Local Tatura identity Ted McCracken remembers a time when horses were used instead of tractors to build irrigation channels.By Bob Nicol
A Water Talk report, ‘Winds of change are blowing’ by Geoff Adams, which featured recently in all McPherson Media newspapers including the Tatura Guardian, brought back memories for local identity Ted McCracken.
The story discussed an irrigation channel that John Rendell and his father built 60 years ago, which is now being filled in.
‘‘The father and son worked an eight-horse team harnessed to ploughs and scoops to make the channel on the dry Balkamaugh property in the 1940s.’’
Like the Rendells Mr McCracken, now aged 88, has a story to tell about those early days, when as a 17-year-old he was responsible for looking after teams of horses involved in channel making and repairs.
He was employed in the Toolamba and Dhurringile areas by State Rivers, working five days a week from 7.30
Mr McCracken learned the trade from his father, and as was generally the case in those days, any money earned went to his father to support the family.
‘‘I was in charge of three teams of horses and worked alongside Charlie Taylor, another Tatura resident,’’ he said.
‘‘Things weren’t always easy in those days and we would work at a site until a boss from State Rivers advised us of a new site.’’
Mr McCracken’s tools of trade were a ‘‘wonky scoop’’ with two handles pulled by two horses, a ‘‘wide skid scoop’’ with two handles pulled by four horses and a ‘‘monkey-tail scoop’’ with two big wheels, which carried dirt above the bank.
‘‘All these scoops were readily available at the time,’’ he said.
Mr McCracken said each job would take two to three weeks to complete, and he vividly recalls working on Bill Dickinson’s property, a soldier settlement block at Dhurringile.
‘‘We had to build a new channel either side of the bridge near the school, which took some time,’’ he said.
‘‘Most of the work undertaken was repairing channels and we had to come to an agreement with the property owner to provide a suitable area and water for the horses.
‘‘The last thing I would do before knocking off was feed the horses, generally between the channel bank and the fenceline.’’
Mr McCracken said it was important when working with the horses, to make sure they were evenly paired.
‘‘You couldn’t have one that pulled harder than the other, and they had to be yoked in soft collars to avoid rubbing,’’ he added.
Mr McCracken worked on the channels for ‘‘two or three years’’ which he described as interesting times.
‘‘We never had time off. If it rained we would just shelter under a tree with the horses until it stopped and then get back to the job at hand,’’ he said.
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