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4-302 (Original)

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author,male,Demarr, James,78 addressee
Narrative Discourse
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Public Written
Ward, 1969
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I may as well state here how we conducted our camping operations. As near as I can remember, it was the early spring of 1840 (for my journal of 1845 has, unfortunately, very few dates), when we commenced our journey. Grass was abundant, the natural grasses of the country, everywhere green and beautiful, so we had no difficulty as regards food for the stock. The road, all the way to Port Phillip, was a wide and well-beaten track, but a bush-road only. Rivers and gullies and deep beds of creeks, had to be crossed in whatever way we found practicable. We always encamped for the night where there was food and water, making easy stages, about twelve or fourteen miles a day, sometimes more, sometimes less. On arriving at our camping ground, the sheep would be allowed to spread out and feed. The bullocks would be unyoked, some of them hobbled in the fore feet, one or two having a bell round their necks, and allowed to feed also. Our cook would make a fire of the dead wood lying about, of which there was always plenty. One man would take charge of the sheep, whilst the rent of us would cut down sapling gum trees, and with them make a temporary bough yard. Into this yard the sheep were driven at night, and although it was but a slight fence, they seldom left it, particularly after we had been some time on the road.
After all this work was completed, our supper was made ready and eaten, and after the usual yarns and smoking, we would lay down our beds in different places, some outside the bough yard, and others near the drays, the dogs, as a matter of course, lying anywhere, and so we passed the night. All these arrangements had to be carried out, mainly on account of the dingoes or native dogs, which, if allowed to rush into the sheep-fold, would have scattered the sheep for miles, and in other ways committed terrible havoc among them. When it rained, which it seldom did, we had to make temporary shelters of sheets of bark, lay our mattresses on the top of broken boughs, or on sheets of bark, and generally we remained at that station, two, three, or more days, until the rain had passed over. [208] Old bushmen know well how to meet these contingencies. Sometimes we would have white frosts in the night, and on the following morning our blankets would be covered with frost. Yet the days following these frosts were sure to be bright, sunny, and cloudless, and an hour after sunrise it would be a pleasant summer's morning. Breakfast would be got ready and dispatched, after which, the sheep with two men would travel on whilst we who were left behind would dry, or partially dry, the bedding in the sunshine, pack them on the drays, and follow the sheep.
We often hear in England of the disastrous consequences resulting from sleeping in damp beds. I have known when we have had a continuance of rainy weather, our bedding would never be dry. That was an uncomfortable time, but never, so far as I know, left behind any bad effects.
We had plenty to eat, plenty of salt beef, and often fresh mutton, bought at the stations we passed. Plenty of tea, which we used lavishly whenever we had the opportunity to make it. Our bread was 'damper', the name given to the bread used by travellers, when made in the bush. [209] Thin cakes, baked on the top of the hot charcoal beaten down flat for the purpose. No yeast or barm was wanted, only a little salt. And 'damper', when made from colonial wheat, was the Sweetest bread I ever ate, unless it was Spanish bread, which, many years after this time, I have eaten in Southern Spain. And it is made from similar wheat, and made in much the same way.
Our drays were travelling stores, and contained, except fresh meat, everything that we wanted. Bushmen are great tea-drinkers, and no old bushman will dispense with his tea if possible to obtain it, and we were, when encamped, always making and drinking tea. [210]
I enjoyed the life we led uncommonly, and all the journey was in excellent health and spirits. Nearly every day would bring us to a fresh scene. And the freedom and independence of such a life, the total absence of carking care, and the almost daily succession of bright skies and cheering sunshine, made the journey thoroughly enjoyable by all of us.