The feat of climb­ing Baga

The Morning Bulletin - - LOOKING BACK -

THE ori­gins of the name “Mount Jim Crow” are un­clear, though there is no doubt over the term’s deeply racist roots.

“Jim Crow” be­came the ver­nac­u­lar for racial se­gre­ga­tion laws in the United States from the 1940s un­til the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Vot­ing Rights Act of 1965.

This week, the Darum­bal el­ders were re­lieved for the land­mark, and nearby Mount Wheeler, to be re-named.

Mount Jim Crow will now be called Baga.

In Fe­bru­ary 1886, an es­say on the “feat of scal­ing Jim Crow” was pub­lished in The Morn­ing Bulletin. An edited ex­tract fol­lows:

ON the road to the pop­u­lar wa­ter­ing-place of Yep­poon there is no more at­trac­tive ob­ject than Jim Crow Moun­tain.

While the coach halts at the Old Dairy Inn, you can see the tree-crowned sum­mit of Jim Crow down the road the coach goes, peep­ing out from amid the bush, like the pull of a curly-headed imp from among en­wrap­ping blan­kets.

As the coach pro­ceeds on its jour­ney, and just be­yond Jim Crow Creek, you have the pe­cu­liar emi­nence of the same name ris­ing on the left, about a quar­ter of a mile from the high­way.

Its sides are steep and pre­cip­i­tous, and as you twist your neck, and turn your face up­wards, so as to get a good view of them, the pines on its top seem to be kiss­ing the clouds, or min­gling with the cerulean blue of the at­mos­phere.

When you reach the ridge near Cowan’s home­stead, on the re­turn jour­ney from Yep­poon, Jim Crow stands out in bold re­lief in the fore­ground, and at one part of its front a bare ragged rock looks like the ru­ins of an old cas­tle.

From the hills be­side Yep­poon; from the ris­ing grounds over by Mount Wheeler; from the north­ern slopes of the Berserk­ers, and from the em­i­nences near Yaamba, Jim Crow is al­ways an eas­ily recog­nis­able and con­spic­u­ous ob­ject in the land­scape.

As seen from the high­way it ap­pears to be in­ac­ces­si­ble, but we have heard that the sanc­tity of its sum­mit has been des­e­crated by hu­man foot­steps.

What one man has done an­other may dare, so if you care to join us, kind reader, we will make up a party of four, in­clud­ing your­self, and es­say the feat of scal­ing Jim Crow.

Mak­ing up our pack of im­ped­i­ments, and putting the horse in the buggy, oc­cu­pies more than an hour af­ter lunch; but early in the af­ter­noon we leave be­hind the city’s dust and clam­our, and trace at a moder­ate pace the wind­ings and ups and downs of the Yep­poon road as far as the Old Dairy Inn, about thir­teen miles from Rock­hamp­ton, and about the same from Yep­poon.

Be­tween peep o’ day and sun­rise on the fol­low­ing morn­ing we are awak­ened by a con­cert of birds, most sweet and mu­si­cal.

There are no sus­tained songs, but count­less snatches, agree­able in their melo­di­ous va­ri­ety. Break­fast is dis­posed of as soon as ready, and be­fore the sun has got above the tree tops we are pac­ing the path to Jim Crow.

Mr Wy­att has been some nine years res­i­dent within easy dis­tance of it, and has never known any­one to reach the top.

He him­self has attacked it sev­eral times, but has al­ways failed. On hear­ing that last night, had the hour not been late, we would, of course, have re­turned to town.

This morn­ing the dis­cour­age­ment gives elan to our move­ments. The creek is soon reached, where the ma­chine for driv­ing the piles of the new bridge will soon be in po­si­tion; and we hold over to the left.

On the west side of the moun­tain there seems to be a haunch with a slope to the top.

From the grassy flat near the creek we en­ter on rough ground, strewn with frag­ments from the cliffs above.

Among th­ese are sev­eral va­ri­eties of ferns, the com­mon Brake and a species of Poly­podium be­ing the most abun­dant. Pen­e­trat­ing the scrub on the west side of the peak we find the slop­ing moss we had our eye upon is de­tached, and a gulf, crowded with veg­e­ta­tion, sep­a­rates it from the main emi­nence.

From this gulf, how­ever, a nat­u­ral shoot seems to lead well up to the top.

Though it is filled with sharp loose stones, we toil­somely scram­ble up the lane. At the top of it the frag­ments of rock are jammed in such a way that only one mem­ber of the party can get over it.

The oth­ers, in­deed, are not anx­ious, as there is only an­other shoot down the other side. Two go down the shoot again, while we – you and I, reader scram­ble up one side, and round a moss of de­tached rock. It is bare of trees; we are high above the tree tops at this point, from which we in­fer there is a precipice be­low us which we can­not see, and we have a splen­did view of the Pine Moun­tain, and the coun­try to the north of Jim Crow.

All this we sur­vey with in­ter­est from a safe place. Re­sum­ing our scram­bling, we get down a cleft to the top of the shoot, which we had failed to reach the other way.

The slope above us is not quite per­pen­dic­u­lar; it is seamed and cracked, and plants grow here and there.

The as­cent might be prac­ti­ca­ble that way, but com­ing down would be trou­ble­some. On a lit­tle ter­race at the base of steep cliffs, on a rock wal­laby track, we walk, and crouch, and creep along the north side of the moun­tain.

There are great rents in the rocks, filled with rocks, loose soil, and plants. Sev­eral of th­ese nat­u­ral shoots are tried in vain. We clam­ber round to the side next to the high­way, dis­turb­ing sev­eral rock wal­la­bies, who are ev­i­dently un­ac­cus­tomed to hu­man so­ci­ety. Perched on frag­ments of rock, they mark our move­ments, and pop out of sight in the clefts and fis­sures when alarmed.

At last we come to an open- ing that seems to lead up a good way. Our ad­vance guard re­ports it im­prac­ti­ca­ble as the oth­ers then shouts “Come on.” We can see a good way ahead, to a mass of rocks.

Both hands and feet are needed. A mass of rock rest­ing on oth­ers and form­ing a cave seems to bar our way. “There’s a hole at the top,” comes from above, and crawl­ing our way up a slop­ing chim­ney we pass thc bar­rier. At the Maiden­bower Craigs, near Dum­fries, there is a sim­i­lar pas­sage in the rocks, and the leg­end is that only maid­ens can pass it. Ladies are not likely to at­tempt “The key­hole to Jim Crow,” as we may call it.

Fol­low­ing the fis­sure we come to the pinch, where there is no get­ting over or un­der the fallen mass, and we must scram­ble round upon a sur­face of smooth slip­pery rocks.

There must be no look­ing down at this point. Boots are drawn off, and on hands and knees and toes the feat is ac­com­plished.

Just above is the shrub-clad rounded slope which ends at the top. Re­sum­ing our boots and pick­ing our way leisurely we have no dif­fi­culty in reach­ing the top.

All this while we have been puz­zling our­selves at in­ter­vals about the name Jim Crow, as­so­ci­at­ing it with the re­frain of one of the ear­li­est of Nig­ger Min­strels’ songs:

Turn about, wheel about, And do Just so;

And ev­ery time you wheel about

Jump Jim Crow.

Ac­tion was suited to the words at the last line.

But that song was pop­u­lar long be­fore – no, beg your par­don, Mr James Smith – not be­fore the moun­tain was made, but be­fore the coun­try was ex­plored.

Jim is not a hero wor­thy of such a memo­rial. But here, at the top, we seem to find a so­lu­tion of the ques­tion of name.

From the trunk of a pine tree a patch of bark has been cut in the fash­ion cus­tom­ary with sur­vey­ors, and on the wood, neatly en­graved with a chisel “+ HC PP JC.”

The cross is at the top and Jim Crow’s ini­tials mod­estly placed at the bot­tom. Till we have some other ex­pla­na­tion, we will un­der­stand this moun­tain bears the name of its first sur­veyor, and as he ev­i­dently reached the top of it, he is en­ti­tled to the hon­our.

From the top of Jim Crow the prospects are most com­pre­hen­sive.

Here, on the south­east side, is a jut­ting out­crop of rock on which we can seat our­selves safely, and look al­most sheer down to the flat near the creek.

Spread­ing away from the base of the hill is the som­bre­hued dingy green bush.

It al­ways puts us in mind of a car­pet on which much wear has tar­nished the colours, and ren­dered the fig­ures in­com­plete.

On the left our view is bounded by the hills in­land of Taranganba and Mu­lam­bin, the bulki­est and lofti­est of the range be­ing Mount Wheeler.

At one place we ob­tain a view of a small por­tion of one of the Kep­pel Is­lands; be­side Mount Wheeler is a glit­ter of sun-lit sea; and south of it the bold Wreck Point of Mu­lam­bin, and the islet a mile off it in the off­ing.

Be­yond the lat­ter, on the sea hori­zon, are sev­eral is­lands of the Kep­pel group and the smoke of a pass­ing steamer.

To the right of th­ese, in the fore­ground, is the coun­try around Mount Wheeler, and in the Cawar­ral district. Un­less we were aware it was not the case we could be­lieve the coun­try to be a dead flat.

Look­ing down upon it we see no dif­fer­ence where lesser heights and hol­lows oc­cur. Our eyes wan­der over a wide ex­panse of bush to Mount Lar­com, stand­ing out blue in the dis­tance.

More to the right again are the Berserker peaks, but so al­tered in po­si­tion and form as seen from this point, that we fail to recog­nise them.

Far­ther round the hori­zon are the hills about Stan­well and West­wood, though we can­not make out Ta­ble Moun­tain. To the west of us the prospect is bounded by the hills near Yaamba, with Mount Etna pre­em­i­nent.

In some places the deeper tints of the bush mark the sit­u­a­tion of wa­ter­holes and damp ground. Among the most beau­ti­ful ob­jects are the se­lec­tors’ clear­ings.

There is the lit­tle house, with its iron roof show­ing white in the sun­shine; the clus­ters of dark fo­liaged fruit trees ad­ja­cent; the lovely green sward of the cleared land; and the grey green of the por­tion where the trees have only been ring­barked. Th­ese are holes worn in the car­pet of bush.

From the north­ern side of the crest the prospect is in­ter­rupted by a clump of pines; but low down on our left is the Iron Pot, which may be re­garded as Jim Crow’s lit­tle brother among peaks; the home­stead and cleared coun­try around Mount Hed­low, and the Pine Moun­tain. Im­me­di­ately to the right is the clear­ing around Mr Cowan’s home­stead, and in the dis­tance be­yond it Bar­moyea, Nun­coobah, and the hills be­yond Wood­lands. On this side the prospect is not re­lieved by se­lec­tors’ clear­ings, but the as­pect of the dis­tant hills is very grand.

In­sects and plants, pe­cu­liar to the place, at­tract our at­ten­tion, and an hour passes quickly.

There are no birds at this el­e­va­tion just now; they have sought the cool shade of the lower scrub.

Time flies, and our ini­tials hav­ing been recorded on a proper tree, we be­gin the some­what per­ilous de­scent. Where there are shrubs and foothold it is easy enough, but at the pinch it is a case of slide and jump.

Our re­turn through “The Key­hole” is not a grace­ful per­for­mance, but we are glad to get through it any way.

The ap­petite caught at the top of Jim Crow is a fine one, which gives zest to the ex­cel­lent roast beef and pud­ding Mrs Wy­att has in wait­ing.


Photo: Al­lan Reinikka ROK160518abaga2

TREE-CROWNED SUM­MIT: Mt Jim Crow re­named to its tra­di­tional name, Baga.

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