'200 Years of Man and an Australian Forest' - or, how it was and how it is in the Pillaga, between Narrabri and Coonabarabran, Baan Baa and Baradine. The history of a district, but it could stand for the country, and it was fitting to finish this book on 26 January. To get to the Pillaga, Eric Rolls goes back to settlement and records the drive for land out from Sydney, squatters leap-frogging the law and each other to stake their claim. It's interesting that few left dynasties for their descendents - they went broke or bust too often. The author - also poet, farmer, hunter and naturalist - tells this and many other stories with an easy touch that belies the book's considerable research.

You'll learn that the Kamilaroi language had a normal imperative, an emphatic imperative and also a taunting imperative - "irony was part of the Kamilaroi character". That the spring of 1973 amazed even men who had seen eighty years of pine flowering - so dense were the clouds of pollen on the edge of the forest that "shearers found it almost too dark to shear by early afternoon." That old camp ovens had walls only three millimetres thick, now they are six. "Modern metallurgists do not know how the old camp ovens were poured." That the female Brown Antechinus can ovulate only under shock - "gentle males are no use to them."

The final chapters on the animal life of the Pillaga were especially interesting as much of it is from the author's personal observation. There's also something in there for big cat fanciers.

A Million Wild Acres was published in 1981 - (Eric Rolls, sadly, passed in 2007) - I came to it from Roger Deakin's Wildwood. Like that book, it makes you want to get up and go outside.

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I want to hear about the "big cats"!!!!!!!!!!
"For more than forty years there have been reports of Panthers in the forest. Joe Rodgers who lived on Borah Creek twice saw a big black cat during the 1970s. He saw it once about thirty metres away just on dusk and again one night very clearly by spotlight. Several others who were with him saw it too. Joe is accustomed to estimating the weight of animals - his family breed pigs - and he judged it to weigh about fifty-five kilograms.

"The Pilliga cats might be Panthers. The creatures referred to as the Emmaville Panther are almost certainly Panthers. A circus trailer carrying two male Panthers and one female crashed off a New England road in 1959. The cage burst open and all three escaped..."

Later, the author says "early one morning in the Willala hills I heard three inexplicable noises. They were loud deep coughs with a rolling growl at the end, the sort of noise one would expect to hear when approaching the big cat cages at the Zoo, not near an Australian hill. The animal was no more than thirty metres away but the growth was so dense it was impossible to leave the graded fire trail I was walking along to look for it."

The author also talks about native cats - like the Tiger Cats, creamy-brown with white spots that extend along the tail. Unfortunately they are now very rare if not extinct in this area.

The yowie is still seen fairly often though.
The yowie now that sounds interesting too! What can you tell me about those in the Pillaga?



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