The next leg of the journey beyond the Black Stump was via the Outer Barcoo Way, following the tracks of Major Thomas Mitchell who explored the area in 1846. Mitchell grass, common to the area, is named after him. Ludwig Leichardt is also said to have passed this way, leaving behind the marker “L” on trees on his fated journey.
The road was pretty good, though appreciably narrower the further I went. Before I left Blackall I checked the road conditions. It was fine I was told – no longer flooded. And sure enough the travelling was good. And the views were priceless. A camera cannot portray the landscape in the same way as experiencing it yourself.
As I was driving along encountering cattle grid after cattle grid, though few fences, I foolishly wondered where all the cattle were. I soon encountered many a fresh or old cow pat on the road, then a herd or two, some of whom thought they would rest on the hot bitumen in the middle of the day. I also came across names of property stations I had heard about, perhaps in Outback magazine.
About halfway between Blackall and Longreach is Isisford. A colleague said to stop for coffee, but I was running late for my next appointment so didn’t get the chance. My loss.
Isisford is a place I would like to spend more time. Like Winton, it has fossils. I read about the 98 million year old fossilised crocodile found here. Remember this was once a great inland sea. About 120 million years ago, Australia was part of the great southern continent, Gondwana, that broke apart over the next, oh, 30 or so million years. I remember seeing palm trees at a gorge west of Alice Springs and being told this geological history. Amazing, isn’t it?
Isisford has something else in common with Winton – Banjo Patterson. A Bush Christening is said to be of this area –
On the outer Barcoo where the churches are few,
And men of religion are scanty,
On a road never cross’d ‘cept by folk that are lost,
One Michael Magee had a shanty.
Now this Mike was the dad of a ten-year-old lad,
Plump, healthy, and stoutly conditioned;
He was strong as the best, but poor Mike had no rest
For the youngster had never been christened,
And his wife used to cry, “If the darlin’ should die
Saint Peter would not recognise him.”
But by luck he survived till a preacher arrived,
Who agreed straightaway to baptise him.
Now the artful young rogue, while they held their collogue,
With his ear to the keyhole was listenin’,
And he muttered in fright while his features turned white,
“What the divil and all is this christenin’?”
He was none of your dolts, he had seen them brand colts,
And it seemed to his small understanding,
If the man in the frock made him one of the flock,
It must mean something very like branding.
So away with a rush he set off for the bush,
While the tears in his eyelids they glistened-
“‘Tis outrageous,” says he, “to brand youngsters like me,
I’ll be dashed if I’ll stop to be christened!”
Like a young native dog he ran into a log,
And his father with language uncivil,
Never heeding the “praste” cried aloud in his haste,
“Come out and be christened, you divil!”
But he lay there as snug as a bug in a rug,
And his parents in vain might reprove him,
Till his reverence spoke (he was fond of a joke)
“I’ve a notion,” says he, “that’ll move him.”
“Poke a stick up the log, give the spalpeen a prog;
Poke him aisy-don’t hurt him or maim him,
‘Tis not long that he’ll stand, I’ve the water at hand,
As he rushes out this end I’ll name him.
“Here he comes, and for shame! ye’ve forgotten the name-
Is it Patsy or Michael or Dinnis?”
Here the youngster ran out, and the priest gave a shout-
“Take your chance, anyhow, wid ‘Maginnis’!”
As the howling young cub ran away to the scrub
Where he knew that pursuit would be risky,
The priest, as he fled, flung a flask at his head
That was labelled “Maginnis’s Whisky!”
And Maginnis Magee has been made a J.P.,
And the one thing he hates more than sin is
To be asked by the folk who have heard of the joke,
How he came to be christened “Maginnis”!
Back on the road to get to Ilfracombe, then Longreach. It’s a long drive, best not rushed, and even better appreciated if you can stop and stay awhile in these quiet, relaxing, friendly country towns and countryside.
Also see Outback tripping:
- Part one – Longreach
- Part two – Winton, Jump-Ups and feisty steers
- Part three – beyond the Black Stump, Blackall