Jumbuck Pastoral’s Mulgathing station relies on a foundation of history, relentless hard work and technological advances to produce fine Merino fleece.

Story + Photos Andrew Hull

In the centre of SA, on the eastern fringe of the Great Victoria Desert, surrounded by bluebush and scattered outcrops of mulga, the seemingly endless undulating sand yields itself to an unusual and prominent bluff of oxide-coloured granite boulders strewn across a low rise. 

In the dawn, the rocks are silhouettes against the lightening sky, slowly taking form and revealing their complex interdependence as they protrude obstinately from the red sand.

With the first shard of the new morning sun, they explode into vivid colour and give the impression of moving objects, as the angular rays of light broaden and re-align continuously. 

Across this vista, a small, angular shadow traverses the bulbous forms methodically, first one way, then the other, accompanied by the distant engine roar and whine of a Cessna 172.  Climbing, banking and diving with the occasional reflected flash of metal in the morning sun, the object appears to be conjuring an army from the earth as its manoeuvres seem to convert the crisp, knife-edged horizon into a hazy, dusty shimmer, rising steadily like a broad red storm-cloud with the new light of day.

Beneath the cloud of dust, a few thousand wool-laden Merinos are being moved across the last part of their annual journey into the complex network of yards at the approximate centre of the 5300sq km Mulgathing station in preparation for shearing. 

In the yards, dressed in a geometrically patterned, pastel, well-worn work shirt, tattered and threadbare canvas cap, shorts and boots, and sporting a rough grey and reddish beard, is station manager Darren Wilson. 

Darren has been managing the Jumbuck Pastoral Company owned Mulgathing for the past 7 years, which included one of the most severe droughts, and one of the wettest periods the country has experienced in decades, and might be just a little proud, deservedly, of his achievements managing the property through it all.

The full version of this story was published in both OUTBACK magazine and the 2023 edition of our special one-shot magazine OUTBACK Stations.

This story excerpt is from Issue #149

Outback Magazine: June/July 2023