper’s wife, Valma, is also a bullock driver. Micky taught her, after they were married. Sometimes the Drapers, way back in the mountains, can’t get their truck through on its own power. So they use the bullock team to haul the truck. Micky steers the Ford. Mrs. Draper goes out front with the whip, driving’ the bullocks. “Ah-no.” grinned Mick. :She doesn’t swear very much. Had hardly ever seen a bullock team either, before she met me.” The Drapers six-year-old son, Les, likes the bullocks, too. He often goes out with his bullocky dad, who is already training him in team handling. Mr. Drapers is not the only bullock team in Queensland. I know of at least one other-in the Atherton district-and there are probably one or two more. I was impressed with his bullocks great docility, and the affection Micky obviously holds for his powerful, dumb creatures, shiny-coated pets, completely domesticated and with not a whip-mark. Swearing is to the bullocky the kernel of his unique art. Micky gave me a private recital of his bullock language. Mr. Clem Smith, of the Hotel Woodford, is thinking of recording bullocky Draper on his tape recorder. I think the tape would melt like fuse wire. Now we all know the Draper bullocks put up a copy-book performance of log-snigging before Mr. Macmillan and Lady Dorothy-all without as much as one single swearword. How? I can only quote Mr. Micky Draper’s subsequent explanation: “Ah-I give ‘em a bit of talkin’ to first.”