Inspiration for Pony from Tarella

Bungle Boori

During the 1950s, Mavis and her family holidayed at Bungle Boori, a sheep and cattle property, managed by long-time friends Win and Eddy Kennedy, near the central Victorian township of Seymour.

Excerpts from diary

January 5, 1956

Michael escorted Ronda and I to the caves at the top of the hill - mountain I'd say - behind the house. He insisted that we ride part of the way.

In some trepidation, I mounted white and brown Charlie, with Ronda on dark-grey Smokey. With Michael leading on red Radish we walked up the hill. Owing to my lack of knowledge I held Charlie too tightly with the result that he would shake his head violently. The flies annoyed him too. Otherwise he took my inexpert handling with quite good temper. We picked our way up the hill-side between the boulders until the grade became too steep for my nerves. Then we tethered our horses to a convenient wattle and climbed on foot the rest of the way. I couldn't have made it without Michael. When I slipped on the smooth grass he pulled me forward.

Sometimes the foothold was precarious with only the bracken for a handhold. We had to be sure, too, that we didn't clutch at the dead bracken for support. Some of the bracken was nearly as high as ourselves and we had to crash through it. I tried not to think of snakes.

The entrance to the caves was very nearly at the top. From certain angles the top of the hill was a water-worn almost bare rock, with just an odd stunted tree and dried grey-green lichen to soften its gauntness. But towards one side was a slit - an actual split in the rock. This was the entrance to the cave! To enter one had to go sideways and climb downwards at the same time. One had to climb actually with one's hands instead of one's feet. It was cold immediately one entered the slit. Still holding between the split rock were several small pieces of rock with sky showing on either side of them. I wondered if they would fall and crush us! The cave itself went at right angles to the split. Looking into it, it was completely black although at the far end a crack let in something of the daylight. Michael said that as you advance into the cave your eyes became accustomed to the gloom and also looking back to the light at the entrance you were able to see a little. Already feeling the near-panic of claustrophobia, I didn't venture into the absolute blackness though Ronda and Michael went ahead. I already felt I was into the bowels of the earth. I felt frightened that they might dislodge a stone and set the whole thing closing in on us. Michael was the first to climb out so that he could give me a hand, then Ronda and lastly me. As I stood back to let Ronda go ahead I felt almost hernic and as I edged my way sideways, with head and shoulders up the narrow defile, I again knew near panic. Fortunately I don't think I showed it. Then we sat for a while on a warm rock and surveyed the world.

It was a long way below us. The station lay in a wonderful valley with hills all around. The fenced paddocks, the patches that had been cropped, the white-sheds and red-roofed houses lay like a miniature farm beneath us. Cattle, sheep and horses were toy-like - even the seven poplars were insignificant. It was like reading a map of Bungle Boori. The line of trees showed the creek glinting silver here and there.

To get near the edge was to imagine one's self rolling down the hill-side and it was a long, long way to the bottom.

The strange part of that hill, or most of them for that matter is that the lower slopes are mostly clear of rock while the summits and upper slopes are untidy with giant tossed boulders.

Round about us as we sat on that rock was a wild confusion of rock and stone and boulders as big as houses leaning at grotesque angles. Michael said that none of the rocks ever moved but the day they were tossed about first must have been a crazy day for the pattern is crazy still. It was strange to think that beneath us possibly was a cave!

[In the paper the next day was a report of a severe earth tremor at Bendigo - not so many miles from Seymour - and I wondered if any of those rocks had moved. Supposing it had happened while we were there! Supposing that ten-inch gap had closed, walling us in! That tremor could just as easily have happened while we were there as a few hours later! Of course, unless they felt the rumble or Michael went to investigate they wouldn't know if the rocks were affected. However I can just imagine the terror had even a few stones rolled.]

May 18, 1958

This morning we walked to the top of Mickey's Hill. We took the easy slope at first but there were steep patches that dragged the breath from me and when I looked down set the blood whirling in my head. I nearly turned back. And am thankful I didn't! The view from the top is magnificent. A glorious stretching valley between the rock-studded hills. Some of the slabs of rock gleamed silver as the water lay upon them. And across some to them lay the darkness of shadow when a cloud slipped in between the sun’s rays and the earth.

There was a delightful tumble of rocks on the summit, and crowds of tiny birds - all sorts of finches. Robin redbreasts, blue wrens, twittered in a spreading leafy gum almost on the very top. It sounded like a huge aviary. Overhead three wedge-tailed eagles soared lazily. Sheep paused to look at us, then to scamper off into the rocks. Their paths circled and circled the hill like the decorative grooves of the potter's wheel. In the lower depths of the valley, white cockatoos flew screeching, their wide white wings like the paper aeroplanes of boys.

From the top of Mickey's we could see about all around us, except for a small portion at the back. We could see Hughes Creek meandering around the base of the rolling hills, the trees on its banks like green shrubs. Standing on those rocks that balance so cleverly, so steadfastly, we surveyed the world.

The journey down was quicker and easier, taking a zig-zag course. In the station yards we saw some "restless fly catchers" that hovered, with whirring wings, like miniature helicopters, making a dart at the insects. One sat on a fence and made the whirring noise of a "show bag" clacker.

We also saw a dozen galahs feeding quietly in the paddock with the bull. When they rose in sudden alarm, they emitted a squeal that was mild indeed compared with the squawk of the white cockies - rather a squeaky, loud "sweet! sweet! sweet!"

Sunset after a quiet grey day
I am looking from Win's lounge window, out to the west across the creek. The sun is sinking behind the black line of the hill. Above the line is a pale-blue sky, with puffs of off-white cloud; the branches of trees stark and the leaves etched with silver. Below the line, mists are veiling the trees and only the creek, wide and shimmering, cradled in smooth, gently rounded rock arms, reflects the silver. Magpies carol on the lawn in front of me and galahs sweep high into the white gum, squealing gently.

May 19,1958

We went to look for the black's oven today. We took off stockings, shoes and crossed the creek, the first time, at the ford opposite Bungle Boori. The water was icy cold - it almost took your breath away. Then we went up and around the hill, following the course of the creek. Some of it was a beautiful narrow river flat, with a hill rising steeply at the side. We came to that wild tumble of rocks where once we had a chop picnic. Here we took off our shoes again and scrambled back and forth across the creek. My feet and ankles turned almost scarlet and the cold made them pain.

Then we walked along the bank, looking for mushrooms as well as the black's oven. The mushrooms were in clumps, in straight lines or sprinkled like brown nuts in a cake. There was a kind of glow in the pinky-brown satin of their top skin as though those myriad cells were the flutings beneath a concealed light. Some of them were on tall stalks (3-4 inches) and shone against the greyness of the day, so that the glow was to be seen at a distance. Squealing with excitement, we raced towards them, tumbling to be first to pick the prize. They led our feet hither and thither across the flat - exclaiming at their numbers, their size. So that the basket would hold more, we de-stalked them, and then commenced to fill Win's scarf.

It was like following a vein of treasure each one a gem that we gathered lovingly. But I was looking out for a Peppermint gum under which the black's oven was supposed to be. There were some wonderful gums - one, in particular, seemed to reach up to God. It's thick bole gave rise to a smooth, grey and golden-tinted trunk, with tremendous branches sweeping out and drooping a dull-green but healthy looking foliage.

A misty rain began to fall; there was complete stillness of leaf and tufty grass. A few black-faced cattle stared at us through the fence, to turn and gallop from us at our shouting. Oh for the brush of an artist to paint the tense green of the grass just shooting after the first rains; the stark blackness of the skeletons of those giants that past bushfires had destroyed; the pink-yellow of the gravel sand bars, the silver of hurrying water and the almost purple blue of the hills that were the valley's walls.

We didn't find the black's ovens. We did find the peninsula and the giant trees, some dead. It would have been good to have stood there and thought of what had taken place beneath those trees. Perhaps a century or two ago, it had been a corroboree ground.

Then it began to rain heavily. We tramped back with the cold gentle drops wetting us through. I loved it. I loved it all. If only I could just put it on paper - the beauty, the strength. The rain could be seen coming from the hills, a pale grey chiffon curtain, getting ever closer. And the stillness persisted. And the smell of the earth, the new grass and the aroma of the cattle and sheep rose like a nectar.

The chiffon disguised the hills so that they merged into a likeness. I could have been lost in the rain. But there was a glorious freedom in that tramping. I didn't want it to end.

See also Pony from Tarella.

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Sign reads: Bungle Boori.

Front gate at Bungle Boori, 1958

Mavis and daughter standing by a pool.

Mavis and her younger daughter Ronda at Bungle Boori, 1958

Mavis and horseback.

Mavis at Bungle Boori, 1958.

Two riders and a flock of sheep.

Riders on horseback moving the sheep, 1958.

Man with large bag of sheep's wool.

Bungle Boori wool, 1958.

Native tree.

Large tree on the property, 1958.

Walking past a large rock.

Mavis (centre) walking with two unknown young women, 1958.

One of the girls pull Mavis up a hill.

The walk becomes steeper!

Mavis lying flat on the ground.

Mavis rests after the steep walk!

The two girls on a large rock overlooking the valley below.

Taking in the view.