Two Dogs the old Dingo Trapper

 My old Unc has the million dollar view that most Aussies would envy. It meets all of the Location, Location, Location sales pitch. For old Unc it is the perfect location. He has a shack in a patch of the rain forest on the beach overlooking the Torres Strait Islands. Sitting under the trees, enjoying the view, you can see the Black Cockatoos, their beautiful undercarriage of red wing feathers and the big red crest, the Torres Strait Pigeons big and fat and the Scrub Turkey raking leaves as he builds a huge nesting mound of sticks and leaves.

 The “Old Fella” doesn’t get many visitors these days, except people from the community who come down, look in on him and take him shopping on pension day. He has his radio and TV and two little dogs for company. You know the ones I mean; they jump all over you and lick you to death. They hate “white fellas” he said.  I think it must be the smell he said laughing. They like “blackfellas”, he laughed again giving a toothless grin, and you can see by the way they jump all over you, they know you’re a blackfella he laughed.  

Having a pot of tea with dogs jumping all over you, scratching your legs, licking you and trying to get your attention, is not a pleasant way to have a cupper and a yarn.

“Mate, you need that dog whisperer on TV I said”. Yeah he said. Reminds me of a story, many years ago, I met an old dog trapper from down Cunnamulla way. An Old Blackfella “Tommy one leg” was his name. He lived at Eulo just across the road from the old Eulo Queen pub. He had a reputation as the best dog trapper of all time. Some say it was because he only had one leg. When he was trapping, he would get along on his good leg using a crutch under his arm and he would strap on his wooden leg,  leaving no footprints just imprints from the crutch and the wooden leg.  Yeah!! I said “true”. You’re “bullshitting me”. No more, he said.  I first met him down on the Condamine River when I was droving a mob of cattle down to the Kidman property at Weinteriga station down on the Darling, between Wilcania and Menindee.

 He lost his leg from his knee down, when a horse rolled on him as a young boy. It never stopped him from riding a horse. He said that you ride a horse with your knees not your legs.  The wooden leg balanced him up and made no difference to his long year’s droving out in the long paddock.

The nick name “Tommy One Leg” stuck with him, from a boy and he liked it, as he got older his reputation grew as a stockman, kangaroo and rabbit shooter. But his reputation was as a dingo trapper and tracker, he was know from the Snowy to the Territory. Mention “Tommy One leg” in any pub and people knew him, he was the stuff of legends.  They would all tell you that he could track on a tar road he said. Stations right across the South West of Queensland, the Territory and into NSW would get him if they had a problem dog.

I went trapping with him just to learn the tricks. You know that modern day dog whisperer you tell me about I recon ‘’he said’ he could learn a trick or two from old “Tommy One Leg”. 

He could read the country and the tracks, he would out think the dog, put his mind one step in front of the most intelligent Dingo. Dingoes move through country he told me that a dog will travel a track across country and only stay a day or two in one place, the dog will prop and survey the place, plan his exit, kill sheep or calves then move on.  He said, it’s a pattern mate. In 2-or 3 months he’ll be back, sometimes with a couple of bitches with him. You have to study the pattern and then work out a plan on where to set the traps.

When I met him he had been contracted to trap some dogs that had been causing havoc, killing stock in the district. I don’t usually take anyone with me he said. The old girl used to come with me, but poor old thing; she is all crippled up now with arthritis. It was her he said, with some emotion. She showed me how to track dogs, she knows all about the dogs. She came from up on the Georgina river, her country was close to Kalkadoon and Kaditch country. She learnt how to track as a kid from her father and grandmother. They used to track the dogs and raid the Dingo lairs for the puppies. They were good tucker she said, mind you I have eaten most things on the road, I have even eaten cockatoos, pink and greys, snakes and mountain ducks, but I drew the line eating dingo pups.

Well we went out to where these dogs were killing, Tommy surveyed the country looking for anything that would give him a clue, he was looking for particular traits, how the dogs walked, where they stopped. It wasn’t long before he found evidence of the dogs he began following the tracks on foot.

When he found their droppings he would very carefully put it in a bottle. He had his own receipt for a potion, of scent that the smartest dog found irresistible, causing his instinct to shut down.  It was at this vital moment that the dog forgot about survival he said and would rush forward on the scent, head down his pace quickening as he went from side to side along the track sniffing the breeze, all he had on his mind was that there was a bitch nearby.   

Well the hunt was on; we then travelled 30 miles north and began looking for the tracks. He estimated that the dogs would be in the general area. We found the tracks as we drove along crisscrossing   the country. He was sitting on the bull bar of the old land rover, and when we saw something suspicious he would stop. We finally found what he was looking for. Yep he said, “that’s them” that’s that same dog leading them right there 4 of them he said.

As we drove along, he said, “they are creatures of habit”.  I know where they are going he said. So off we went and we travelled another 60 miles up country, and we set up camp on a bend of the Condemine River at a nice water hole. We then went out and selected a trail to set the traps, they will be here in a day or too “Tommy said”.

We then set off on foot, from the opposite direction to the way the dogs would be coming from. We went a few miles, down a ravine leading towards the river and set the first trap. It was close to a gidgee tree, to anchor the chain securely. These dogs he said will chew their own leg off to get out of a trap. He began by gathering up the leaves twigs and putting them to one side , then he began to dig a hole deep enough for the trap to be laid, just under the ground. He removed the top soil and placed it to one side, putting the rest in a sugar bag.  He dug a ditch and anchored the chain under the ground and around the tree. The chain had a lead of about 6 foot in all and about 4 inches under the ground.

 He then set the trap practically level with the ground, he then got a piece of news paper and spread it across the hole just above the trap securing the paper by pinning it with small pegs that he bought with him, making it firm enough to hold the soil. Then he sprinkled the dirt from the top soil pile of dirt that he had removed .He then put the leaves and sticks back where he had removed them, so when he finished you could not see a thing.  When you looked at it,  you could not tell there was a trap there. But the dogs are smart he wasn’t finished yet.  Don’t come past the trap he said, stay well back. He then put his crutch on and took his magic potion and headed up to where he knew the dogs would come from. That old dog leading them he said. I want him first, because the rest will come easy. He will be out in front by about a half mile or a mile, because that’s his job he is the main dog and only one dog leads the pack. He went about a half mile and began to put the mixture which consisted of the droppings he picked up and urine from his own female dogs that he collected when they were on heat. 

 He worked his way back, being careful and brushing the trial as he came back stopping to spread the mixture on either side of the track. They can smell where a man has been he said, even the sweat from my body. This dog he said, is smart he will stop at the slightest thing that looks suspicious.  They have been trying to get this dog for a long time. So I have to do it very slowly and carefully so I don’t leave any scent of my own my old missus taught me that. As he was coming back he sprinkled drops of water from his can, and also around the trap. It looks like we could get a very small shower tonight only a small one he said and if it’s dry when he gets here we have covered everything.

We picked up the surplus dirt after one final sweep with a tree branch a final sprinkle and as we went sweeping away the prints for about a mile just in case he circled around he said. 

The whole exercise took us a good 5 hours to complete, when you are trying to outsmart a dingo you have to take your time he said.

We repeated the process about every 5 miles -10 miles along the track we set 4 traps and sat back on the river for 2 days and waited.

When we got went back to the last trap we had one, and also the next and the next. I think we got him he said as we approached the last trap the first he laid. We came up on him and he was angry, he got the ringleader un believable.  He had his leg half chewed off.  It was all a bit sad. Tommy said looking at the dog, “well mate” it’s not your fault, you were just doing your job and I was doing mine .With that he just shot him and with a quick cut with his knife he had the scalp off. We collected the gear and went back to camp, pulled in the small drum net he had set in the river and had a feed of Yellow Belly.

Yeah he sure could teach these two dogs of mine how to behave, he said as he lovingly patted them.

Ok Unc I said, see you next time I am up this way.

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