DAWN is the time Bob Marshall loves the best, when the bush comes alive: the cattle moving about, the horses, the birds. Then again, he loves the dusk, which has its own life. “One of the real nice things when you’re droving,’’ he says, “is when you pull up and the cattle are eating _ a noise all of its own _ and the horses feeding at night, the noise of the bells around their necks.’’
Bob, 75, knows all about the bush and its shades of silence. He’s been a station hand, a drover, a ringbarker, a stockman and a grazier. And along the way he’s been a shire councillor and mayor in Aramac, in Queensland’s central west, where he lives with his wife of 51 years, Lesley.
An old-school gentleman, he is a respected man and a bit of legend in his own territory. Those outside of it might know him as the boss drover on the Harry Redford charity cattle drives in the first half of the 2000s, when he’d lead up to 600 head out of Aramac Shire, taking paying customers along for a genuine Outback experience. He’s no longer the boss drover, but he still works as a stockman/ringer on the drives, and he loves talking about the experiences he’s had.
“On the first drive, while we were headed for open country around Stonehenge, an older guy in his 60s was trying hard to get up to the lead, where I was, and when he finally managed it he said, `Mate, now I know why you bastards like living out here.’ `Why?’ I asked. `Listen,’ he said. `Nothing.’’’
“I remember a lady on the same drive cried herself to sleep with pain from saddle sores, but she comes back every year now. Some who come with us are real novices and the poor buggers are flat out walking when they get off their horses.’’
Droving is in Bob’s blood – he owned his first droving plant at 17 – but, as he will tell you, getting married “put the kybosh on the roaming life’’. He ended up a grazier in Aramac, but fortunately the shire council talked him into doing the Harry Redford drives in 2002, and countless tourists and children (through charities) have benefited from it.
Severe drought forced this year’s drive to be cancelled, but Bob says he’ll be on the next one. Catch up with him in Aramac for a yarn and an Outback experience you won’t forget.
Article by John Wright.