Drover, stockman and long-time timber worker, Charlie Hazard has lived the history of Queensland’s Western Downs and now treasures it in a timber hut.

Story By Janette Jenyns

Charlie Hazard observes the world from beneath the brim of his big stockman’s hat. His words are slow and measured, his movements unhurried. After a lifetime spent with cattle and horses these traits are second nature to him. His eyes convey a gentle nature, one well accustomed to calming horses with soft words and easy gestures.
Charlie’s story begins in the 1940s at Kumbrella Reserve outside Dalby, Qld, where his father Ernie, his grandfather and uncle lived among the horses and pack-saddles that made up their droving plant. Ernie was an Aboriginal man who worked on Jimbour Station and lived his life with stock and horses. “I wish I knew more about my father’s early life,” Charlie says. “As a child I looked on him in awe, but my questions always puzzled him. ‘What you want to know all that for?’ he’d ask.”
Charlie, who had 18 younger siblings, attended school in Chinchilla, Qld – for some of the time, at least. “There were more important things for a boy to be doing, especially if they involved horses,” Charlie says. “I skipped school at least a couple of times a week to work in the saleyards on borrowed horses. The local sergeant got sick of chasing me; he said I may as well leave school altogether,” Charlie laughs. “My mum had a fairly different opinion; she put an advertisement in the local paper advising, ‘anyone loaning horses to the Hazard boys are to stop the practice at once’.” This had little effect on Charlie. When he was asked, “Don’t you know you’re not supposed to be on that pony?” he answered with a cheeky grin, “No, I can’t read!”
From age 13, Charlie drove mobs of horses across Queensland and followed the stock routes around the sandhills of Tibooburra, NSW. He learned that a sand storm can suffocate sheep as they huddle together against the wind, and that sleeping rough on the ground with rain drenching your swag can make a bloke long for home. At Frome Downs Station in South Australia he had his first experience of bronco branding. When his wanderings brought him back to Chinchilla, he found work mustering, ring barking and bagging wheat at harvest time. Only 16 at the time, he’d already had a lifetime of experience and knew when he met Margaret, a vivacious girl with laughing eyes, he’d found his life partner.

This story excerpt is from Issue #76

Outback Magazine: Apr/May 2011