In late 2015 my wife and I were on a holiday with our six-week-old son when we crossed paths in a small country town with a fascinating guy named Craig Holmwood. Wearing a faded leather hat, dirty, torn clothes, and sporting a well-worn leather whip tucked into his belt, Craig certainly stood out. In fact, he looked like someone who would've been more comfortable in the late eighteenth century than the early twenty-first.
Despite his unusual appearance, it was Craig's profession that I found most fascinating. As we got chatting, he shared that he is one of Australia's last remaining true bullock drivers (or ‘bullwhackers', as they are sometimes known) — a profession that today ranks as one of the world's rarest trades.
However, this was not always the case. In the days before machinery or trucks, bullock teams were the key mode of transportation for goods the world over. In Australia's early colonial years, bullocks were among the most important animals on the land. They hauled wool, passengers and timber for many kilometres, opening up vast tracts of new countryside and fuelling the growth of the fledgling country's economy. But today they are little more than relics of a bygone era — sideshows for tourists like my wife, son and me.
Craig told us that, pound for pound, bullocks are the strongest animals alive; teams of them are capable of hauling 35 tonnes through rough and rocky terrain.
‘But with loads that heavy, getting off go is always the hardest ...