Life in the sad­dle a joy for mod­ern-day drovers

Cat­tle­man Ben Hann, who is busy mov­ing stock around Queens­land’s Cen­tral High­lands, has a knack for cap­tur­ing drov­ing life on cam­era

Warwick Daily News - South West Queensland Rural Weekly - - Front Page - Kir­ili Lamb Kir­ili.Lamb@ru­ral­weekly.com.au

THERE’S 1000 head of cat­tle on the move in the Cen­tral High­lands, loop­ing their way around stock routes across the Spring­sure district in search of fod­der.

Ben Hann is part of the drov­ing team guid­ing the herd that has been moved off its home run in the drought-af­fected Cen­tral NSW Forbes-Hay area.

“They were up in Mut­taburra on the road, and we’ve just trucked into Spring­sure here and they’ve got us go­ing around in and out a few loops here for at the mo­ment, and for the next month or two, just on the feed, and then it just de­pends from there where they want us to go,” Ben said.

“There’s plenty of feed here. It’s dried off a bit. We had a frost about a week or so ago, so it’s knocked that grass a bit, but it’s still good for the cat­tle.”

The team are also on the hunt for some ex­tra hands with the cat­tle.

“Pretty much all the drovers around here are hunt­ing for peo­ple. It’s hard to find peo­ple who want to work, and the camp’s got lim­ited phone ser­vice,” he said

“You sorta live out of your swag and eat off a fire. It’s hard to find young peo­ple who want to do it, you know?”

That wasn’t the case for Ben who, at 28, al­ready has 13 years’ ex­pe­ri­ence work­ing on cat­tle sta­tions and along stock routes across Aus­tralia.

It’s an in­ter­est­ing par­al­lel that Ben should cur­rently be drov­ing cat­tle orig­i­nally from NSW, hav­ing grown up in the state’s south­ern high­lands town of Robert­son.

He left school young, at the age of 12, turn­ing in­stead to ru­ral work.

“I was never a fan of school, al­ways did well but found it bor­ing, so I left,” Ben said. “The bush ed­u­cates you in a way no other class­room could.”

Af­ter two years of fenc­ing and dairy farm­ing, at 15 Ben boarded a plane for Dar­win, and since then it – and its out­ly­ing cat­tle sta­tions – has been the place he’s called home when he’s not out on the track.

“I’ve been trav­el­ling and work­ing all over Aus­tralia ever since. Go­ing and do­ing stuff I felt like do­ing; when I feel like go­ing and do­ing it. Yeah… livin’ the life, re­ally.”

Apart from com­plet­ing an ap­pren­tice­ship in agri­cul­ture, Ben has worked in the full range of ru­ral oc­cu­pa­tions, from fenc­ing and earth­mov­ing to stock work.

“It’s been good for me. I’ve never left a job on a bad note. I’ve al­ways come and gone and been of­fered work back any time I want, all over Aus­tralia,” he said.

“I’ve worked ev­ery­where from abat­toirs to quar­ries, in with the min­ing gear. I’ve worked with trans­port, driv­ing cat­tle trucks and heavy haulage, earth­mov­ing equip­ment. It does make life a lot eas­ier for me when I’m trav­el­ling around. It doesn’t mat­ter where I end up, I al­ways find plenty of work.”

He’s also de­vel­oped a strong con­nec­tion with horse work, run­ning his own horse-break­ing and train­ing busi­ness.

He finds the quiet of the drov­ing track a great place to train young horses.

“I’ve got young horses out here with me that I get to spend a lot of time with, work­ing them and it’s not a high-pres­sure sit­u­a­tion a lot of the time, so it’s good to just get their minds right, and let lit­tle things set on them.”

The quiet also gives Ben a chance to take a swag of shots that are rich in colour and that tell the story of the life he has crafted for him­self, and loves.

“I like be­ing out in the bush and away from things; I like the back-to-ba­sics life: horses, dogs, a camp­fire feed un­der the stars.

“Like Banjo said: ‘For the drover’s life has plea­sures that the towns­folk never know’.”

PHO­TOS: CON­TRIB­UTED

ON THE ROAD: With his dog Mate, Top End ringer Ben Hann is drov­ing cat­tle around Queens­land’s Cen­tral High­lands Spring­sure district over the next month.

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